University Fellowships Mark


What is the difference between a scholarship, a fellowship, a grant, and a loan?

Scholarships and fellowships are interchangeable terms. When used in this manner, the awards are given by an organization or institution to fund education-related experiences, and they do not have to be paid back.

Here in the office, we take a more nuanced approach and say that fellowships are external awards that fund education-related experiences. That is, funding comes from outside of Penn State, with some even requiring the recipient to work for the federal government after completion of the fellowship. The possible education-related experiences include paid research opportunities, teaching placements, overseas language learning experiences, and travel to non-traditional locations. These opportunities are generally not regular vehicles to pay for tuition and fees at Penn State or to support your study abroad. 

A grant funds a student’s education and does not have to be paid back.

A loan must be repaid. Some college loans do not collect interest until the student graduates.

Please keep in mind that there are always exceptions to these definitions. Should you have any questions, please contact us in the University Fellowships Office.

Do I need to be a full-time student when I apply for fellowships?

While eligibility requirements for individual fellowships vary, most of the fellowships listed in the Fellowships Search require that candidates be full-time students. There are also fellowships (e.g., Fulbright) that are open to alumni. Some opportunities require the recipients to have one or more years of undergraduate education ahead of them, so read the application criteria carefully.  

Do I need U.S. citizenship to apply for fellowships?

Many of the fellowships in the Fellowships Search do require U.S. citizenship in order to be eligible, but our list also contains several research, study, and teaching opportunities that are open to international students.

Are there academic criteria for fellowships?

Some fellowships have specific GPA requirements. Most fellowships prefer students who are in good academic standing at the time of application, but be aware that individual opportunities have different perspectives on what qualifies as "good standing."

Is financial need a criterion for fellowships?

While most fellowships do not take financial need into consideration, we do promote several opportunities that are interested in funding students on significant financial aid. Please visit the Fellowships Search on the Opportunities page to find out more.

Can I apply for fellowships when I have already finished my undergraduate career?

Many fellowships do allow applicants to hold undergraduate degrees, although there may be specific age or year-of-graduation limits. Always visit the fellowships’ websites to determine if applicants may apply after they have finished their undergraduate career.

Does it matter what field I want to study?

Yes. You want your fellowship to complement and extend your developing areas of interest and expertise. While many fellowships appeal to specific disciplines or majors, a conversation with the office can help identify how a variety of fellowships may relate to your interests.

What is the typical duration of a fellowship?

Although some awards are for tuition only, the majority of the fellowships that we promote range from six weeks to one year or more.

Should I apply for more than one fellowship?

Absolutely, if they match your goals and interests. Some fellowships may be compatible with others and, should you win multiple awards that cannot be held simultaneously, you always have the option to decline. However, be sure to consider the time it takes to complete a given application, whether or not you are a competitive candidate, and how much work you want to put into the application process. You want to direct your effort toward producing the strongest possible application rather than applying to as many fellowships as you can.

Where can I look for fellowships?

You are in the right place! If you are not sure what fellowship is a good match for your academic and life goals, we encourage you to search our database. The University Fellowships Office also offers workshops and information sessions for specific programs every month. Your faculty advisers, mentors, and peers may be familiar with relevant fellowships as well. 

To make an appointment, use our online scheduling system. Alternatively, if you have a quick question or aren’t sure whether you need a full appointment, you can always contact the office at or call (814) 863-8199.

What does “university nomination” mean?

Some fellowships require that a student receive university nomination before he or she can apply to compete. These fellowships either limit the number of students a school can nominate or they require the school to carefully select the students best suited to the given award. Please note that if a fellowship requires university nomination, students must meet the internal deadlines established by the office in order to be considered for the fellowship. Internal deadlines are generally set well in advance of the national deadlines.

When should I begin the process of applying?

You should begin the application process several months in advance of official deadlines, so that you have enough time for introspection and revision, as well as time to plan out and contact your letter writers.  

How should I begin the process of applying?

Once you know the fellowship for which you want to apply, you should read the eligibility criteria and the aims of the program very carefully. Make sure that your interests align with the program goals. If you are not sure which fellowship would be the most appropriate to pursue, it is a good idea to visit the University Fellowships Office. 

To make an appointment, use our online scheduling system. Alternatively, if you have a quick question or aren’t sure whether you need a full appointment, you can always contact the office at or call (814) 863-8199.

Do I have to do more than fill out an application form?

In most cases, an application form is not enough. Fellowship applications often require a personal statement. Almost all applications require a minimum of two recommendation letters. Recommendation letters can be crucial in the application process, so choose your recommenders wisely. Try to approach senior professors with whom you have established good working relationships. Some applications also require a research proposal. For more tips on getting started, please visit our pages on Personal Statements and Essays, Research Proposals, and Seeking Letter Writers.

Where do I obtain an official copy of my transcript?

Pay attention to whether a fellowship application requires an official transcript. An official transcript is different than an unofficial or advising transcript, and must be requested from the Office of the University Registrar. It may take several days for the transcript to be mailed, so plan ahead and make your request on time.

Is there an interview required as part of the application process?

Some fellowship programs involve interviews by phone or in person as part of the application process. In these meetings, the selection committee wants to see the person behind the project and probe the depth of an applicant’s knowledge and commitment. If you receive the opportunity to interview for a major fellowship, let us know. We will be happy to help you prepare.

What are the odds of winning a fellowship?

Prestigious fellowships are often very competitive and the statistics can be discouraging. However, meeting with the University Fellowships Office can help maximize your potential, as well as identify fellowships that will match your ambitions. The more closely your goals are aligned with those of the funding agency and the specific opportunity and criteria, the more likely you are to be successful.

How can I be notified for upcoming fellowship deadlines?

The University Fellowships Office has a calendar of all deadlines published on the website, and we send timely announcements and reminders of these deadlines to students who express interest in learning about individual programs. Some fellowships also have their own e-newsletters and Facebook or Twitter accounts to which you can subscribe to get the information directly.

What's the difference between a resume and a CV?

There are three major differences between the resume and CV formats: purpose, length and layout.

  1. Purpose:
    1. CV: In general, a CV is for academic or research-related positions where the employer is interested in original research, presentations and publications. Curriculum vitae means “course of life” in Latin. Therefore, it is often more like a biography of your experiences and accomplishments. This makes it more static, with less reason to adapt it.
    2. Resume: Most positions will ask for a resume. They are meant to be short and “punchy” so that they can be quickly read. Rather than documenting all of your accomplishments, a resume highlights the skills and experiences that make you a competitive and qualified candidate for the position. A resume should be adapted carefully for every application.
  2. Length
    1. CV: In general, there is no limit to length of a CV. Some opportunities may include a maximum number of pages, but in general, it depends on your experiences. Some are up to 8 or more pages.
    2. Resume: In general, a resume should be only one-side of one-page. In only rare circumstances, a second or third page is acceptable. In order to maximize your space, make sure that you are highlighting relevant experiences, and using active and efficient language.
  3. Layout:
    1. CV: Since the CV covers the course of your life, there are many more headings and subheadings under which to organize your work. These headings may shift in terms of priority for the position. For example, placing your teaching experience towards the top for a teaching position would be advantageous. Font and layout are typically more traditional, and sticking to a professional format works best.
    2. Resume: Contact information, work history/experience, and education will be the main components of your resume. In rare circumstances, you may add a summary or objective. Depending on the position, you may also want to include skills, such as language, or computer software. Sometimes, applicants are creative with their fonts and formats, exploring ways to catch employers’ eyes and standing out from a pile of resumes.

How do I use Starfish to schedule an appointment?

After logging into Starfish, select "My Success Network" from the menu at the top left of the page. Then, either type "fellowships" in the search bar or click show other resources and scroll down towards the bottom to find our listing. Once you click on "University Fellowships Office" there will be a button on the left-hand side to schedule an appointment.

Can I get feedback on my written application materials?

Yes, you can. We provide substantive and targeted feedback on application materials to help students be successful. For instance, we work with students to draft and revise their materials, helping them to best describe their experiences, interest, and fit for the opportunity.

However, the last day to submit materials for feedback is two weeks in advance of the application deadline. This allows us to give you feedback with at least a week left to incorporate it into your materials before having to submit. If you have a specific question about your written materials or a question on the submission process, you are encouraged to visit the office during walk-in hours, but no written feedback will be provided within two weeks of a deadline.

What is the Spark program?

The Spark Program offers select undergraduate students the opportunity to learn about high impact educational experiences, campus resources, and fellowship opportunities, while providing them with the tools to develop competitive fellowship applications. For more information or to apply visit this page.

Boucke Building
University Fellowships Office
321 Boucke Building
University Park, PA 16802