Published: Tues., November 15, 2016
Every year, the Office of Graduate Studies awards several prestigious awards and fellowships. These opportunities include awards for former students, fellowships and awards for current graduate students, and an award for faculty for excellence in Graduate Education. These awards and fellowships are:
- Folsom Distinguished Master's Thesis Award
- Folsom Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award
- Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant Award
- Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award
- Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Education
- Presidential Fellowship
- Fling Fellowship
- Dean's Fellowship
What's the process?
You must be nominated for awards. For the Folsom Awards, each department is allowed to nominate one Master’s thesis and one doctoral dissertation per year. Folsom Awards are for completed theses and dissertations and nominees are evaluated by outside reviewers. The other three awards (GRA, GTA, and Dean’s Award) are open to current graduate students and faculty, respectively. After being nominated, nominees will receive a notification that they have been nominated and asked to submit additional materials. Nominations open early or mid November every year.
Any graduate student can submit their own materials for fellowships—no nominations are necessary. Applicants will submit a CV, personal statement, and names of two faculty to provide a recommendation. Applications open in early December every year.
Specific requirements for nominees and applicants vary, so read the call carefully.
Advice for applicants and nominees
- Follow the instructions carefully.
- Write to be understood.
- Organize your vita and statement appropriately.
- Choose recommenders that will provide strong support.
- Provide evidence of excellence.
- Keep it professional.
Do not include information that is not requested. If the application asks for specific materials or specific page limits for those materials, follow those guidelines closely. Reviewers have many applications to look through and evaluate. Providing more information that is requested only complicates their work and is unlikely to add any additional value to your application.
Not everyone reading your materials will be in your field or department, so make sure it can be understood by all readers. Avoid using jargon, if you can. If you need to use jargon, make sure to explain that term for lay audiences or those outside your discipline. Having someone not in your field read over your materials can help you identify places where your explanation might be confusing to other readers.
You have limited space to make your case—use it wisely. Organize your materials to put the most pertinent information upfront. If you are applying for an award more focused on your research, emphasize that first on your CV. This will ensure that reviewers do not overlook your most relevant positions or accolades.
Many award or fellowship applications require recommendations from faculty. Make sure the faculty you select will not only write you a recommendation, but that they will write strong letters for you. Only ask faculty who know your work well and can advocate on your behalf. Provide copies of your CV to them before they write the letter so they can use that to write their recommendation. A lukewarm letter will not help your application, so chose your recommenders carefully.
All of the documents you submit should demonstrate your excellence. Show; don’t just tell. The reviewers will be looking for specific evidence for you as an exemplary scholar and researcher, teaching assistant, or graduate mentor. Make sure you offer specific details and information. If a faculty member can speak to your abilities or skills in that area, make sure to include them as a reference.
For personal statements, it can be tempting to include information about how you became interested in this field or topic. Try to limit the amount of information you give about your personal life. Reviewers are less interested in the “human interest stories” about how you became interested in this field from an elementary science lesson or how your aunt’s struggle with this led to your work. You are competing for an award based on your professional accomplishments and discussing too much personal information can work against you and make you seem less professional.