Applicants Start Here
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Though you will apply for most fellowships during your junior and senior years or as an alum, it is never too early to start learning more about the available opportunities and preparing yourself to be a competitive fellowships applicant. Below are ways that you can start this process as early as your first year at Notre Dame.
Define Your Interests and Goals
One of the most important ways to prepare to apply for national fellowships is to develop self-awareness in terms of your interests and goals. What are your academic interests or personal passions? Why are these things important to you? Why should people in your community, nation, or global society care about these things? Also, what are your goals for the future? Do you want to attend graduate school? Do you want to learn a foreign language? Do you want to undertake a research project? Do you want to serve a particular community? Thinking through these types of questions will help you not only to find fellowships that fit your needs but also to determine what opportunities you should pursue to accomplish your goals.
Though the requirements for each fellowship are different, there are some general steps you can take to make yourself a competitive fellowship applicant. Consider doing the following:
- Seek opportunities to develop your leadership skills. The summer before your first year you could participate in a Leadership Seminar. You might join one of the many clubs and organizations on campus and get involved in the leadership team. You could apply to be a Sorin Scholar at the end of your first year and help organize campus events.
- Participate in service opportunities on campus and in the surrounding community. On campus you might think of tutoring other students. There are also multiple opportunities to volunteer in South Bend and the surrounding community. The Center for Social Concerns (CSC) has multiple resources to help you find somewhere to serve. The CSC also offers summer service learning opportunites around the United States and abroad.
- Excel in your academic courses. Many fellowships have written or unwritten minimum GPA requirements, so it is important that you perform well in your classes. This will also help you stand out to professors.
- Get to know professors. Professors are very important resources in terms of mentoring and letters of recommendation. It is important that you get to know them and they get to know you. This means going beyond talking after classes. Attend a professor's office hours. Invite them out for a coffee. Ask to assist them with their research projects. The better a professor knows you, the more help they will ultimately be to you.
- Explore your opportunities for undergraduate research. Plan a scholarly discernment project. Take on an internship or research apprenticeship. Perform your own independent research project or creative endeavor. Attend or present at a conference. Study a language abroad. CUSE's Undergraduate Research team can get you started with any of these types of opportunities.
The important thing to remember when taking advantage of these opportunities is to have an ultimate trajectory in mind. These things are much more impressive when united by a common mission or theme.
Start by consulting our Fellowships Flowchart to determine if you are eligible for any of the major national fellowships with which we work. Look at our Additional Fellowship Opportunities page as well to find more specialized fellowships that do not appear on the Flowchart. Once you have determined the particular fellowships you are interested in read more about them in our Fellowships Listing or on the fellowships' official websites. The more you know about a fellowship the better you can plan and the stronger your application will be.
Consult Resources on Campus
CUSE National Fellowships staff members can help you identify fellowships suitable for your interests and goals. Make an Appointment for a one-on-one advising meeting. Also, you should talk to professors and TAs. Professors and TAs might have applied for fellowships to fund their own work. They are a great resource when determining what fellowships are important in your field or discipline and when seeking advice or draft review during the application process.
When you are ready to apply for a fellowship, visit the fellowship's page on our Fellowships Listing to find out more information on what steps you need to take next.