It is never too early to start planning for your future, even if you are a freshman or sophomore. Whether applying for graduate school, research opportunities, or study abroad, you may be asked for evidence of your leadership and service activities as well as your academic achievement. The decisions you make now will affect your choices later. Start thinking about what excites you and where you would like to be in five years or so. Take time to gain varied experiences on campus, in the community, through internships, or through experiences abroad.
Here are some tips to ensure you get your money’s worth out of being a student at a top research university.
- Strive for academic excellence in challenging courses.
- Pursue activities that develop your leadership and communication skills.
- Seek campus and community service experiences, including Service Learning courses.
- Explore undergraduate research.
- Get to know your instructors each semester and develop mentors, and make sure your instructors get to know you!
- Consider studying abroad and learning a foreign language.
While some awards are available for first- and second-year students, most call for serious preparation beginning in your junior year.
The steps you take to get the most out of your education at MU will also make you better prepared to apply for nationally competitive fellowships. See Enhancing Your Education (PDF) for more information.
Schedule an Appointment
Begin by filling out and submitting the online personal profile sheet. Once your profile sheet has been submitted, make an appointment with a Fellowships Office advisor on MU Connect. Before your appointment, think about what you want to get out of a fellowship program, the duration of the program, and whether or not you want to travel outside of the United States. With this in mind, browse our database of fellowships at Find a Fellowship. Some fellowships require that your application is submitted through our office, while other fellowships require that you submit on your own. In either instance, many students find it helpful to seek guidance from our office regarding the application process, personal statements, and letters of recommendation.
Start the Application
In order to submit the most complete application that accurately represents you, your interests, and your goals, it is important to start the application early. Below are some important links and documents:
Here are some essential tips for conducting your fellowships campaign in a professional manner. You want to work in a manner that promotes success both for the present and the future.
The Personal Statement
This short piece of writing is your chance to convey your passion and personality in the application: who you are as a person, why you want to the fellowship and how it will prepare you for a future career path, what distinguishes you from the other applicants, and how you will contribute to the program itself. If you dedicate significant effort and thought into this portion of the application and meet regularly with the Fellowships Office for critiques and suggestions, you will successfully engage fellowship review committees that read through hundreds of applications.
- The Quest of Composing the Personal Statement (PDF) – Advice for writing a personal statement directly from the MU Fellowships Office Director
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Personal Essay Writing (PDF) (by A. Scott Henderson, Furman University)
- Writing the Personal Statement (by The Writing Lab, Purdue University)
- Personal Statements and Essays (by Fellowships & Scholarships Office, Worcester Polytechnic Institute)
- The Personal Statement (by University of California-Berkeley)
Letters of Recommendation
Most fellowship programs require that you obtain at least two letters of recommendation, usually from faculty. Before even beginning an application, get to know your faculty. What professors have you visited during office hours and engaged with regularly in class? Who conducts research that interests you? Once you decide on a faculty member to write a letter of recommendation, bring that person your unofficial transcript, a clean draft of your personal statement, resume, and descriptions of the papers and presentations that you completed in his/her class.
- Writing Strong Letters of Recommendation (PDF) – The step-by-step process to formulating and writing a good letter, along with lists of terms that demonstrate performance.
- Letters of Recommendation (by Loyola University Maryland)
Often, major fellowships, such as Fulbright and Truman, require an interview for finalists. Here are some helpful links to prepare for one-on-one or committee interviews:
- Interviewing for National Fellowships (PDF) (by Yale University Office of Fellowship Programs)
- Preparing for Interviews (by Jane Curlin, Willamette College)
- Preparing for Your Fulbright Campus Committee Interview (by Paul Bohlmann, Harvard College)
Here are some important resources and programs available to you on the MU campus. In addition to our office, these other programs provide you with the tools to apply to national and international fellowships as a competative applicant.
- Financial Aid
- Graduate School
- Hire Mizzou Tigers
- Honors College
- International Center
- McNair Scholars Program
- MU Career Center
- MU Serves
- Office of Service Learning
- Student Success Center
- Study Abroad
- Undergraduate Research Office
Whether or not you are awarded a national fellowship, the process will give you experience in the application process. Often students who apply to fellowships also apply to graduate or professional schools. The following document gives advice on when to begin thinking about graduate school and the application process.