Cornell students have been highly successful in competing for external fellowships (those awarded by outside agencies such as the NSF, Javits, or the Social Science Research Council). Students are encouraged to work with their Director of Graduate Studies and/or special committee chair to develop effective application materials.
Even if you have a funding guarantee from Cornell, there are compelling reasons to apply for a competitive external fellowship. UCLA’s fellowship database offers an extensive list of external fellowship opportunities to consider.
A competitive external fellowship is an honor that will stay with you throughout your career.
- Distinguish your CV when you enter the job market.
- Clarify your thinking about your research and expose you to valuable feedback.
- Increase your flexibility in selecting advisors, choosing research projects, and conducting field work.
- Help faculty support more students by bringing your own funding to a field.
Most fellowship competitions are open to first-year students or dissertation-year students.
When should I start the process?
If you’re a first-year student, don’t hold off on applying because you haven’t finalized your plans. You were accepted into a Cornell graduate program because you have excellent credentials and scholarly promise. Reviewers won’t expect first-semester students to have all the project details worked out.
Where should I start researching awards?
To find out about the vast array of awards that will be appropriate for you, talk with your Director of Graduate Studies and other students in your field. Also search the fellowship database provided by the Graduate School.
Are there steps I can take that will aid my research?
Agencies want the best possible proposals, so don’t be afraid to ask appropriate, substantive questions during the application process. All things being equal, the agency will fund applications that address their unspoken needs and norms as well as the overt rules; speaking with the funding agency and faculty who have interacted with the organization will give you special insights.
Jan Allen, associate dean for academic and student affairs, gives a presentation on applying for external graduate fellowships: