In a 2019 fellowships survey sent to all MIT graduate students, 70% of respondents indicated that they planned to apply to a graduate fellowship in the future, and 45% listed financial flexibility as the top motivator for seeking a fellowship (with prestige being the second highest motivator at 23.7%).
For nearly a decade, the Graduate Fellowships team’s top priority has been helping Master’s and PhD students find, apply, and retain their fellowships. Through seminars, workshops, and one-on-one advising, Scott Tirrell (Director of Graduate Fellowships) and Charlie Turner (Fellowships Program Assistant) help to mold student stories into relevant and polished personal essays; they provide format, structure, and opportunity-specific feedback on research statements; and, by way of concerted outreach efforts, which include a bi-semesterly newsletter, they relay relevant deadlines and opportunity updates to the entire graduate community.
Administering fellowships for over 1,000 students
Of the students the Graduate Fellowships team works with, many have been awarded funding through both internal and external sources. Currently, the OGE serves as central point of contact for fellowships for over 1,000 graduate students, which include some of MIT’s largest and most prestigious external fellowship opportunities, such as the NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), the Department of Defense’s National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship (NDSEG), and the competitive Hertz Foundation Fellowship.
Tailored support during the application process
Kevin Greenman, a rising third year PhD in Course 10 and NSF GRFP recipient, utilized the office’s services to ensure that his personal essay was tailored to the NSF GRFP’s mission. “I wanted more than just general writing help,” says Greenman. “I wanted to make sure what I’d written was going to get the attention of the NSF review team, and that’s where Scott came in to help.”
Autumn Deitrick, an incoming PhD in the WHOI Joint Program and another NSF GRFP recipient,
was initially intimidated by the massive undertaking of applying to fellowships, and says, “Getting to talk with someone who is so familiar with the application and has worked with other students before is invaluable.”
This is a response mirrored by many students, including Aziza Almanakly, a rising second year PhD in Course 6 and a Soros Fellowship for New Americans recipient, who says the team “knows the unwritten secrets of what these fellowships are looking for.”
First-hand advice for the fellowship process
While the fundamental goal of obtaining financial flexibility is shared by many, the experience of actually applying to fellowships often differs from student to student. Amanda Hornick, a rising third year PhD in HST and an NSF GRFP recipient, shares some advice for students interested in applying.
“Be flexible and able to adapt to different prompts depending on the opportunities you’re applying for,” she says. “When writing, don’t focus on what, focus on so what.”
Details such as these are vitally important, and can sometimes determine whether or not you’re able to secure your top choice for funding. Always seek the help of others, and learn from their experiences to better your own.
The Graduate Fellowships team hopes to spread this message to students who are just beginning to enter the vast world of fellowships. Like many writing and communication resources across campus, the Graduate Fellowships team have a wealth of knowledge and years of experience at their disposal.
Additional resources from the Fellowships team
In addition to all the help applying to fellowships, the team also offers financial wellbeing assistance by way of iGrad, a comprehensive online financial literacy platform, and financial workshops in the fall and spring that cover topics such as investing, budgeting, and saving. So, whether you’re looking for advice on how best to utilize your funds, or you’re new to the world of finances and fellowships and are seeking general guidance, Scott Tirrell and Charlie Turner are available and eager to lend a hand.
Get in touch
The team welcomes you to learn more. And when you’re ready to start applying, please don’t hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions that should come up along the way, or to schedule an appointment for a chat!