Planning and Preparation
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 and Experiential Learning team can help you learn more about 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.