Developing a Competitive Profile for Global Fellowships and Awards

Different awards emphasize different elements. For example, some awards look for well-rounded applicants; others, for applicants with so-called jagged edges, where you excel in a narrowly focused arena. “Bending” yourself toward an award, though, is never a wise move: You should be motivated not by the award (or the potential of the award) but by the spirit of excellence embodied by the award.

The best advice, then, is to maximize your time at Grinnell by learning as much as you can about yourself, your values, your strengths, and your interests; distilling your observations and discoveries to refine and guide your goals; acquiring experiences, knowledge, and skills that will help you pursue your goals – here I am referring to externships, internships, on- or off-campus jobs, service-learning, leadership positions, MAPs, REUs, off-campus study, and more; learning to present yourself effectively and persuasively to an array of audiences; learning how to identify – and cultivate relationships with – individuals who can support your professional, personal, and civic engagement; and developing the ability to conduct yourself in an ethical, socially responsible, and professionally respectful manner. Here are some specific suggestions:

  • Develop relationships with faculty, staff, and administrators
  • Involve yourself in undergraduate research activities
  • Inquire about professional conferences that you can attend or be a student presenter
  • Strive for academic excellence, maintaining a strong GPA
  • Make time for public service and volunteerism in areas that you care about
  • Participate in “meaningful” co-curricular activities
  • Seek out leadership positions and active membership
  • Engage in summer learning experiences, most importantly within your field
  • Practice your communication skills; presenting in class, public speaking, leading an organization, etc.
  • Seek opportunities to publish your writing in journals, magazines, etc.
  • Apply for essay contests or other scholarships to gain experience
  • Learn a foreign language and/or expand upon your high school foreign language skills
  • Participate in study abroad or an off-campus study program, if it fits with your academic schedule
  • Keep current on world events and issues by reading newspapers and news magazines such as the New York Times, The Economist, BBC News website
  • Expand your knowledge of the world, enrich your perspectives on people, places, and events
  • Take an invested interest in developing your cultural competency
  • Engage with and learn from past fellowship applicants and recipients
  • Create a master resume to document your education, honors, and experiences
  • Keep a portfolio of materials and documents from key experiences
  • Develop a vision for your future and your place in the world
  • Take your vision and move forward with confidence, passion and commitment

Preparing for a Global Fellowship and Award Application


  1. Start Early! It is never too early to begin a fellowship/scholarship application!
  2. Review the specific selection criteria and application requirements of the particular fellowship/scholarship for which you are interested. Each fellowship/scholarship is unique and has unique application process!
  3. List the goals of the fellowship/scholarship to which you are interested, as described by the foundation.
  4. List the characteristics of a successful candidate, as described by the foundation.
  5. Talk it over with the fellowship advisor, faculty, past recipients, and others – to obtain guidance.
  6. Begin journaling your thoughts and ideas: What are your goals? What do you want to discover or gain from this fellowship experience? What do you have to do to make that happen? What project ideas do you have? List your education and experiences that are relevant towards these project ideas; Begin to narrow down your ideas based upon your self-reflection and advice from others.
  7. Determine the project, proposal or essay idea that you are passionate about, qualified for, and relevant towards your academic/extracurricular experiences and the fellowship for which you plan to apply.
  8. Request letters of recommendation, transcripts, and other materials required for the application.
  9. Research and more research of the topic area and in many cases the location for which you plan to complete this fellowship/scholarship.
  10. Make an outline, mindmap, or free write.
  11. Begin the first of many drafts of your application materials – proposal, personal statement, short answer essays, resume, etc.
  12. Continue to engage in conversations and review with the fellowship adviser, faculty mentors and others in regards to your project.

Demonstrating Competitiveness


How do you demonstrate your competitiveness? Criteria can vary widely from award to award, but the folks who seem – as if effortlessly – to land the accolades are those who can demonstrate:

  • a clear sense of self (strengths, values, interests);
  • focused, impressive goals;
  • passion for something that manifests through a history of intentional choices (an “identity thread”);
  • engagement through leadership, service, or research;
  • articulateness;
  • energy (charisma); and likely
  • academic excellence (but grades are less important for some awards than for others).

Those are the big ones, anyway. If you take advantage of all Grinnell has to offer, you’ll be able to position yourself well for a future in reaching your goals.