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National fellowships and scholarships open up opportunities

Studying abroad. Conducting research. Teaching English. Partaking in a professional internship. These are just four of the opportunities that students can delve into as a result of receiving a national fellowship or scholarship. 

At UNH, the Office of National Fellowships can help students with the application process for these awards. The office has a mission to help serve high achieving, motivated students who are applying for prestigious national awards.

Once students decide to apply for an award, the office can support students with the nomination process, getting recommendation letters, working through applications, writing essays and doing mock interviews.

“It’s intense, but it is well within the reach of a lot of students, more students than I think realize,” Office of National Fellowships Director Jeanne Sokolowski said about applying and looking into awards.

The Office of National Fellowships was established in 2011, when UNH made the decision to make a standalone office.

Helping students apply for national fellowships and scholarships “is a growing area among universities across the country and across the world; these are opportunities for which students need a little bit of guidance to navigate. Some of the applications for these scholarships are multi-part, so it’s very useful for students to have somebody to work with them through the process,” Sokolowski said. “Fellowships can be life changing, so it’s really great to help students have the opportunity to apply for them.”

There are two types of awards: those that require nomination, where students must go through the office and receive a nomination from the university, and those where students can apply themselves without nomination. 

There are thousands of awards available. Every scholarship and fellowship has different eligibility requirements, but the office works with students from freshman through senior year, as well as graduate students and recent alums, from all departments and colleges.

“Most of these scholarships are not just to fund undergraduate tuition…most of the scholarships that I work with are about adding on to undergraduate education, whether that is through study abroad, graduate school or something post graduation, they are more professional development opportunities, not just ways to fund undergraduate tuition,” Sokolowski said.

About 10 UNH students applied for this year’s Fulbright competition. The application deadline was Oct. 11, and they will get final decisions by the middle of 2017.

Senior communication sciences and disorders and women’s studies dual major Lacey Ryder is one of these students.

Ryder said that she started working with the office last semester, and found the assistance she got to be helpful when it came time to apply and write the application essays. Ryder applied for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Malaysia to get more real world experience before applying to graduate school.

“The Fulbright ETA places recipients in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers,” Ryder said. “ETAs are expected to act as cultural ambassadors for the United States, and I am excited by the prospect of being able to share aspects of U.S. culture that are important to me while also learning more about the culture, religion and language in Malaysia.”

The UNH Office of National Fellowships works with approximately 190 students applying for fellowships and scholarships each year.

“When you look at individual scholarships, which often have a success rate of less than 10 percent, [UNH is] actually doing quite well, with more than 25 percent of our students being successful,” Sokolowski said. “Students who worked with my office [last year] won over $1.1 million in external scholarships.”

“UNH students are competitive [applicants for the awards]. These national scholarships and fellowships are not just for Ivy League students. A number of scholarship [committees] are really looking at geographic location diversity and other types of diversity,” Sokolowski said. “They really want a wide representation of students from all across the country to win… For Fulbright, for example, last year we had 15 applicants. Ten were winners. With some preparation, UNH students can really win these things.”

In the future, she said that she hopes that more Wildcats utilize the office, as there are awards available for many types of students. She also emphasized the importance of early planning in looking and applying for awards.

This year, junior history and justice studies dual major Crystal Napoli received the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship. The scholarship was established to encourage the study of critical languages, like Chinese, Arabic, Farsi and Russian. Awardees travel to another country for immersive and intensive language study. Napoli went to Changchun, China for two months last summer. While there, she took a pledge to use only Mandarin Chinese.

Senior biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology major Garrett Thompson applied for a Fulbright award to study for a master’s degree in England. He said that he encourages other students to apply for awards.

“Students should apply for fellowships because they provide unrestrained opportunities to explore a passion. Many are prestigious and would set students up to for success in future endeavors. The impact is both personal and professional growth. Students should be able to take back to campus an experience that opened their eyes to new ways to doing things,” Thompson said.

For more information about these awards, students should first look through the database on the Office of National Fellowships website. Appointments with the Office of National Fellowships staff can be made through Wildcat Advising.

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