Everything to know About Fellowships and Fully Funded Programs

10 min readSep 2, 2022
Everything to know About Fellowships and Fully Funded Programs

There is every chance that seeing someone celebrate a scholarship or Fellowship win triggers you to either conduct some little research or send a direct message to get some information about the process.

Hours later(or even days), your message is being aired, or even worse, you’re lost in a sea of information from Google’s search results.

Don’t worry. I’ve got your back!

This article covers a fundamental overview of fellowships, fully funded programs, their advantages and disadvantages, and other relevant information about the programs.

Table of Contents

  • Fellowships Definition
  • Benefits and Drawbacks of Fellowships
  • Types of Fellowship
  • Application Process for Fellowships
  • What are Fully Funded Programs?
  • More on Fully Funded Programs
  • Fully funded Application Requirements
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of Fully Funded Programs
  • Where and how to apply for Fully Funded Programs?
  • Recommendations to get you started

Fellowships Definition

Fellowships are merit-based awards given to students who seek to advance academically in a particular field. They are short-term programs that usually run for a few months to several years.

They are generally available to graduate and doctoral students but are not as accessible to undergraduates and non-students who wish to pursue a serious academic career.

These fellowships are programs often focused on ‘professionally’ developing successful candidates known as ‘fellows’ and are usually sponsored by schools, non-profits, companies, foundations, governmental agencies, and any legal entity such as media houses.

The primary difference between a scholarship and a fellowship is that all scholarships offer financial assistance, whereas some fellowships may not always provide financial support. Fellowships are often associated with status rather than financial support because they require significant devotion (developing skills), resources, and experience.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Fellowships

There are many benefits of being involved in fellowship programs. Some of them include:

  • Support for graduate studies in a certain field, the formation of a new community-based group, research work, training to help the fellow improve, and incentives to explore a specialized career field even further.
  • Cost-of-everyday-living stipend, health care, housing, and conference fees depend on the fellowship program.
  • Development of new skills, fellows would be exposed to a lot of professional experience and access to mentors.
  • Professional support and resources to help fellows achieve several career goals and achievements that may not be available to entry-level professionals and interns.
  • An additional field can be added to your CV to help boost your chances of getting a job.

The benefits mentioned above are the major benefits many fellowships offer. There are still several benefits that could be gotten from getting a fellowship, but that depends on the fellowship program.

Some of the drawbacks of obtaining a fellowship are:

  • Although this is not always a drawback, fellowship programs are very competitive and demand a lot of commitment. It is not recommended to apply to any unless you are prepared to see it through to the end.
  • Most stipends available are generally not great compared to full-time working salaries, and not all fellowships give financial aid. Some fellowship programs still help fellows with a generous amount and other resources.

Types of Fellowship

Generally, there are three major types of Fellowship concerning academics, as most fellowships are for people who want to further their graduate and postgraduate studies.

  1. Graduate Fellowships: They are fellowships meant for graduate students to help them reduce costs, e.g., tuition fees, living allowance, etc.
  2. Medical Fellowships: They are fellowships meant for medical students who have graduated and completed their residency in their specialty. These fellowships are for doctors who want further training to become more specialized in a specialization (Sub-specialization). For example, a recent dermatology student may want to further studies to specialize in paediatric dermatology.
  3. Postgraduate Fellowships: These are fellowships for people who have finished their doctorates and wish to continue learning and researching. These fellowships may support courses in a specific academic area, lower the cost of an ambitious and focused project, fund both, or assist fellows in becoming specialists on an important topic. Many additional programs may need fellows to teach classes and undertake research.

Some other types of fellowships include:

  • Undergraduate Fellowships: These are fellowships meant for undergraduate students, mostly in the form of internships.
  • Non-student Fellowships: These fellowships vary from helping international students to study professional courses in universities or colleges to obtaining professional development certificates and providing financial support for professional development in certain fields. They are mostly targeted toward international students or immigrants.

Application Process for Fellowships

The application process for Fellowship differs for each program; however, they all have the following prerequisites and qualities in common:

  • The fellowship application process is extremely extensive. The fellowship administrators would receive and assess your application. They would like to know about the candidate’s activities (what you do), your knowledge (basic or comprehensive), and the available skills you have gained so far.
  • It is always best to begin applying for fellowships promptly and consistently. The process is typically lengthy and stressful. To get an edge over other applicants, you must submit your papers on time and compose an updated and well-written personal statement that provides the administration with a summary of yourself, your accomplishments, and skills.
  • The paper works to be submitted includes your resume, letter of recommendation and transcripts.
  • You would also need to submit a fellowship proposal, which is the most significant criterion for receiving the Fellowship. The proposal is a statement in which you introduce yourself, describe your goals for the fellowship program, and explain why you should be selected. It should be concise, include your accomplishments, and be revised and proofread as thoroughly as possible. The fellowship proposal is often modified until the completion of the application process to reflect your ongoing objectives, plans, and aspirations.
  • An interview is commonly included in the application process after you have been approved to be eligible (but not yet chosen) for the Fellowship. It is recommended that you review the available material on the fellowship program and your application before the interview, prepare for potential questions, and ultimately be yourself when being interviewed by the fellowship administrators and committees. Remember to be transparent and composed.

It is important to realize that the administrators responsible for choosing candidates are looking for:

  • Leadership skills and qualities
  • Impressive writing and interpersonal skills
  • Self-motivation and integrity

What are Fully Funded Programs?

Fully funded programs, also known as fully funded scholarships, are degree programs or scholarships that offer full funding to applicants or students who get accepted into the programs. Full funding means that these programs majorly cover the entire school tuition and living expenses. They are generally more available to international students. Thus, lots of these programs cover additional costs such as visa applications, language learning programs, and flight tickets. They are also readily accessible to undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students.

More on Fully Funded Programs

Some fully funded programs can also be fellowships where only the top, usually 5–10% of the applicants, get awarded. Like fellowships, many fully funded programs offer their funding through Graduate Research or Teaching Assistantship, which are part-time jobs with the university for graduate students. The graduate assistant employed by the university, typically working 10–20 hours per week, will receive a stipend (pay) and complete tuition and fee exemptions as a perk of employment. While studying, they must also provide research, teaching, or administrative support to the university.

It is important, though, to understand that not all fully funded programs are available in every full-time, on-campus, or research-based graduate program. They are often offered in degree programs such as the Master of Science (M.Sc.) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), aimed at those who desire to perform research in their professions, and are known as Research-Based Graduate Programs. There are still some research-based graduate programs available options that offer full funding in disciplines like Law, Medicine, and Business. It is uncommon for professional degrees to provide financial support to applicants because the universities that offer these degrees profit frequently from them. However, pursuing a research-based graduate degree and a professional track is still possible when you finish either.

Research-based graduate programs are fully funded since they invest in students through fellowships, assistantships, and teaching skills that may also aid their faculty in carrying out their research and supporting the teaching of their classes.

Fully funded Application Requirements

Each program or scholarship has different criteria, although many need candidates to take and receive high marks on English Proficiency assessments such as IELTS and TOEFL and take tests such as ACT or SAT for undergraduate students and GRE for graduate students. It is also critical that candidates have outstanding references.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fully Funded Programs

The main advantage of fully funded programs is the provision of funds for the student from schools to cover the complete tuition fees and the student’s living expenses. The living costs provided to students are typically sufficient to cover their living costs and are provided during their studies. The living expenses for graduate students could range from $15000 to $45000 per year. Other advantages include getting experiences such as working for the university to include in your resume or CV and enough motivation to get excellent grades to keep securing the funding.

The main downside of fully funded programs, like fellowships, is their competitiveness. Applicants must exert considerable effort and try to apply many times (to the same or different programs) to maximize their chances of acceptance.

Where and how to apply for Fully Funded Programs?

The internet is the ideal location to start looking for any available fully funded program. You may use keywords to look for fully funded programs on your search engine. Here’s how you search online to achieve excellent outcomes.

  • For PhD students

- You begin by searching for the programs you would like to study specifically by adding the keyword “full funding”.

For example

PhD chemistry “full funding”

PhD chemistry “full funded”

PhD chemistry “full financial funding”

Note that quotation marks are compulsory because they let your search engine know you are looking for websites with those exact phrases.

- Make sure to skip the ads on the search results page. They are usually for universities that don’t fund or require payments (Please do this for any degree you are looking for.)

- Examine university websites and websites that contain this sort of information (Fully funded programs list or recommendation.)

- Continue looking until you find what you aim for.

  • For Masters Students

- You can search for the programs using this example:

Master’s chemical engineering “Assistantships.”

- Then repeat the last three steps mentioned above for PhD students.

For professional courses like Doctorate of Medicine (MD), Juris Doctorate (JD) for lawyers, Master of Public Administration (MPA), Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA), some available funding programs mostly pay the accepted applicants’ tuition fee, and rarely others for full funding. They are far more competitive than normal fully funded programs.

Getting full-funded MD and JD programs requires applicants to apply for joint MD-PhD or JD-PhD programs.

  • For MD-PhD programs

Applicants get evaluated for financing through the National Institutes of Health’s Medical Scientist Training Program, which pays full tuition, a stipend (allowance), and health insurance.

  • For JD-PhD programs,

Applicants get selected for funding with the expectation that they would work in academia, teaching and conducting research.

  • For MPA programs

As uncommon as it is for MPA programs to aid financially, some universities, such as Duke University and Princeton University, offer fully sponsored MPA programs and fund generously. Knowing that an MPA degree is not required to develop your career as a Public Administration student is also helpful. If you still want to pursue an MPA, try applying to fully funded research-based degrees to save money.

You could try to look for these fully funded MPA programs online by searching for them using this example:

Master’s government and politics “Assistantships”

  • For fully funded MBA programs

There are several available, and they can be searched for online, just as shown in the MPA example. Remember to replace the program you want in the search phrase (after the master’s).

Like the MPA degree, it is not necessary to get an MBA degree to advance your career, and you can apply for research-based degrees or fellowships that can help with the funding instead.

  • For fully funded MFA programs, they can be searched online like this:

MFA photograph “full funding”

Recommendations to get you started

If you’re still unsure about how to look for fellowships, fully sponsored programs, and other opportunities, you can start here.

  1. Mandela Washington Fellowship

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The Fellowship brings young leaders to the United States for academic coursework and leadership training and creates unique opportunities for Fellows.

The Fellowship will bring up to 700 young leaders to the United States in the summer of 2023 for a comprehensive executive-style program that will build skills and empower Fellows to lead in their respective sectors and communities.

The application deadline is September 13 2022, for the 2023 cohort; you can also read more details about the Fellowship here.

NOTE: Upfolio also has an information session facilitated by previous Fellows. You can listen to the recording here.

2. Imperial College London President’s PhD Scholarships

Suppose you are a high-performing undergraduate or master’s student and strongly desire to undertake a PhD programme at a world-class research institution. In that case, you could be selected to receive full tuition fees and a generous stipend for a PhD place at Imperial College London. The President’s PhD Scholarships provide up to 50 research students the opportunity to work within their chosen research field with the support of an excellent supervisor.

For the 2022–23 academic year, the earliest start date for funded places is August 1 2022, and the latest start date is November 1 2022. Both full-time and part-time study on the scholarship is available.

This program has higher than usual eligibility requirements, attracting candidates with excellent academic performance and promising research potential. They accept applications from talented candidates from Imperial College London, the UK and worldwide. There are no restrictions on nationality.

If successful, you will receive the following financial support for up to 3 years:

Full funding for tuition fees

A stipend of £21,800 per annum to assist with living costs

A consumables fund of £2,000 per annum for the first three years of study

There is also access to the full range of support available to postgraduates at Imperial, including tailored support for disabled and international students.

To find out more about this program, check out their website: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/study/pg/fees-and-funding/scholarships/presidents-phd-scholarships/

Honourable mention — if you have a Medium or Twitter account, you can follow @MomentswithBren. She gives a wealth of information about international prospects for Africans, including learning materials.

There are plenty of resources available to learn further about fellowships and fully funded programs, but I hope this post has provided enough information about these topics.

Thank you for reading.

Seun from UPFOLIO.




Find help to win opportunities + resources to kick start your career