Graduate Fellowship Sample Letter

Cal State L.A. logo and University Seal - Link back to main page

Graduate Fellowships Sample Letter

Ann Wood, Director
Contact us: (323) 343-6156 or email


Most private sector funding sources recommend that a fellowship seeker make initial contact by letter. I want to add that you will save a lot of postage money and frustration with returned letters if you call first and check the current address of the foundation that you are writing. Foundation addresses change very frequently because they are often administered by bank trusts or other third parties. Call and ask for the current address, contact person's name and title, fax and e-mail address.This extra effort will save much frustration over returned mail and save money and time in the long run.


The letter should be addressed to the Contact person listed who is listed in the directory, using the person's correct title.  Do not bother to write to anyone else if a contact person is listed. Contacts are paid to correspond with applicants. If the directory lists no contact person, just write to the president of the foundation.

TYPE the letter and keep it one page.  It should contain ABSOLUTELY NO typos, punctuation or spelling errors.


Content should include: (1) Who you are.  State your unique qualifications, past accomplishments, experiences IN RELATION TO THE INTERESTS OF THE FOUNDATION to which you are writing.  They have monies that they want to see spent on particular topics and causes.  Your task is to convince them that you represent these same interests.  If you do not, you should not write to this particular foundation or corporation.  (2) How you meet their eligibility requirements.  This means that you have to note what their particular funding categories are in the directories sited.  Do not bother to write if you do not.  (3) Tell what you plan on doing with the grant or fellowship in terms of schooling, topic of interest and/or long-term career plans.  (4) DISTINGUISH YOURSELF FROM THE REST OF THE APPLICANTS.  Write with a flair, be creative.  Tell how you are different from others applying.  Say it succinctly and clearly.


Request complete instructions and procedures for any formal application.  Pay particular attention to any due date.  Do not bother to send anything that cannot make the due date.  In many cases, there is no formal application, except perhaps a phone or in-person interview.  This one-page letter is frequently all that you have to write.  The good news is that it is usually not a lengthy process or application.  The bad news is that you have to use a few words and one piece of paper to tell them why they should give you the money, rather than someone else.  The good news is also that, unlike most academic financial aid scholarships, foundations are less concerned with GPA's and coursework.  They want to see hard work, dedication, persistence, creativity – a well-rounded, real person who knows what she/he wants to accomplish in life.  Many family foundations are initiated and administered by those who do not have a college education, but have earned and/or inherited wealth.  Often they have particular causes that they contribute to regularly such as the Kroc Foundation (international peace, anti-alcoholism etc.) and the Price Foundation (Latino youth).  Your task is to get them to invest in you as a representative of their cause.


List your phone number.  Invest in an answering machine if you are gone a lot and do NOT leave a Òsilly messageÓ on it once you start applying for foundation fellowships.  If you have one now, change it to one that is acceptable to receiving professionally-related calls.


Thank them for their assistance in helping you finance your graduate education, grant project, foreign study, etc.


In about two weeks, call the contact person back to check if he/she received your letter.  Do this even if there is no deadline date; i.e., revolving applications.  Ask when the foundation will be making its awards and notifying recipients.