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Level of Competition of University-Wide Fellowships?


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I'm interested in learning more about university-wide fellowships at different schools. I'm applying for external funding (things like the NSF GRFP), but if that falls through, I'm interested in how internal funding usually shakes out. I have a couple different questions that I've listed below:

  1. Is there any good source of aggregate data in terms of GRE/GPA/etc. for people winning fellowships at different school?
  2. Are the top students in the university, independent of department, generally awarded these fellowships, or do they ration these awards within different departments?
  3. Related to the question above, but how important is a department's ranking in comparing students at the university level? (I ask a question like this because Physics GRE Subject score is important for admissions to a program but obviously not a number that is common to all students across the university.)

Any other information regarding internal fellowships, or any answers (however confident, even if it's just speculation from current students) to the above would be very much appreciated. Any information helps!

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Honestly, the best answers are going to come from the website of each graduate school. In my experience, the information you seek isn't readily available so you'd have to send emails or make phone calls to find out what you want. In addition, I'd add that many internal fellowships aren't things you as an incoming student can apply for directly. Instead, they're things for which the department can nominate an applicant they plan to admit. When I applied to both master's and PhD programs, what I learned was that it's the decision of the adcom whether and who they decide to nominate internally though typically it's their strongest applicants and those they most want to recruit. There may also be university-specific internal priorities which never get advertised, like supporting diverse applicants (underrepresented minorities or women in certain fields, or perhaps nontraditional students or those returning to school from the workforce) or those with specific research interests. Since none of these are a thing you can predict, I wouldn't put all my eggs in the university-wide fellowship basket. 

Alright, answers to your questions, in order.

1) Nope, there's no good aggregate data on this, in no small part because the type and criteria of the awards varies from one institution to the next.

2) Criteria vary widely. The university's graduate school often has an overall allotment of these fellowships (which could be 10, 20, 50, etc.) and either departments or candidates/applicants must compete for those. So, one department could end up with 5 while another department ends up with none. The specifics of how this happens are going to vary from one school to the next, so there's no way to really generalize about this.

3) I don't think the department's ranking matters vary much. Such awards tend to be about the applicant more than they are about the department, unless it's something related to increasing the diversity of a department.


P.S. Not that you asked, but I'd also point out that not all university-wide fellowships pay especially well. For example, one of the KU internal fellowships pays a minmum stipend of $16,000/year. (Note: that page also has information on some of the criteria by which that particular award can be granted

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