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Javits and Ford Predoctoral Fellowships -- advice?


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Hi all,

I am gearing to apply to the two aforementioned fellowships for the next term, but I'm having a bit of difficulty determining how to construct a winning application. I've gone through the NSF process (made honorable mention last time), so I'm very familiar with that, but I've been unable to find a single person who is well-versed in either Javits or Ford. Can any previous winners say much about the criteria?

In the case of Javits, my understanding is that they give more awards to humanities people than social sciences, so would it be judicious for an interdisciplinary person like myself to spin a humanities-oriented proposal? I'm doing an MA in Islamic Studies presently, and will be moving on to doctoral work either in political theory, anthropology (both social sciences), or history (humanities). I'm working on doctoral statements of purpose as we speak, so since I'm applying to programs across disciplines I will be armed with proposals representing several spectra, from normative Islamic political philosophy, to ethnographic fieldwork, to historical archival research. Would it be more judicious in the case of either Javits or Ford to privilege one over the other?

In the case of Ford, any suggestions on personal statement or research proposal? Not having met a single person who won the award, I really don't know what criteria they're going by.

Also, can anyone say a word about candidate profile? I have a really strong undergrad background (4.0 GPA), decent GRE scores (660V, 730Q, 6 writing), and I've published quite a bit -- several articles, several conference papers, and I'm working on my first book as we speak. The thing is, in my first year as an MA student this past year, I took a bit of a ding, getting two A minuses (on account of taking on waaay too much this year). I know graduate GPA is expected to be higher than undergrad, so I'm wondering, is this sort of thing a deal-breaker for these fellowships? In other words, is the candidate profile more about a spotless transcript, or about achievements *outside* the transcript? Do they care much about extracurricular involvements, overseas experiences, etc.?

Finally, about recommendation letters, would it be better for the purposes of these awards to select recommenders who speak primarily on behalf of your *academic* strengths, or on behalf of your personal and leadership skills? I did humanitarian work abroad and can muster a very powerful letter from my old advisor (who is a professor and prominent scholar, but I never studied under him per se). That letter speaks far more to my aptitude for social justice than it does about my academic work, though it does make reference to it. Would something like that be more efficacious, or is it best to stick with professors who will speak solely on my academic work?

Any feedback would be really appreciated. Thanks!

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Yep, I'm going to jump onto this question. Do they expect letters of recommendation from past institutions? I hate to bug my undergrad advisors for even more letters, but I can't imagine that any of my new professors are familiar enough with my work to write anything solid.

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