Serving on Fellowship Committees
The purpose of fellowship committees
The opportunities fellowships support have the potential to be formative experiences for the students who undertake them. Past awardees have reported that their summer, term-time, and postgraduate activities have helped them to refine their academic interests, clarify their career goals, and to develop their ability to think critically to overcome challenges. Your service on a selection committee ensures that the students best prepared to make the most of these opportunities are given the chance to do so and that all students gain the valuable educational experience of going through the application process.
How fellowship competitions and committees work
Each competition is different. Some Yale-only fellowships are small competitions with very specific criteria that will receive only a few applications each year. Others are large competitions to which a large number of students apply. And then there are the national competitions, which have personalities all their own. Each fellowship committee operates differently to accommodate this variance in application numbers, as well as variance in deadlines, goals, and other factors. The staff of Fellowship Programs will provide each committee member with a set of guidelines to use when evaluating applications and with information about how the process will work for a given competition (including information about what is expected of the committee chair).
Many committees meet to interview applicants. These interviews not only help the committee to make final decisions based on questioning and discussion, but the conversations a student has with a committee of dedicated faculty and staff could also help that student to refine his/her ideas, consider other questions s/he has not yet explored, or identify resources about which s/he was previously unaware. Further, the process of preparing for and engaging in an interview is important practice for a student who will be applying for graduate school, internships, jobs, or other fellowships. By serving on a fellowship committee that interviews candidates, you are helping to shape the path of each student you meet.
A word about selecting winners
Not all applicants will win or be nominated for the fellowships to which they put themselves forward. And at a university such as Yale, it can be challenging to choose just one or two top students from a larger set of many well-qualified and enthusiastic applicants. Keep in mind that your ultimate task - awarding a student or a few students the nomination or fellowship needed to move toward a goal - is an overwhelmingly positive one. More importantly, win or lose the process of applying to and interviewing for opportunities such as these is tremendously helpful practice for a student with many more years of applications and interviews ahead! We thank you for your time and dedication to this piece of education at Yale College.