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Finding Funding: How A Fellowship Can Help You Finance Your Degree and Succeed in Graduate Studies

UL Grad School -- 12/18/2020

A fellowship can help you pay for your degree, stay focused on school, and provide relevant experience in your field of study.

At UL Lafayette, there are a number of different fellowships available to master’s and doctoral students. You can also apply for external fellowships funded by non-university partners.

Read on to learn more about the fellowships offered by UL Lafayette and how you can become a competitive applicant.

What does a university fellowship provide?

Fellowships at UL Lafayette provide a tuition waiver, stipend, and most include some portion of time that is non-service in nature. This means that the work you do for your fellowship will be the work that you put into your academic coursework and research.

"Fellowships do not only support graduate students' financial needs, but they also help them stay focused in school and gain relevant experiences in academic settings and beyond," explains Dr. Manyu Li, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and member of the Graduate School Fellowships Committee.

Doctoral fellowships will provide funding for three or four years of study, depending upon whether you enter with or without a master’s degree in hand.

A Master’s Fellowship, meanwhile, is awarded only for one year of your grad school career.

These competitive funding offers can make a big difference to your graduate school experience, because you’ll have the support to really dedicate your time and energy to your area of study.

Should you pursue fellowship funding?

If you are applying to a research degree program, it’s a good idea to go ahead and apply for fellowship funding as well.

You’ll want to make sure you meet the minimum requirements for fellowship funding, so check to make sure you are eligible.

UL Lafayette offers a number of different doctoral fellowships, including:

  • University Doctoral Fellowships
  • Louisiana Board of Regents-Southern Regional Education Board (BOR-SREB) Minority Doctoral Fellowships
  • Doctoral fellowships offered by individual University research centers

Master’s fellowships, meanwhile, are fewer in number and thus more competitive. There are typically four University Master’s Fellowships awarded every year at UL Lafayette.

A fellowship will not only support your graduate studies in the short term, but will stand as a prestigious achievement going forward.

"Earning a fellowship bestows a recognition of quality to the recipient: you stood out from the other strong applicants to our graduate program,” explains Dr. Scott France, Charles R. Godchaux/BoRSF Professor of Biology and chair of the Graduate School Fellowships Committee.

Having a fellowship will strengthen your CV and demonstrate your capability and seriousness as a scholar.

“Competitive fellowships allow a student to stand out on the job market or to pursue another graduate degree,” notes Dr. Loic Bourdeau, Board of Regents Endowed Assistant Professor of Francophone Studies and member of the Graduate School Fellowships Committee.

“It also means fewer duties that would take away from research. As such, fellows delve deeper and sooner into their research projects, thus often producing higher-quality work,” Dr. Bourdeau adds. 
Fellowship students also earn a higher stipend than they would with assistantships, further ensuring that you can give all of your attention to your academic work. But if you’re planning on keeping other jobs during the year, be careful — you won’t be able to keep any other employment during the semesters when you receive fellowship funding.

How to create a strong fellowship application

Just like your application to the graduate program, your fellowship application should be a well-organized and compelling presentation of your accomplishments to date and your potential for success in graduate studies.

Keep in mind that the fellowship application will be reviewed alongside the supplemental materials to your application to the program, so be sure to be strategic with your letters of reference and statement of purpose.

“To me, beyond good grades, a strong applicant is someone who took the time to write a compelling cover letter and who has excellent letters of recommendation. In our current socio-political moment, I also appreciate applicants who are dedicated to equity, diversity, and social justice (in any shape or form),” says Dr. Bourdeau.

“Finally, an applicant who demonstrates a good grasp of the field they’re applying to and already has an idea of how their work will contribute to the field, is, to me, a very strong applicant.” Dr. Bourdeau says.

Dr. France notes that in biology, “competitive applicants have prior research experience (either as an undergrad or in a MS degree) that they can easily describe to others (that is, they have a good understanding of that research), an understanding of what it takes to be successful in academic research, and clear plans on how a graduate degree can help them in their career."

Before you apply for fellowship funding, consider reaching out to your professors and graduate coordinator to ask about any program-specific advice for your application.

University Master’s and Doctoral fellowships are awarded only in the fall, and all required application materials, including the fellowship application, must be submitted by February 1. External fellowships will have separate guidelines and deadlines. Make sure you plan early and get all your admission materials in on time.

Learn more about available fellowships and access the fellowship application. >