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After-Graduation Possibilities: Prestigious International Fellowship Programs

After-Graduation Possibilities: Prestigious International Fellowship Programs

International grants add to your resume and your life experience.

By Bridget Kulla

April 21, 2009

Receiving a Fulbright Scholarship sure sounds impressive. If you’re a Rhodes Scholar no one would doubt your academic chops. But what exactly are they? They’re just two of several international grants and fellowships that fund a wide variety of independently-designed projects and advanced academic study abroad for recent college graduates. In other words, you could get paid to study a topic you love.

These programs offer an opportunity to delve further into an area of study that interests you. While traditional graduate programs may adhere to an established curriculum, these awards allow a great degree of independence in designing your project. “In some cases students don’t want to go straight to work or straight into a graduate program and the delay time and the chance to think further about what they really want to do is valuable. It’s great on a resume,” says Virginia Hancock, chair of the committee of fellowships and awards at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

If you’re interested in these fellowships, get serious about applying. These programs value independence and leadership, but above all they value passion for an area of study. Begin thinking about applying early. Students can start planning for fellowships as early as their freshmen year and should start to get serious about applying during their sophomore year. These fellowships are among the prestigious awards so the competition is fierce.

There are many ways to prepare for these programs. Take advantage of the resources available at your college, including counselors and financial aid officers. Become involved in activities related to what you want to study and foster relationships with professors and other professionals in the field. Be ready to explain what you want to study and why you want the award.

Some of the most well-known awards include:

Rhodes Scholarship: This is the oldest international fellowship started in the United States to fund U.S. students abroad. Each year 32 recent college graduates are selected to study at Oxford University in England. Scholars receive two years of funding and may be eligible for a third. Famous alums include former President Clinton and poet Robert Penn Warren. Learn more about the Rhodes Scholarship.

Fulbright Program: The largest international exchange program for U.S. citizens helps fund study for college graduates, graduate students, doctoral candidates, young professionals and artists. Fulbright Scholars receive funding for independently-designed, year-long projects, including research, classes and teaching English. This program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, awarded over 6,000 grants in 2004 with scholars studying in 150 countries. Learn more about the Fulbright Program.

Marshall Scholarship: A British-sponsored program founded in 1953 to strengthen the bonds between the United States and Britain, the Marshall Scholarship funds at least 40 U.S. students to study for graduate degrees in the United Kingdom for two years. Learn more about the Marshall Scholarship.

Watson Fellowship: This program provides $25,000 for one year of independent research and travel outside the United States. You must be a senior graduating from a participating U.S. college. The Watson funds projects that reflect students’ genuine interests, even if those interests are not apparent in their academic work. Past projects include white-water rafting rivers in Africa, investigating equestrian societies in Mongolia, and studying the music of Khmer people in Asia. Fellows cannot return to the United States for the entire year of their fellowship. Learn more about the Watson Fellowship.

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Scholarship: Institutions of higher education in Germany support this award for undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members to study in Germany. DAAD programs range from summer studies to research internships. Over 50,000 students and researchers receive funding each year. Learn more about DAAD.

Gates Cambridge Scholarship: One of the newest of the big international grants, this scholarship was started in 2000 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with a $210 million gift to the University of Cambridge. Recipients of this award must be graduate students from outside the United Kingdom who are accepted to study at the University of Cambridge. The award covers full tuition for 230 students at any one time, with 100 new students selected annually. Learn more about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

If these programs don’t exactly meet your interests, keep looking; an award may be available in the field of study that interests you most. Many colleges have faculty members who serve as on-campus resources to help students decide which award is a good fit for them.

Hancock says the benefit for students of the process of applying for these awards, “Even if they don’t succeed at the fellowships business, they’ve got all that material, all that background, all that thought prepared for whatever it is they might want to do, whether it be graduate school applications, job applications, grant applications, whatever.”

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