Long Odds, Big Rewards

The fact of the matter is, most people who apply for fellowships don’t get them – this is what makes them competitive and prestigious. In last year’s Fulbright competition for the full grant to the UK, for instance, there were 706 applicants and 46 recipients. Does this mean you shouldn’t apply? Not exactly – one of these recipients was A&T student Emmanuel Johnson, who will be studying for a graduate degree in robotics at the University of Birmingham this fall.

This application wasn’t Emmanuel’s first – he applied for several other awards that he did not win before finally winning the Fulbright. The process of applying for the other awards helped him sharpen his competitive ability. By working hard and persevering, he was able to take what he learned from the other competitions and apply that to the Fulbright.

You may still be wondering why you should apply for a prestigious scholarship and fellowship if the odds are so long. For students who are competitive for these awards – meaning, students who have a strong academic record as well as a strong record of leadership and involvement – there are a few things that might be gained from competing for a prestigious scholarship:

  • Development of writing skills. Applications for prestigious awards require that applicants write a lot. Most applications will require that you write a personal statement as well as a proposal of how you plan to use your fellowship. Writing these two things will give you a chance not only to lay out your goals and personal history, which is required for graduate school applications, as well, but it will also give you a chance to practice writing a proposal, something that will come in handy in any professional environment. Finally, this will give you a chance to practice your writing, again, increasing your competitive ability in the workplace.
  • Development of time management skills The applications require a lot of work and organization. Invariably, you will develop ways to manage your time as you complete a major project.
  • A better understanding of who you are and what you want out of life. These applications will demand that you think about who you are and what your goals are. What better time to do that than college, which you are getting ready to embark on your career?
  • Enhanced knowledge of your field and other cultures If you apply for an award that will require you to travel abroad, you’ll have to investigate that country. You will also have to research and consider innovations and issues in your field.
  • Development of oral communication and collaboration abilities In the process of applying for these awards, you will likely face campus interviews and presentation sessions. You will have to present your proposal, and you may have to be recognized at university events. This is a chance for you to practice developing the poise and oral communication abilities that will be required of you in future professional and academic settings .
  • Get to know your faculty members The process of applying for awards will force you to collaborate with faculty members to develop your award as well as to talk about future plans.
  • Complete a challenge outside of your comfort zone. Even if you don’t win an award, you’ll have the satisfaction and confidence that comes from tackling a major challenging and completing it.
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