Princeton University has a long history of success with post-graduate fellowships. As Director of Fellowship Advising, Dr. Deirdre Moloney has an integral hand in guiding students through the process. Street Staff Writer Catherine Wang sat down with Dr. Moloney to learn more about the fellowship advising process.
The Daily Princetonian: What is your role in the process of helping students apply for scholarships?
Deirdre Moloney: We have traditional info sessions, but we also have a lot of workshops. We have a full-day U.K. Boot Camp for people who are applying to U.K. fellowships –about things like how to brainstorm your essay, how to feel more confident giving a presentation, how to ask for letters of recommendation in an effective way. We also have workshops for Fulbright that are very hands-on, like how to get an institutional letter of affiliation from a university professor in Brazil for example, or an art museum you might want to work with in Tokyo. We also have a lot of more informal mix and meet in the residential colleges over meals and things like that. We meet regularly in a one-to-one, and I have a questionnaire and I ask people to bring their resumes so I can get an idea of what languages they already have, what their outside pursuits are, what internships they’ve had, so that I can advise them more effectively and make the fellowships work for their interests rather than try and fit a student into a fellowship.
DP: How has the process of fellowship advising evolved either since you were appointed in your position at Princeton?
DM: Though a lot of the fellowships that are for senior year to do postgraduate projects and degrees such as the Marshall, the Rhodes, the Gates, the Schwarzman and many others, Hanna Lee and myself in my office are encouraging students to think about fellowships earlier.
When I came on board in 2010, I thought that it was very important to not only start putting it on students radar before they even set foot on campus as an enrolled student, but say for the Rhodes, Marshall, Gates, Fulbright, we really start working with students intensely in the spring of their junior year. We know students who are applying earlier than that because some of them have already done a Critical Language Scholarship. We’re having a lot of success these days for the Truman, and that’s for juniors. In many cases if a student hasn’t decided to apply for those because it’s not a right fit, then they start working with me intensely as juniors at the beginning of February. I don’t want to suggest that it’s like another course,but they do need to have a lot of conversations with people on campus like Ryan Low ['16], Duncan Hosie ['16] or Evan Soltas ['16], who have recently [gotten] awards.
We don’t want students to have to worry about the logistics, but we want them to know that they should be thinking about how to think about their futures and how maybe fellowships might intersect with those goals. I think a lot of students in the past did not think about fellowships, or they thought about them very late in their college career, so we want and we have many more people interested in fellowships. We often work with students, well for example, in the Freshman Summer Institute before they actually start their freshman year. We talk to people at a big open house that we have the first week of class, and there are a few things that people can apply for as early as their freshman year like the Critical Language Scholarship or the U.K. Summer Institute, and that positions them to have gone through the application process and to have thought about why a fellowship might be in their future.
DP: Do students often apply for multiple scholarships?
DM: I encourage that, I don’t want anyone to think that with 32 Rhodes Scholarships for the entire country, that the Rhodes is the only thing that people should be thinking about. I think that encourag[ing] people to apply for the Sachs, which can give them a two year degree at Oxford, but also to widen the net. I think that students should think about applying for a mix of U.K. and other global fellowships, and some of them might also be independent projects in the US.
DP: Could you talk about some of the students who have received fellowships this year?
DM: In a way, each student has a memorable experience, and I’m often there to share it with them. The students I think, are very very diverse in terms of their coming from all ages. We have a broader representation of regions of the country. They’re really doing incredible things whether it’s working on prison reform through SPEAR or the Petey Greene Program, Soltas has an economics blog that he started in high school, another student was part of the Fung Forum in Dublin about global health, Ella Cheng ['16]was the USG president. A lot of students have huge languages under their belts. For example, Gates Scholar Yung In Chae ['15], who’s originally from South Korea, is now in France, and she has seven languages under her belt. They’re rockstar students, and what’s really interesting is students who apply don’t always see how incredible they are, and I have to basically encourage them to remember that they’re incredible people and they can follow in the steps of Sonia Sotomayor ['76], Elena Kagan ['81] or Meg Whitman ['77].
DP: Do you still keep in contact with the Princeton alumni who receive these scholarships?
DM: Yes, they are so excited about peer mentoring, that from the time that they get the award, to about 30 years of age, they are eager to do things like have coffee with students, Skype with students if they’re in say Cambridge or somewhere else, contribute to a profile or a blog, advise students about the interview process and serve as panel members if there’s an interview for the Rhodes, the Gates...They come back to campus and are really eager to promote the program to current students. What’s really cool is we have a reunions reception that’s really well attended by fellowships alumni up to age 70 or so, as well as students, faculty and other people.