What kind of candidate is the Selection Committee looking for?
The ideal candidate possesses a strong personal commitment to solving problems and effecting change in the environmental arena. He/she should possess solid leadership and communication skills, and have excellent technical and/or analytical background as well as superior academic credentials. Non-academic volunteer or community-based experience is also highly valued.
Do I need to be studying in a “hard” science area to compete successfully?
No. Fellowships are not limited by field of study. A good grounding in science is considered a plus, but applicants from a wide variety of natural and social sciences do compete successfully for Switzer Fellowships as long as the candidate clearly applies those skills to environmental improvement. Commitment to environmental goals and leadership potential are essential.
What is the most important factor in submitting a successful application?
Preparation. It may seem obvious, but a thoughtful application is most appreciated. You should carefully read the Program guidelines to understand the objectives of the Switzer Foundation. Take the time to seek out prior Switzer Fellows who may be on your campus or in your area to ask about their experience. Your written materials, especially your essay, are the primary means by which your application will convey a sense of your aspirations and motivations.
Are there more specific guidelines for content and format of the essay?
No. Please read the essay requirements in the guidelines. The essay is the most critical component of your application for the initial screening and is the best way to convey your personal commitment to the field and to driving positive environmental change. A precis of your master's or doctoral thesis is NOT what we're looking for in the essay. The essay must not exceed the 2,000-word limit in the online application.
Who should write my two letters of recommendation?
The letters of recommendation will have substantial weight in the evaluation of your application. It is critical that you obtain recommendations from individuals who can provide the best overall perspective on your leadership and professional potential, abilities, and dedication. You may choose faculty members, former employers, community leaders or colleagues as references. It is very helpful for at least one letter to be from an academic advisor, committee member, or academic colleague, especially for PhD students. Only two letters of recommendation may be uploaded to your application.
How important is financial need in determining Fellowship awards?
This is NOT a need-based award. No candidate is screened out based on his/her financial circumstances. However, financial need can be a factor considered by the final selection committee in situations where candidates are equally qualified. If you feel your financial situation is a major factor in your ability to complete your studies, you should explain your financial need where requested in the application, citing specifics if necessary. We rely on your honesty in providing us with this information.
I will complete my studies before the end of the academic year 2016/2017. May I still submit an application for partial funding?
No. The Fellowship is intended to support full-time matriculation for the entire '16-'17 academic year . You must plan to be enrolled on a full-time basis for ’16-'17 in order to qualify for the Fellowship.
Can mid-career students compete successfully for Switzer Fellowships?
Yes. The Switzer Fellowship Program is interested in candidates in all stages of their careers, as long as they have a clear focus in how their graduate education will position them to have greater influence on environmental issues and outcomes.
Can students at institutions outside of New England or California apply for the Fellowship?
No. The Switzer Fellowship is available only to students enrolled at accredited graduate institutions in California or the six New England states (CT, MA, RI, VT, NH, or ME).
I am interested in the Fellowship, but I am financially independent and I do not need the Fellowship funds. Can I apply for the Fellowship but decline the funds so that they can be used for someone else?
Yes. The Foundation is interested in awarding the Fellowship to qualified candidates. Recipients may receive full Fellowship benefits even if they opt out of the funding. This final determination is not made until the award decisions are made and is kept strictly confidential.