Drumming Up Outside Fellowships Before Grad School

QuantumLancer
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu May 21, 2015 7:15 pm

Drumming Up Outside Fellowships Before Grad School

Postby QuantumLancer » Fri Jul 17, 2015 1:41 pm

Since this Forum seems to be a great wealth of knowledge, I just wanted to ask a very general question about Fellowships and Grad School. Currently my whole plan is to apply to graduate school the December directly after I graduate in order to boost my GPA, get a little more research experience, and save up some money. I also feel that my applications will be much stronger as I have two research positions on campus for my senior year, a programming job I just picked up, and I am retaking a classical mechanics course that kicked my butt the first time around. I was just wondering is it possible to drum up some outside fellowships or scholarships during or before applying to graduate schools in order to try to tip admission in my favor? How would that process go? Any input would be really welcome and I know I have been flooding the forum with questions recently, but I really have found that the people here have great advice and keep things very real. Moreover, my on campus adviser has really no advise to give on graduate school beyond improve your grades and do research which has been pretty irksome.

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Drumming Up Outside Fellowships Before Grad School

Postby TakeruK » Fri Jul 17, 2015 1:52 pm

Usually, the big fellowships (e.g. NSF GRFP) for grad schools starting in Fall of year X are awarded/announced in Spring of year X. So, most admission decisions are already made prior to the fellowship decision. Although you are generally eligible to apply for these fellowships in your senior year of undergrad, you are not able to defer them other than very specific reasons (e.g. medical, military etc.)

Also, these fellowships are tough to win as an undergrad as you are competing with 1st and 2nd year graduate students. Except for a few special cases, I would say that if you are able to win something like the NSF GRFP, you should be able to gain acceptance to graduate school. I could think of a few exceptions where the student did not apply to a large number of schools or applied to really bad fits and could end up with a GRFP but no graduate school, but I think these are quite rare.

There are smaller fellowships than things like the NSF GRFP but since they are smaller and worth less money, I don't think they would make much of a difference in an admission decision.

So, overall, I don't think fellowships will make a huge difference in your results. I don't think a plan where you apply to graduate schools with a fellowship already secured is feasible, for the reasons above. What I would suggest is to apply for the fellowships in the same year as you apply for graduate school. The results may come out just before the April 15 deadline, and that might be enough to convince a school that originally put you on the top of a waitlist to offer you a spot, or for you to move up several spots on a waitlist. Maybe! But in any case, you should not feel discouraged if you don't win an external fellowship prior to grad school as you can still compete for them as a new graduate student!

QuantumLancer
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu May 21, 2015 7:15 pm

Re: Drumming Up Outside Fellowships Before Grad School

Postby QuantumLancer » Fri Jul 17, 2015 3:41 pm

Awesome summary, seems like I can always count on your input! So basically I should apply to Fellowships at the same time I am applying to schools? The fact it may not change the decision on admissions does not really change my plan to apply as a fellowship would definitely help take some of the money stress out of graduate school. Hopefully I can get at least one.

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Drumming Up Outside Fellowships Before Grad School

Postby TakeruK » Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:36 pm

Yes, the normal thing to do is actually to apply to fellowships first, as most of these deadlines are October/November, and then grad schools in December/January. Doing this means you would already created things like a CV and have thought about expressing your research interests clearly, which makes the grad school applications easier.

As for the money-stress of grad school: Most graduate programs in Physics in North America will fully fund you as a PhD student. For some schools, bringing in an extra fellowship might mean additional pay and/or less TA commitments. But at many places (like my current school), the pay for fellowship holders and non-fellowship holders is the same!




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