The Pros and Cons of a Fellowship

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Flickr user Joe More

Fellowships are programs that are often associated more with graduate and doctoral students, but some undergraduate students may also benefit from fellowship opportunities.

What is a Fellowship?

A fellowship is an academic and financial opportunity for a student to work as a research or lab assistant for a professor. Depending on the specific field and several other factors, the duration of a fellowship could range widely, lasting anywhere from a few months to several years.

Fellowships may be paid or unpaid. Special funding is often granted for a specific project, so all guidelines must be followed in order for it to be successful. Fellowships look great on résumés and they help everyone involved.

Fellows get valuable exposure and experience while learning under the guidance and mentorship of an experienced professor. They gain new insights and perspectives while also getting the opportunity to meet other experts in the field. Professors get much-needed help that allows them to forge ahead in a shorter period of time.

While fellowship opportunities can open up doors for you, there are a few downsides that you should be aware of if you are planning on pursuing this path.

Listed below are some pros and cons of what to expect when applying for a fellowship.

Pros of Fellowships

Rich, hands-on learning experience: With a fellowship, you will have access to advanced technology and tools that give new meaning to the term ‘learning by doing’. Whether your experience will be that of a lab assistant or will involve creation of a project or product, the opportunities are often deeply rewarding.

Short-term work with long-term benefits: Whether the project you apply for lasts a few years or just few months, you will reap the rewards of this experience throughout your career.

Get paid doing what you love: There are unpaid and paid fellowship opportunities. While unpaid opportunities are definitely worth it for the experience, getting paid to do what you love can be an added bonus. Paid fellowships cover the cost of things such as room or board, project materials, transportation costs, and food.

Cons of Fellowships

Hard work is non-negotiable: Being organized and having a strong personal work ethic is a must for this type of opportunity.

Deadlines matter: Fellowships have strict guidelines and protocols that must be followed, so if you are the kind of person who tends to procrastinate, this opportunity may not be for you.

Just because you’ve applied doesn’t mean you’ll get it: Sometimes funding sources dry up suddenly and unexpectedly. Sometimes the fellowship cannot happen because a donor scraps the project. It can be disappointing when this happens, especially considering the hard work that goes into the application itself.

Is Pursuing A Fellowship Right For You?

There are several factors that must be weighed when making this important decision. When deciding whether or not to pursue a fellowship, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need the specialty training to practice my profession?
  • Will this opportunity help me in the profession I wish to pursue?
  • Do I have what it takes to pursue a fellowship?

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