Applying FAQs

General
Where can I get a copy of the application?
I already registered, but I want to go back and download the application again. Do I have to do the URAF Registration all over again?
Who can I talk to about my application?
Where do I submit my application?
How strict is the deadline?
When will I hear back about my status? Will I be notified either way?
What are my chances of winning?
Is financial need a consideration?
My GPA isn't very high, should I not even bother?
This seems like a lot of work. Is it worth it?
How many applications should I submit?

Eligibility
I am off-cycle, am I still eligible?
Are alumni eligible?
I have advanced standing, can I apply?
I am planning to travel/work together with a friend. Can we apply as a group?

Application components
Should I submit a resume or a CV?
Do I have to order an official transcript? Or can I turn in an unofficial transcript?
What percentage of my proposal should talk about my personal background, and how much should reference my future plans?
Can I see examples of previous successful proposals?
I don't know my professors very well. Can I ask a TF or a high school teacher to write a letter of recommendation for me?

General

Where can I get a copy of the application?

Most applications are available in the summer before the academic year begins. All applications are posted online and can be downloaded after you fill out the URAF Registration page. You will only need to register once each calendar year.

I already registered, but I want to go back and download the application again. Do I have to do the URAF Registration all over again?

No. Once you have registered, your information will be remembered by the server.

Who can I talk to about my application?

For procedural/general questions, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships at fellowships@fas.harvard.edu or undergradresearch@fas.harvard.edu. If you would like answers to more detailed questions, or feedback on your application materials, your House Fellowships Tutor(s) are an excellent resource. Each House has a trained staff of Fellowship Tutors who can help you think through the complexities of your application. Particularly if you are applying for an academic research program or fellowship, you should also utilize your professors, TFs, and the HC Writing Center for feedback on your application essays/proposals.

In general, the CARAT (our centralized application portal) lists the contact information for each office administering a funding competition or opportunity at Harvard College.

Where do I submit my application?

Unless otherwise specified on the application instructions, all applications should be submitted through the CARAT. The instructions you downloaded after completing the URAF Registration will give you more specific details about what documents to submit and at what time.

How strict is the deadline?

Most URAF deadlines fall at 12noon, Eastern time on the specified day. The Office adheres strictly to deadlines and late applications are not accepted. If you anticipate that one or more of your recommendations may be late, you must contact the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships well in advance of the deadline. If you anticipate that any of your own materials will be late, you must submit an appeal ahead of the deadline, together with a written explanation from your Resident Dean.

When will I hear back about my status? Will I be notified either way?

You can find information regarding the application timeline on the Browse URAF Opportunities section of our website as well as on the application listing in CARAT. This will give you a general idea of when you can expect to hear back about your candidacy. Wherever possible, we will notify you of more specific dates. In the case of interviews, we will notify you of your invitation to interview within one week of the interview date.

You will always be notified of the final decision on your candidacy. If the expected timeframe for notification has passed and you have not yet been notified, feel free to contact the office for an update.

What are my chances of winning?

Each competition varies in its competitiveness. You can expect that prestigious national opportunities will be extremely competitive, both at the Harvard and national level. Harvard-specific opportunities, however, are often slightly less competitive. For statistics regarding a particular competition, contact us at fellowships@fas.harvard.edu.

Is financial need a consideration?

While most opportunities do not take financial need into consideration, there are a few (e.g., Beinecke Scholarship, St. Andrew's Society Scholarship) which are interested in funding students on significant financial aid. If financial need is a formal criterion for consideration, it will be noted in the application description.

My GPA isn't very high, should I not even bother?

Some opportunities are very competitive, and after learning about what the committee is looking for, you should be honest with yourself about your chances. That said, GPA is not the only criterion in any fellowship competition, but instead is one of many elements that make up your candidacy. Think carefully about what your best attributes are and be sure to highlight those in your application.

There are also a number of opportunities for which GPA is not among the main criterion at all. For example, traveling and public service opportunities are often looking for candidates who demonstrate certain personal attributes which would prepare them for that kind of experience. For more specific advice regarding your personal competitiveness for these and other fellowships, contact the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships or your House Fellowship Tutors.

This seems like a lot of work. Is it worth it?

Successful applications do require a lot of time and effort. You should carefully assess all of your commitments to be sure that you will have the time and energy necessary to submit applications that you can be proud of. That said, we often hear from unsuccessful candidates that they are glad they went through the process, even though they didn't get the outcome they were hoping for. These candidates often report that participating in these application processes and subsequent competitions helped them to define their goals and gain a deeper understanding of what they would like to pursue after graduation.

How many applications should I submit?

The average number of applications submitted to URAF per student is 2.5. That said, as mentioned above, successful applications require a lot of time and effort. You should carefully assess all of your commitments to be sure that you will have the time and energy necessary to submit applications that you can be proud of.

Eligibility

I am off-cycle, am I still eligible?

For national competitions, you should always check directly with the sponsoring foundation about their eligibility requirements. Sometimes your class year is defined by how many semesters you have completed, and sometimes it is defined by how many you have left before graduation. URAF does not have a say in defining these eligibility requirements, and it is your responsibility to be sure that you understand the eligibility requirements of any scholarship/fellowship/research program.

For any opportunity in which you would be expected to participate in a formal graduate academic program, you must have graduated in time to begin your course of studies with the rest of your class the following fall. Usually, this means you will submit your application in the fall of your senior year, your final semester. For Harvard-only research programs, the eligibility requirements state that students must be currently enrolled; off-cycle seniors are welcome to apply.

For opportunities with a spring deadline, you have a choice of when to apply, but you may only apply once. For example: If you are applying to the Postgraduate Traveling Fellowships, you may either apply in the spring of your senior year (your first semester as a senior), or in the spring following your December graduation. If you apply as a first-semester senior, your application will be considered with that spring's graduating class and you will be required to start your fellowship immediately upon graduation. If you apply in the spring following your graduation, your application will be considered with the following graduating class and you will be required to wait until July to begin your fellowship.

If you have any questions regarding your eligibility, be sure to contact us.

Are alumni eligible?

Almost all fellowships run through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships are only open to currently registered Harvard College undergraduates. The only competitions for which recent Harvard College alumni are eligible are the Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Fulbright, Churchill, Herchel Smith, and Carnegie Endowment Junior Fellowships.

I have advanced standing, can I apply?

See above response about off-cycle eligibility.

I am planning to travel/work together with a friend. Can we apply as a group?

Because the committee is looking to gauge your personal fit for a particular opportunity, group applications are not accepted. Each member of your group may apply for funding separately, but you should not expect that if one is funded, that the other(s) will also.

Application components

Should I submit a resume or a CV?

Typically, you will only have a limit of one or two pages, so use the space wisely. The document you submit should be a clear, concise summation of your most relevant activities and achievements. If you are applying for a traveling opportunity, you may find that it is more relevant to list personal activities/hobbies/interests than scholastic awards. Similarly, if you are applying for research opportunity, it may be more relevant to list publications, coursework, research experience, and academic honors.

Do I have to order an official transcript? Or can I turn in an unofficial transcript?

For external opportunities, you will need to order an official transcript from the Registrar. For Harvard-sponsored opportunities and most competitions for Harvard nomination, an unofficial transcript will suffice, which can be downloaded from your my.harvard.edu portal.

What percentage of my proposal should talk about my personal background, and how much should reference my future plans?

There is no magic formula for successful proposal writing. Be sure that you have carefully read the description of the fellowship, and then write a proposal that expresses who you are, what you would like to do with the fellowship, and why you would be a good candidate. There have been successful proposals which have addressed each of these topics in order; others have taken a more narrative style, addressing each of these topics less explicitly, although still effectively. You should write your proposal in a way that feels comfortable to you, and in a way that introduces you to the committee both through your writing style and through the content of your essay.

For more advice on putting together a successful proposal, see the Writing Application Essays section of this website.

Can I see examples of previous successful proposals?

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships does not provide examples of past applications. We do, however, provide mid-year and final reports from previous fellows. Located in the URAF reception area, you can read about what previous fellows did and what were their reflections on those experiences. While this won't tell you how to go about writing your proposal, it will help you to gauge the kinds of endeavors and fellows the committee has previously found compelling.

I don't know my professors very well. Can I ask a TF or a high school teacher to write a letter of recommendation for me?

The best letters of recommendation come from a person who is respected in their field, whose commentary is relevant to what you are proposing, and who knows you well. However, don't turn in a poor-quality letter of recommendation just because it is from someone quite famous. For example: If you're proposing to participate in a rigorous academic program in Mathematics, your French TF would probably not be a good choice to recommend you, even if they know you very well.

Regardless of how well your recommenders know you, you should always sit down with them, describe the opportunity that you are applying for and why you are pursuing it. This will help your recommenders be specific about your plans for using the fellowship/research program, and your personal fit for the experience.

It is usually acceptable for first year students to submit a letter of recommendation from a high school teacher/mentor. Beyond that, however, it is almost never advisable to ask for a letter of recommendation from a high school teacher.

For more information about asking for letters of recommendation, see the Recommendation Letters section of this website.