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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a scholarship and a fellowship?


The two terms, "scholarships" and "fellowships," are often used synonymously. In general, a scholarship is money given to you to help pay for your expenses in graduate or undergraduate studies: tuition, books, fees, materials, etc.

However, a fellowship is typically given to underwrite the cost of a particular project or term of service. This may include either graduate or undergraduate studies, but it may also support the cost of independent research, travel, materials, and certain other privileges as defined by the funding organization.

Why apply?

Not only do the fellowship awards present exciting academic and experiential opportunities, but the application process itself can be a rewarding and enriching part of your time at Loyola. Through the fellowships application process, students can build essential skills that will benefit them greatly in the years to come. These skills include:

  • Persuasion and organizational skills through creating a winning application
  • Self-reflection, discernment, and goal setting through writing a personal statement and resume, strong relationships with mentors, and meeting application criteria
  • Research project design through intellectual curiosity, insightful and feasible questions, and up-to-date information about world events and your field
  • Foreign language proficiency through studies and international opportunities
  • Improved writing skills through the essay feedback process
  • Building mentor relationships with professors in your field of study

Additionally, an important part of Loyola’s mission is the core value of discernment, which is also a valuable element of your early application process. “Loyola’s commitment to carry on the tradition of discernment includes encouraging the practice of regular reflection and self-examination which foster awareness of personal freedom (or lack thereof), a sense of personal responsibility for choices and actions, and a balance between enlightened self-interest and promotion of the common (“greater”) good.”

While it was true several years ago that certain colleges and universities tended to dominate certain awards, that is no longer the case. In fact, most foundations are quite intentional in casting the widest net possible. They want an applicant pool that has big schools and little schools, private and public, liberal arts and technical, and so forth. You should assume that you are applying for an award that is looking for the very best students wherever they can be found, and you should assume that all things being equal, studying at Loyola makes you the right student at the right time. These awards are given to the prepared, the confident, and the promising.

Embrace a constant challenge to improve!

How do I figure out which opportunity to apply for?

You should start by thinking about who you are and how you want to grow. At the heart of things, a fellowship or scholarship is an opportunity for you to engage in critical reflection about a problem or question that matters to you. Finding the answers (or even more questions) might take you overseas, or into the laboratory, or into the archives of a museum. Once you have thought about your goals then you can find a match from among the many organizations who are concerned about the same or similar concerns.

Thinking about social engagement? The Truman Scholarship with its focus on government or public service might be best for you. Is study with a leading research university in the U.K. on your list? If so the Marshall, the Mitchell, or the Rhodes might be the direction to investigate. While almost all awards are national and competitive, some awards may stand out as more prestigious by reason of age, notoriety, selectivity, and locale. You should not let any of this scare you off! Look for the award that furthers your goals. The National Fellowships Office can help you explore what might be best for you.

What do fellowship applications require?

Elementary Education Student

No two applications are exactly the same; the only consistent factor is to expect the funding organization to search for the very best candidates. This does not necessarily mean the candidates with the highest GPAs. In fact, while grades matter, funders want to know what others think about you (letters of reference) and how clearly you can articulate a research plan (the personal statement and essays). In addition, you might be asked to come for an interview or to a video teleconference with the judges. In the end, what matters is to show that you have a distinct and well-crafted idea that complements the mission of the scholarship or fellowship provider.

What is the "Intent to Apply" form?

The Intent to Apply form tells the National Fellowships Office that you intend to apply for a particular award. This allows us to give you suggestions on how to start your application, revise your essays, and helps us keep you informed about similar scholarships. An Intent to Apply form is not needed for most scholarships. However, given the competitive nature of national scholarships, the help of the National Fellowships Office may be invaluable to you, so completing this form is to your advantage.

There are a few scholarships where this form is mandatory. These include award opportunities such as the Goldwater, Fulbright, Truman, Marshall, and Mitchell awards. In most cases, this is either because the organization or foundation offering the scholarship requires a letter of endorsement from a senior academic officer or because Loyola can only nominate a select number of students. We can’t nominate you if we don’t know who you are! Contact the National Fellowships Office if you have further questions about this form.

How do I access the Intent to Apply form?

To access the Intent to Apply form, contact Dr. Terre Ryan, Director of National Fellowships, at

What is an endorsement? Why do I need one?

Chemistry Student Working

All scholarships and fellowships have eligibility requirements. These standards might include GPA, class year, major, leadership experience, letters of recommendation, etc. However, some organizations also want to know what Loyola’s senior academic officers (the president, the dean, etc.) think of you. This is often called an endorsement, a nomination, or a letter of support. The purpose of this is to establish the seriousness and merit of an applicant and to provide the funding organization with another measure of the applicant’s suitability for any one particular award.

Some examples of fellowships which may require an endorsement form Loyola include the Goldwater, Fulbright, Marshall, Mitchell, and Truman awards. Students who need a letter of endorsement should submit the Intent to Apply form to the National Fellowships Office.

How can I get strong letters of recommendation? Who should I ask?

Strong letters of recommendation are essential, and academic references are always critical. In general, you should consider your advisor, a professor with whom you have had multiple classes, a professor whose research interests match yours, or a person who is a leader in your field. References from internships, summer jobs, and a supervisor from a service project are also good to include depending upon the type of award you are pursuing. In all cases, recommenders need to be people who know you well and can include detail about you that is not obvious by a glance at the front matter of your application. See a worksheet on getting strong letters of recommendation.

How can I improve my personal statement or essays?

Student Studying on the Quad

The best personal statements and essays are written, rewritten, torn up, and written again. It is not uncommon for winners of awards to say that they wrote six, eight, or a dozen drafts. What matters is how clearly you express your intellectual curiosity, your passion about your ideas, your humility, and your determination. The fellowships office will help you with your drafts by providing editing suggestions.

What are the chances of winning?

No one can tell you this with any real certainty. Some funders publish statistics from previous years and this can be a guide to your relative chances. But in the end, you should not be persuaded or deterred by these numbers. The formula for success is the same: hard work, an undaunted spirit, originality and creativity, strong letters of recommendations and clear, persuasive essays.

What if I don’t win?

Student at the Library

Being nominated by the University is an accomplishment in itself. Even if you do not win, you will have tested your limits, recognized your strengths, and learned a great deal about yourself and your interests along the way. Most applicants claim they are very satisfied with their decision to apply for a fellowship regardless of the outcome.

Contact Us

Terre Ryan, M.B.A., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Writing
Director of National Fellowships
Maryland Hall 043J

Loyola University Maryland National Fellowships Office