First Steps to Fellowships

Eight recent St. Olaf graduates have been named Fulbright fellows, and three members of this year’s graduating class were named alternates. They include (front row, from left) Mary Studer, Susan Hoops, (middle row, from left) Sophie Breen, Mary Katherine Maney, Elaine Macon, (back row, from left) Serena Calcagno, Madison Okuno, and Rinnah Becker.

First Steps to Fellowships is a program for motivated first-year and sophomore students interested in pursuing Fulbright and other nationally competitive fellowships. This four-part seminar series will include workshops, presentations, and small-group conversation aimed at providing students with the tools they need to develop a competitive profile for a variety of these opportunities. Because we will be discussing a variety of fellowships related to variety of interest areas, no specific academic field of interest is required.

All applicants accepted into the program will be required to commit to attending the sessions on the following dates:

  • February 17
  • February 24
  • March 03

Goals and Benefits of the Program

  • Obtain an overview of nationally competitive fellowships.
  • Learn the process of applying for national fellowships: researching and selecting a fellowship to pursue, working with your mentors and recommenders, writing your proposals/essays/personal statements.
  • Acquire knowledge and qualities that make a strong applicant, and develop a plan for acquiring formative experiences aligned with fellowship(s) of interest.
  • Engage in conversation with fellowship applicants and faculty members involved in the selection process for a variety of these awards.
  • Collaborate with peers to develop a personal statement for upcoming fellowships opportunities.
  • Be added to the First Steps alias, which will alert you during your time at St. Olaf about upcoming fellowships opportunities.
  • Receive the “First Steps to Fellowships” manual, a binder replete with information related to nationally competitive fellowships.

Topics Include

  • The Art of Inquiry
  • Finding Research, Internships, and Volunteer Experiences (note: while you’ll be learning about research opportunities, since some local opportunities are due in early March, it’s recommended you begin considering Steen and/or Magnus as opportunities). 
  • Collaborating with Faculty, Staff, and Professionals
  • Developing Writing Skills

Eligibility Requirements

  • First years and sophomores at St. Olaf College are eligible to apply.
  • If the applicant pool exceeds the allotted space, sophomores will be given preference over first years.
  • Although most of the fellowships opportunities discussed will pertain to US Citizens only, non-US Citizens are welcome and encouraged to apply.

To Apply

If you haven’t received an email invite and meet the above requirements, please contact Jessica VanZuilen <> and ask for a first The First Steps to Fellowships application on google forms. The application deadline is Feb 9, 2021 at 6:30 PM.

Materials Due by Application Deadline

  • 1 page resume (for assistance, make an appointment with the Piper Center)
  • Unofficial transcript (download from SIS)
  • Application (accessible on google forms), including a Word Statement addressing the following prompt:[Why are you interested in participating in First Steps to Fellowships? How do national fellowships fit with your future academic and career plans? (limit: 250 words)].
    • Application materials are part of google forms; to get access, email Jessica VanZuilen: Applications are due uploaded to google forms on Feb 9th at 6:30 pm.


If the applicant pool exceeds the allotted space, sophomores will be given preference over first years. Candidates will be assessed by a faculty committee and will be evaluated based on a wide variety of factors, including their writing ability and current GPA. The faculty committee for this program will aim to capture students from diverse backgrounds and academic disciplines.