Here are answers to the questions we hear most often about undergraduate research and nationally competitive fellowships.
Is undergraduate research only for students in the sciences?
No! Even though working in a science laboratory is the example of research that comes to mind for most people, undergraduate research can be done in any discipline. You should consider what your interests are and investigate options in the most likely areas. If finding a link to your academic department isn’t obvious, try speaking with your advisor or with the Center for Experiential Learning for ideas.
Can I do research in the sciences without being a Science Research Fellow (SRF)?
Yes! While Science Research Fellows is one way to get involved in research as an undergraduate, most students who pursue research at DePauw join projects by talking to faculty members and finding the right fit.
Can I do research as a first-year student?
Yes! Undergraduates may do research at any point during their time at DePauw. Some projects are better suited to different times during your education, but it’s not always obvious from the outside. Don’t rule anything out without having conversations with mentors.
Am I only allowed to do research in my major?
No! You may do research in any area. For many students, their deepest interests lie in their major, and thus it is most common for students to do research in their major. However, as a liberal arts institute, we encourage students to explore and synthesize multiple areas of interest.
Can research be done in the summer as well as during the academic year?
Yes. Students work with faculty members during both the academic year and the summer. During the academic year, progress on the project will likely be slower since both faculty and students have obligations to their course work. There is also limited funding available for students who work on projects during the summer. And some students combine academic-year and summer work for even deeper engagement.
Can I get credit for doing research?
Perhaps. During the academic year, you may be able to receive academic credit for research under some circumstances. Please talk with you faculty sponsor about this possibility.
Are their funds to help me attend conferences?
Yes. Funding is available for students who present at conferences. The Hubbard Center and some departments also maintain small pools of funding for students who wish to attend a conference without presenting.
Do I need to apply to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) when I perform research with human participants?
Yes. It is important that you check the IRB website to determine whether your project requires approval from the IRB. This committee can also provide you with additional support for your research design, if you wish. However, concern about IRB approval should not prevent you from trying to identify research opportunities.The IRB process is something that is often worked through in collaboration with your faculty mentor.
May I conduct research with a faculty member on a voluntary basis, without receiving credit or payment?
The opportunity for students to work collaboratively with faculty members on research, scholarly, and creative activities is a valuable component of a liberal arts education. Whenever possible, DePauw University seeks to provide either academic credit or monetary compensation to students who engage in these activities. There are times, however, when a student is eager to pursue an opportunity for more informal collaboration for which neither credit nor funding is available. Although DePauw generally discourages these "voluntary" activities, exceptions may be made where possible, with approval from the Office of Academic Affairs, which will consult with Human Resources and Risk Management. Approval of voluntary collaboration between students and faculty members during the summer does not grant students access to University housing.
What is a Nationally Competitive Fellowship or Award?
Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards support undergraduate and graduate study, research, and English language teaching in the U.S. and abroad. DePauw scholarship winners have attended graduate programs, conducted research, and taught English in Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Lithuania, Oman, Paraguay, Slovakia, Spain, South Korea, and Turkey. DePauw students and graduates have also won fellowships for graduate study at universities in the United States. Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards recipients become leaders in their fields of study and in their communities.
What is the difference between a Scholarship and a Fellowship?
Undergraduate awards are called "scholarships," while graduate awards are generally called "fellowships." At DePauw, we focus on a range of grants, scholarships, fellowships, and awards for which applicants compete with peers from colleges and universities across the United States.
What monetary support does the winner of a Nationally Competitive Fellowship or Award receive?
Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards offer many different kinds of support. Awards may pay for university tuition and fees, housing, transportation, special orientation meetings, and/or books. Note that winning the award is in itself a great distinction, often more important than the monetary support the scholarship may offer.
Who may apply for Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards?
Because most Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards are funded by the U.S. Government, candidates for many of these awards must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Some notable exceptions include German Government (DAAD) Scholarships, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and the Carnegie Endowment Junior Fellows Program--all of which welcome students who are not US citizens. For resources on awards open to students who are not US citizens, please click here.
Are Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards open to undergraduates?
While the majority of Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards are designed for seniors or recent graduates, some are open to undergraduates in specific areas of study. Notable undergraduate awards include the Goldwater Scholarship (for science and mathematics majors), the Critical Languages Scholarship (for students studying languages critical to U.S. interests), DAAD RISE Scholarships (for science research in Germany), and the Udall and EPA GRO Scholarships (for students interested in environmental science and environmental studies). Note that students apply as juniors for the prestigious Truman Scholarship, which supports graduate study in public policy.
What Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards should I consider as a senior?
Graduate fellowships and awards support graduate study in the arts and humanities, social sciences, and STEM disciplines. Several scholarships are available for teaching English language overseas, and for teaching science and mathematics in the U.S. Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards do not fund professional study (including law and medical school). Please consult the Select List of Awards webpage, which lists a limited number of specific awards.
What degree must I have to apply for Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards?
Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards for seniors and recent graduates require a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate scholarships require that applicants be enrolled in college when they apply.
I graduated from DePauw a few years ago. May I seek advice from faculty and staff members at DePauw as I prepare an application for a Nationally Competitive Fellowship or Award?
Yes indeed. Check first to make sure that you are eligible for the particular scholarship or award. If you are enrolled in a graduate program, it usually makes sense for you to seek advice and support directly from your graduate institution. DePauw advisers, however, frequently work with recent graduates applying for awards such as the Fulbright, Marshall, and Carnegie. We welcome inquiries.
What qualities and achievements make for a strong candidate?
Each Nationally Competitive Fellowship and Award has a different focus, so it is important to look at the scholarship's specific goals and requirements. In general, successful candidates have excelled academically; they write well; they are leaders; they have served the community; and they are intellectually curious. Students who win international scholarships often have studied abroad and are fluent in a second language.
Must I have DePauw’s approval to apply for a Nationally Competitive Fellowship or Award?
Some of the Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards require a nomination from DePauw; others allow candidates to apply on their own. If you are applying for a nationally competitive award of any sort, however, you should work closely with the Director of National Fellowships & Awards as well as faculty advisers throughout the application process. Seek feedback on your application essays from multiple readers, and work with DePauw Writing Center consultants to make sure that your essays are persuasive, clear, and impeccably edited.
When should I begin to apply for a Nationally Competitive Fellowship or Award?
Most Nationally Competitive Fellowships and Awards have deadlines in the fall term of the senior year, but the rule of thumb is to start the application well ahead of the deadline. DePauw sets internal deadlines for completed applications a full month or more before the national deadline. Most of our winners tell us that they began thinking about the application at least four months before it was due.
May I apply for more than one Nationally Competitive Fellowship or Award?
Yes, but consider whether you will be able to keep up with your academic work and other commitments. Applications for nationally competitive fellowships and awards take more time than you might expect.
What are my chances for receiving a Nationally Competitive Fellowship or Award?
The number of applicants and winners varies widely from scholarship to scholarship. Davies-Jackson usually makes only one award per year (and DePauw graduate Stephen Worden won it in 2011); Carnegie makes seven (DePauw graduate Geoff Gertz was one of the seven in 2007). Rhodes awards 32 scholarships to U.S. students; and the U.S. Student Fulbright Program awards about 1,400 grants each year. Scholarship websites will give you precise statistics on the number of applicants and winners; these statistics are worth consulting before you begin an application.
What is the GPA requirement for a Nationally Competitive Fellowship or Award?
Some scholarships seek applicants with top GPAs (3.7 and above). Many others, however, consider the applicant's academic credentials alongside other, even more important criteria. Virtually all scholarships seek students who have done meaningful work inside and outside the classroom. The Truman Scholarship, for example, seeks "change agents," students who have identified a problem on campus or in the community, and then have found a way to bring about the necessary change. Criteria for specific scholarships are listed on each scholarship website.
Will I be interviewed by a selection committee?
Some scholarships, such as the Fulbright, require a campus interview; a few, such as the Carnegie and Rhodes, have regional interviews as well. It’s important to prepare thoroughly for these interviews. Mock interviews arranged through the Speaking and Listening Center have contributed to the success of recent Truman Scholarship and Carnegie Fellowship winners.
What does an application involve?
Almost all scholarship applications ask you to write a personal statement and project proposal, to submit several letters of recommendation from faculty members, and to attach your academic transcript. Some scholarships require you to be accepted into a program of study independent of your application for the scholarship.
I’ve heard it takes a great deal of work to apply for a Nationally Competitive Fellowship or Award. Is it worth the time and effort to apply?
If you are a strong candidate for a particular scholarship, then you should apply. (To find out if you're a strong candidate, read the scholarship website, talk to your academic advisor, and consult with professors who are familiar with your academic accomplishments.) In most cases, the application process has benefits beyond the scholarship itself. Applicants tell us that in writing their personal essays and project proposals they have clarified their goals for careers and graduate study; they often feel more confident about their interview and writing skills. Many applicants who did not win nationally competitive scholarships have been accepted to (and won financial support from) prestigious graduate programs in the U.K. and across the United States.