Thomas J. Watson Fellowship (rising seniors)

Campus application deadline: 12:00 pm (noon) EST on Wednesday, August 21, 2024

*NOTE that this application deadline is earlier than in previous years and will be in August from 2023 onward*

Learn more at an official Watson Fellowship webinar, which will include an overview of the program and a chance to engage with a recent fellow and ask questions.  The webinar will be on June 4, 2024 at 2:30 pm EST-- register via this link!

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship offers graduating seniors a one-year grant for purposeful, independent exploration outside of the United States, to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community. The Foundation's vision and values grow from the belief that a diversity of people, ideas, and experiences is critical to creating more humane and effective leaders. Be inspired by your Wellesley sibs, including: 2018 Watson Fellows Carol Hundal, Hans Han, and Nisreen Abo-Sido; 2019 Fellows Sophia Zupanc and Lucy Wanzer; 2020 Fellows Cseca Gazzolo and Yuxi Xia; 2021 Fellows Grace Callahan and Connie Chao; 2022 Fellow Rinako Sonobe; and 2023 Fellows Rania Afaneh, Allie Mikolanis, and Ellie Murphy-Weise!

Application Planning

Step-by-step advice available through this Watson Worksheet(Please note you will not be able to edit the worksheet online but should download it and edit directly on your device.)

Timeline overview for application process:

  • May 1: opt-in to Postgraduate Fellowship Summer Support program by submitting this Getting Started worksheet to this form to help plan and build your applications (outlining, essay review, choosing recommenders, etc.)

  • July 24: Optional Draft Deadline for postgraduate fellowships—submit drafts to guarantee draft review appointment before relevant fall deadline

  • August 21, 2024: apply by the campus deadline to be considered for Wellesley’s nomination to move forward to the national Watson competition

  • September/October: committee interviews, nominees notified

  • November: nominees submit final versions of their applications by the national deadline

  • November/February: nominees do finalist interviews

  • Mid-March: Watson decisions typically announced.


Who is eligible?
  • Graduating seniors at Wellesley, regardless of citizenship or major.
What makes a strong applicant for this fellowship?
  • A realistic and creative  project that reflects your talents, interests, concerns, and commitments;
  • The ability to clearly explain how you would embrace the challenges of immersing yourself in cultures other than your own for a year;
  • Strong recommendations addressing your personal qualities, as well as the suitability and feasibility of the proposed project.

Where can I learn more?

How do I apply?

Things to know:
  • All Watson applicants must be nominated by a participating institution, so all Wellesley College applicants must undergo the campus review and nomination process in order to apply.
  • Wellesley may nominate no more than four applications to go forward to the national competition each year.
  • To access the official online application system, please email
  • Keep in mind that you may not return to countries you've visited previously, to your home country if you’re an international student, or to the U.S. at all during the fellowship year.  Please also note Watson's guidelines for permitted countries of travel here on their website, under "Fellow Expectations," and further details in their FAQs
Application checklist
To be considered, please you will need to:
  • Complete BUT DO NOT SUBMIT your application in the official online application system
  • Submit additional materials through this google form
  • Request confidential references: 
    • Only one reference, with answers to the questions outlined here, is required for the campus application process, and should be from a current Wellesley faculty member.
    • Should your application be nominated to go forward to the national competition you'll need a second reference (perhaps a supervisor or mentor from outside Wellesley), to be submitted by the beginning of November. 
The official application includes:
  • Personal data, including your professional interests and a biographical abstract
  • Personal statement (no more than 1200 words), which should
    • Introduce you and provide the backdrop for the entire application,
    • also introduce the project topic and its significance to you (but save most details for the Project Proposal),
    • Discuss why you chose your topic, how the topic/interest developed out of previous interests or experiences, and how it represents a new challenge,
    • It should be clear from the personal statement why, of all the things you could have proposed, you chose this one. What makes this the most exciting and valuable thing you could possibly do next year?
  • Project proposal (no more than 1200 words), which should
    • describe your plans for the 12-month Fellowship year, including a description of the project, what you’re hoping to explore, and how,
    • detail the challenges you might expect to face and the preparation/strategy you might use to address them.
In addition to completing BUT NOT SUBMITTING the official online, please submit the following materials through this google form as a single PDF:
  • Resume/CV
  • Transcripts - unofficial copies of your Wellesley transcript and any others relevant (perhaps from study abroad or a transfer institution)
  • Contact list and budget - you may still be working on these at the time of the campus application deadline, but please submit drafts through the google form (see below) that include:
    • Budget: Countries to be visited, plus estimated costs for flights, visas, accommodations, and living expenses (clothes, food, health, communications, etc.)
    • Contact List: Name of contact, country, organization, nature/status of connection (e.g. in communication, waiting to hear back, confirmed, agreed to have me volunteer there for x time/visit their workshop/etc.), and how the contact has informed your project or plans for the year 
  • An unlisted, two-minute max YouTube video clip (ideally in .mov format) introducing yourself and your project to the Watson committee:
    • Don’t worry: some people present themselves more easily in writing and others by speaking, so hopefully this gives everyone a chance at presenting their best and most authentic selves. 
    • Simply introduce yourself and your project to the committee and tell us why you want to do this. Don’t be afraid to let your genuine excitement about your project shine through.
  • Wellesley Fellowships office signature document (print, sign & date this form, then submit a scanned pdf or other image of the signed document along with your application materials)