Thanks to the Seapine Fellowship, Amos Ductan ’06 spent six weeks last summer studying Spanish in Quito, Ecuador — and he didn’t have to pay a nickel.
“I’m just glad that I got the opportunity to go,” Ductan said. “I had never been outside the country before then, so it was an exciting experience.”
Ductan is one of hundreds of Yale undergraduates who have taken advantage of the University’s fellowship programs, for which there are a multitude of resources. Although some students perceive fellowships to be virtually unattainable, those who apply early and are flexible will likely find one to suit their needs.
George Joseph, a fellowship advisor for the Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs, said about 130 students receive fellowships annually through the IEFP office, which guides students pursuing various fellowships.
“There are a number of different ways we try to point students where to go,” Joseph said. “We try to serve as a clearinghouse.”
Although IEFP provides a plethora of undergraduate fellowships, other sources — including the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, residential colleges and academic departments — also give out fellowships each year, Joseph said.
Establishing greater coordination between fellowship sources is a top priority at the University, Larissa Satara, coordinator of fellowships and visiting scholars for YCIAS, said. She cited the lack of centralized fellowship information as one of the main obstacles faced by students looking for fellowship opportunities. But the introduction of a new University-wide fellowship information database slated to start operation in the fall will make the search easier, she said.
“One of the problems here at Yale is that there are so many offices that administer fellowships,” Satara said. “We try and tell all the students to look at other sources of funding as well.”
However, more informal channels of communication — particularly between past fellowship winners and current prospective applicants — have also proven to be very important to the application process. In fact, Gupta attributed the success of Timothy Dwight College students in winning fellowship prizes this year to the inter-student networking fostered by the college’s unique environment.
“TD racked up serious fellowships this year,” Gupta said. “Part of it might be because TD is small and there are a lot of upperclass connections when you are a freshman.”
Joseph said fellowship recipients range from freshmen to recently graduated Yale College students.
“Money is available at all levels of your Yale career,” Joseph said. “A misconception is that only juniors and seniors can apply.”
Although some fellowships are reserved for upperclassmen, in particular many of those offered in national competitions like the Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships, many are available for freshmen and sophomores. The Richard U. Light Fellowship — the largest fellowship offered through Yale both in terms of money and number of awards given out — does not discriminate based on seniority.
Of the $1.25 to 1.5 million IEFP administers directly each year, about $1 million is given through the Light Fellowship, according to IEFP director and assistant dean of Yale College Barbara Rowe. She said this year alone there were 72 Light Fellowships awarded. Since its inception in 1996, the Light Fellowship has funded language study in East Asia.
Carolyn Zabrycki ’04, a Light Fellowship recipient for the past two years, said the application process can be overwhelming and advised students to plan their applications ahead of time.
“It’s stressful,” Zabrycki said. “Make an appointment early and write the deadlines on your calendar and send off as many as you possibly can.”
Although the fellowship application process is meant to challenge students to be independent and proactive, counselors are available to provide assistance, IEFP assistant director Mark Bauer said.
“Part of what a fellowship is about is taking initiative and developing a proposition, but you don’t have to do it on your own,” Bauer said. “We are in a great position as advisers, because we are here to help and don’t decide who receives the fellowships. That job is left up to committees comprised of deans and faculty members.”
Still, some students expressed frustration that deadlines — and therefore notification dates — late in the year can leave people unsure of their summer plans until the last minute.
The fact that the fellowship committee’s decision and the admissions decisions of some of the individual schools in East Asia were spaced apart by over a month left her frustrated, Light Fellowship recipient Nancy Nguyen ’07 said.
“We found out about the fellowship in late March,” Nguyen said. “Some schools didn’t give out the decisions until late April and some people didn’t know if they could go on the fellowship, and they didn’t know about the schools.”
Daniel Martinez ’05, a J.W. Saxe Memorial Prize for Public Service winner who used his funding to support himself while he worked as an unpaid intern at his local congressman’s office, said students should not set their sights on one particular program in order to better their chances of getting a fellowship.
“Apply for a lot of fellowships,” Martinez said. “I must have applied for seven or eight things and I got turned down for all but one of them.”