Fellowships & Research

What is a fellowship?

Terms such as fellowship, scholarship, and grant refer to money you can use to accomplish a goal. The Office of Fellowships helps students find and apply for such external sources of financial support.  

I think I want to apply for a fellowship but don’t really know where to start.

The Office of Fellowships can help. We support Northwestern students and graduates in a variety of ways. We host informational meetings about a variety of opportunities and post our events to Plan-it-Purple. Our website provides links to individual awards and national databases. Our office houses a non-circulating library of past winning essays. We also hold individual consultations.

I have no idea how to put together a research project. Is there anyone who can help?

There certainly is. The Office of Undergraduate Research assumes that you have never put together a project like this before, so their advisors are there to help guide you through the process. Even if you have no idea what you want to do, you should still make an appointment through their Advising Request Form, and be sure to review the resources on the Office of Undergraduate Research web site.

I want to get into a lab. Is there an easy way to find one?

Well, easy might be overstating it, but there are resources to help. Since there are hundreds of labs, the key is to find one doing work that is really interesting to you.  Northwestern Scholars is a searchable database of faculty research, and you can use it to read publications to discover what actual work the professor does. [Remember that the publications were not written for undergrads, so expect some of it to go over your head – just see if the work seems interesting to you.] You can also use the Global and Research Opportunities web site which includes hundreds of great opportunities including labs that like working with undergrads. Check out the Getting Started page on the undergrad research website for more details, and make an appointment to meet with an advisor using the Advising Request Form.

I would love to do an independent project this summer, but I need to make money. What can I do?

The Summer Undergraduate Research Grant program provides a $3,000 stipend for students to do projects in all areas.  They fund people making documentaries and writing screenplays as well as more traditional research activities.  For 8 weeks over the summer, the money lets you focus completely on your project, and you can use the money however you like. There is additional money available if your project takes you abroad, and although you can’t work during the grant period, there may be additional funds to increase the stipend available on a need-based basis. Use an Advising Request Form to learn more.

I want to get started in research. I’d like to work with a professor on her/his research, but I don’t have time to volunteer. What are my options?

The Undergraduate Research Assistant Program connects students with faculty members, with a goal of students learning how research is conducted in your field. So, the work will not be making copies or cleaning test tubes!  You can either do the work for academic credit or for pay ($10/hour), and there are programs during the academic year and summer. The faculty submit the applications to this program, so the best way to get involved is to find a faculty member doing work that is interesting to you and have them apply to hire you. Use an Advising Request Form to learn more.

Are there fellowships to support study abroad?

Yes, fellowships support students studying abroad during their undergraduate years.  These include the Gilman (for students on Pell grants), the Boren Scholarship, the Fund for Education Abroad, the Critical Language Scholarship, the Bridging Scholarship (Japan only), the DAAD (Germany only), and the UK Fulbright Summer Institutes.  Check with the Study Abroad Office for additional sources.

I want to go abroad to do a project, but the plane ticket is so expensive. Is there any help available?

Both the Academic Year Undergraduate Research Grant and the  Summer Undergraduate Research Grant have additional funds for international projects. They will provide 50% of the international plane ticket for all awarded proposals. Use an Advising Request Form to learn more.

I just had a project accepted to present at a conference, but it is really expensive. Is there any kind of support available?

The Conference Travel Grant program offers 50% of expenses (up to $500) for any conference that you get accepted to (meaning, you can use this grant more than once).  The application is very easy, and they are reviewed on a rolling basis. WCAS has a similar program that can be used to cover the other 50% of expenses for WCAS students. Plus, don’t forget to also present your work at the Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition, the University’s premiere conference event. Use an Advising Request Form to learn more.

I’m interested in international development and would like to work abroad after graduation.

There are numerous fellowships to support international professional experiences for recent graduates, such as Princeton in Asia, Princeton in Africa, Princeton in Latin America, the Luce Scholars Program, Clinton Fellowship for Service in India, and Global Health Corps.  Additional opportunities are available on the Office of Fellowships website.  

I’m interested in teaching English overseas after graduation. Are there fellowships to support this?

Yes, there are a number of opportunities available.  The largest program is through Fulbright, which offers opportunities to teach English in 70+ countries with placements ranging from elementary to university.  Additional opportunities exist through the Austrian government, the French government’s TAPIF program, the Spanish government, and Chilean government Open Doors program.

I want to earn a graduate degree, but I need financial support. What are my options? Do funders support all disciplines equally?

Myriad scholarships exist to cover graduate study in every field for applicants of all citizenships at universities around the globe. The Office of Fellowships can help you identify the awards that fit your desired degree, areas of interest, long-term goals, preferred locations, and personal circumstances.  Some awards for graduate funding take applications as early as your third undergraduate year, but you can apply for others long after you graduate. Talk to us! We will identify the best programs for you.

I am interested in public policy and want to stay in the US. What options exist for me?

There are several opportunities to gain knowledge of public policy and work in government at the local or national level. Current undergraduates can apply for the Public Policy and International Affairs Program, the Truman Scholarship, and the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Summer Enrichment Program. Graduating seniors and recent alums can apply for the NYC Urban Fellows Program, the Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program, and the Junior Fellows Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

I have a research project that I can only complete in Uzbekistan. I need 10 months to complete this work. What funding source will support me?

Fulbright is the perfect solution! Fulbright funds U.S. citizens who hold the bachelor’s degree to teach and carry out project in over 100 countries. If you are not yet ready for Fulbright, take languages and area studies courses in preparation.  The Office of Fellowships manages a successful application process beginning in May each year.  

I am a finalist for a fellowship, or, I have just won an award!

You should contact the Office of Fellowships! We will prepare you for the final selection round with mock interviews. We maintain a comprehensive list of all NU fellowship winners.  If you are now a recipient, we wish to celebrate your success at our May Party honoring Northwestern winners!

The competition for fellowships is fierce. Why apply other than the possibility to win?

While winning a prestigious fellowship is enticing, all applicants benefit from the application process. First, applying for a fellowship will help you clarify your goals and plans. A second benefit is to powerfully sharpen your writing skills.  Third, you will learn how to persuasively argue your points. Overall, the process is intense but worth it!  Think of it as the world’s best intellectual boot camp!