When students think about post graduation plans, they tend to think either about going straight into the workforce or of going onto graduate school. These are both valid choices, and depending on the student, they might great choices. One thing that all students should keep in mind, however, is that there are many more options out there than just those two, and depending on a student’s future plans, one option could be far better than the others.
The term “post-graduate fellowship” can encompass a variety of programs, some of which involve graduate school in the US or abroad, and some of which strictly involve research or service abroad or in the US. Postgraduate fellowships that pay for students to attend graduate school are the most obvious great deal. In many fields, a graduate degree can increase a worker’s salary potential as well as increase a worker’s competitive appeal on the job market. Clearly, it is better to have someone else foot that bill! Some graduate fellowships do require that students work in a specific field for a certain amount of time. The SMART Scholarship requires that students work for the Department of Defense for one year for every year that the award has been received, and the Rangel and Pickering fellowships require that students work as foreign service officers for at least three years after graduation. For students who are seeking careers with these agencies, these fellowships can be a great deal, as they provide a pathway to employment. Always know about fellowship’s post-graduation requirements before you apply, and take these seriously.
One type of fellowship that many students don’t often consider are the international fellowships. International fellowships, such as the Rhodes Scholarship, the Fulbright Scholarship, the Marshall Scholarship, and the Mitchell scholarship, allow students to study at an institution in another country. Some scholarships, like the Rhodes, specify the particular university at which the student can study. Others, like the Marshall and the Mitchell, specify the region (in this case, the UK and Ireland, respectively). Still others, like the Fulbright, allow you to pick the country or region. Though many students are often hesitant to do graduate work in another country, there are many highly respected programs outside the United States, depending on what you are studying. International education also gives students a broader perspective on the world by allowing them to experience new cultures and situations. Employers look for students who have these qualities, and so your international experiences can absolutely give you an advantage in the workplace. Employers are also very interested in students who have received highly competitive fellowships. So, while taking two or three years to study on fellowship may seem like you are taking time off from the workforce, you are actually investing in your future career in a major way!
Not all fellowship cover graduate programs. Some fund student research. The Fulbright program, for example, provides students with funding to conduct research in another country. Though this research does need to be conducted in affiliation with a foreign university or institution, students are able to conduct these projects independently. This can be a great way to build up research that you might use in graduate school, and it can also be a good way to build up research that you might use in a professional setting. Fulbright scholarships fund students in a wide variety of fields, including the humanities, the arts, and STEM fields.
There are still other fellowship opportunities that cover research or public service work in the US. For instance, the Carnegie Junior Fellows program funds students to work as research assistants to the institutes senior fellows, performing research on different aspects of foreign policy and international relations. Again, this work would provide researchers with a great body of research to take to graduate school as well as with connections in the field.
So who should apply for these opportunities? In short, anyone who has a strong record of academic success and involvement on campus, in research, or in the community, who seeks to expand their education, who, in some cases, seeks to experience a new and different culture, and who, most importantly, seeks to grow both as a person and as an academic should seriously consider applying for a post-graduate fellowship. These programs are competitive and the applications are often daunting, but as an NC A&T student, you have a dedicated office to work with you. Spend some time on this blog to find opportunities that you might be interested in, and then make an appointment with me, Ms. Whiteside (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I’ll be happy to work with you.