Early Graduate Study Fellowships

Early graduate study fellowships are prestigious, competitive, and lucrative funding mechanisms that bring distinction to young scholars' developing academic careers. The support offered by these fellowships often includes multiple years of stipend for the student's living expenses, a cost of education allowance, and may cover student fees or include research funds. Fellowship support recognizes a student's commitment to academic excellence and their potential to succeed. The resources provided by external funding can help to transform a student's scholarly career. Fellowship support enables a student to develop a more robust or innovative research agenda and can shorten time to degree by reducing the need for outside work obligations.

Timing of Eligibility

A student's window of eligibility for early graduate study fellowships is limited. Typically, incoming doctoral students are eligible to apply during the first year of graduate study and in a few cases, up to the second year. Students entering a doctoral program with a master's degree in-hand may no longer be eligible. Incoming master's degree students are often in their final moment of eligibility during their first semester of graduate study. We advise you to review the specific eligibility requirements for each fellowship carefully, and consult with the program officer regarding any questions you may have.

Timing of Application

Deadlines for most early graduate study fellowship applications are September through November. Therefore, it is important for students to plan to apply for these fellowships during the first semester of their doctoral program. In order to write a competitive application, we strongly advise that students begin to work on their applications the spring and summer before the deadline. Once you have accepted your graduate program's offer of admission, visit the Guide to GradFund Programs and the section below on how we can help!


Only a select group of funders offer early graduate study fellowships, making these awards highly competitive. Rutgers graduate students has a successful track record with these awards.

Finding a Funder

Use the Knowledgebase in our GradFund Virtual Office on Sakai to gain more in depth information about the funder, including advice and insights from GradFund and past applicants and sample proposals. As you review your fellowship options, study the funders' goals and mission statements carefully. Rather than limiting eligibility by program or discipline of study, many funders are interested in particular research themes or topics. Consider carefully how the funder describes the aims of their funding programs and review carefully the list of previous awardees and available information on their projects. If you are not sure whether your research fits within the scope of the fellowship program, contact the program officer to discuss your concerns.

Characteristics of a Successful Application

Early graduate study fellowships applications should demonstrate your potential to contribute to the goals of the funding program and to your home discipline as a future scholar. A competitive proposal will demonstrate that you have the ability to select and follow through with a research project grounded in the literature of your discipline, that Rutgers is the best place for you to pursue that project, and that you understand how the funding opportunity will help you to achieve your research and career goals.

While each application is different, common elements in early graduate study fellowship applications include:

How GradFund Can Help

GradFund is able to work with students as soon as they have accepted an offer of admission from a Rutgers graduate program. In the spring of each year, GradFund releases details about the upcoming summer Mentoring Programs, which offer a structured and intensive platform that is ideal to help incoming or early graduate students develop their applications for external funding. Throughout the calendar year we provide individual meetings to help you select a funder and develop and hone your application materials. Finally, participation in one of our upcoming events may help you through the application process as well.

To identify early graduate study awards, download the "Fellowships That Support Early Graduate Study" guide at the bottom of this page. Once you have selected one or more specific early graduate study fellowships for which to apply, be sure to visit the Funder Profiles to learn more about each award from different perspectives and to view sample applications. To get started on writing your application, visit the Proposal Writing Tools page for workbooks and activities that will help you on your way!