Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Frequently Asked Questions

When should I start looking into fellowships and/or research opportunities?

It's never too early to begin the fellowship process! There are opportunities for every class year which you can explore through our database. You can also plan to attend information sessions to learn more about future opportunities. Other ways of preparing include exploring a wide variety of fields through your courses, learning foreign languages, building relationships with faculty, and meeting with advisers in Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

​I’ve just learned of a fellowship that I’m interested in, but the deadline for the application is quite soon. Should I apply?

The answer depends on the fellowship. You may be applying for something that requires only one recommendation and a brief essay. In this case, it may not be too late. If the fellowship requires a number of letters of recommendation, university endorsement, a research proposal, and personal statement, it might be too late. You should make sure you give yourself enough time to put together the best application possible. Feel free to check with a fellowship adviser for advice.

How long is the application process?

While the schedule varies for each fellowship, most applicants work for several months prior to the deadline. You also want to make sure you give faculty at least three or four weeks to write your recommendation letters. The most time-consuming part of the application process is your drafting (and rewriting) your personal statement and other essays.

Does Undergraduate Research and Fellowships work with recently graduated students?

Yes, we do. You might be a better applicant for a competitive fellowship after a year’s worth of work experience or after you’ve had some time away from college to think about your future. We offer the same resources to recent alumni/ae that we do to current students, so please don’t hesitate to be in contact with us.

I'm studying abroad. Can I apply for a fellowship or research opportunity?

Even if you're studying abroad, you can still apply for fellowships or research programs. If you are leaving before the process begins, contact URF before your departure to open up a dialogue. If you are abroad when you decide to apply, you can communicate with our office by email, Skype or phone.

What is a nomination?

A nomination indicates that a student has been selected by their institution to go forward in the competition from a general pool of applicants.Certain fellowships require a nomination process. This means that Columbia does a preliminary selection among the applicant pool and nominates candidates accordingly.

What is an institutional endorsement?

An institutional endorsement means that a fellowship applicant is submitting their application with the official approval of their college or university, administered through our office. An institutional endorsement usually indicates that a fellowship nominee has gone through an internal selection process here at Columbia. Certain fellowships require institutional endorsement. This generally means that a university official writes the institutional letter of support on behalf of the candidate. Students cannot apply without that official institutional letter.

What is the difference between an internal and official deadline?

An official fellowship deadline is the date established by the fellowship foundation for the receipt of all application materials. For some fellowships, students must be nominated by their home institution. The internal deadline is required so that faculty committees have time to select nominees from the applicant pool. An internal deadline is the date set by Columbia to receive the completed application, including letters of recommendation, transcripts, and the final version of your statements, so that these nomination decisions can be made.

Whose responsibility is it to get references to submit their recommendation letters?

The responsibility is yours. Most letters are submitted on line, and you will need to understand the different application portals and manage the process. For Columbia fellowships and for internal applications for nomination, letters should be sent by email to

Can a TA write a letter of recommendation for me?

It is always preferable for a professor to write your letter of recommendation. Professors who have taught undergraduates for a number of years have a larger context in which to place an applicant, and can offer a perspective that a graduate student cannot. Talk to a fellowship adviser to help determine the most appropriate roster of recommendation writers for you.

Who should read my personal statement?

When it comes to reading and editing the personal statement, the more eyes, the better. Submit your work to fellowship advisers, and also ask your friends, parents, professors, and mentors to read it. They will let you know if it truly reflects who you are, and clearly defines where you want to go and why. Remember that some fellowships prohibit you from getting feedback on your statements, so make sure to follow these rules.

How many drafts should I prepare of my personal statement?

The quick answer is as many as you need! While no applicant goes through the same process, most will end up writing five or more drafts to get to a final product. The process of rethinking and revising will help you hone your focus and strengthen your application as a whole.

What is a "mock" interview?

Once you have been selected as a fellowship finalist, we will invite you to one or more "mock" interviews to help you prepare for the actual interview. This is simulated fellowship interview with a panel of faculty and administrators, followed by a constructive conversation about ways to improve.

How firm are the minimum grade point average requirements for scholarships that list them?

They are quite firm. If a fellowship lists 3.7 as the cut off, they will not consider applicants who fall below that requirement, regardless of your circumstances. Some of the most competitive scholarships do not require a minimum grade point average. Plan to speak with an adviser to talk about your profile.

Can URF put me in touch with recent Columbia awardees of various fellowships?

Yes, we can and are happy to do so when the awardee or recent applicant has expressed a willingness to talk to current students. Please ask an adviser and we will try to connect you with them. You can also read about their experiences.

How do I go about researching my program of study?

To determine which school is best for you, use the resources listed on this site and those indicated by your fellowship. Go to the universities' own websites to learn more about their programs and faculty. In some cases, contacting faculty with whom you would like to work can be a useful step. Plan to talk with Columbia faculty and the advisers for more ideas.

Do I really have to be a varsity athlete to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship?

No. In the past, it was expected that Rhodes Scholars would have attained high athletic achievements either with a college team or as an individual during their university career. Now, the Rhodes Trust asks that students demonstrate their “energy to use [their] talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports.” The key here is that you have an active lifestyle which embodies this notion of using your talents and gifts to the utmost.

Does it matter whether I apply from New York or my home state?

Some fellowships include a regional application process, and you may have the choice to apply from either your home state or New York, where you are attending college. We work with each applicant to determine the best state from which to apply.

I'm an international student. How do I find a fellowship or research opportunity that I am eligible for?

The process for finding available fellowships, scholarships or research opportunities can take time and effort, and this is no different for international students. Although many of the fellowships listed on our database are limited to students with U.S. citizenship, opportunities are out there for everyone. For you as an international student, exploring options through your national government might provide additional resources. We encourage you to check for fellowships through your home country’s consulate here in New York or embassy in Washington, D.C.

Does Columbia sponsor or screen external fellowship opportunities?

For any Undergraduate Research or Fellowship opportunities that are external to Columbia, their listing and any accompanying links are provided for general informational purposes only. Unless otherwise indicated, Columbia does not sponsor such opportunities, nor does Columbia engage in any screening of them. At all times, Columbia is committed to administering its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and other University programs and functions in a non-discriminatory manner.