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Presidential Fellowship

Presidential Fellows are students who promise to combine outstanding intellectual or creative ability with the capacity to play an important leadership role not only in the Society of Fellows, but also in their respective disciplines and beyond.  All Presidential Fellows participate in the Society of Fellows functions, including dinners at which Fellows present their work, an annual retreat, special events, and various other activities.

The Presidential Fellowship is highly competitive and the most prestigious fellowship awarded to graduate students by Northwestern University. Less than 12% of nominated students are appointed to the Fellowship.

Meet the current Presidential Fellows


The deadline for applicants to submit application materials is Monday, February 5, 2024 (by 11:59 pm) for fellowships beginning in Fall 2024 Quarter. Programs must notify TGS (via email to of the names of their nominees as early as possible, but no later than Wednesday, January 31, 2024.


  • Applications are by program nomination only.
  • Students pursuing a PhD who are in their second through fifth year in the PhD program at the time of nomination (as of February 2024) are eligible to be nominated.
  • Each program may nominate one eligible student.
  • It is expected that students will have been admitted to candidacy by the start of the Fellowship (by September 1, 2024).
  • Students appointed as Presidential Fellows are expected to be active in the Society of Fellows and attend/participate in events. Presidential Fellows who remain in Northwestern degree programs after the conclusion of their award period may continue to participate in the activities of the Society of Fellows.
  • All Presidential Fellows must adhere to the regulations governing recipients of University assistance.


The award includes stipend, tuition, research, and travel funds:

  • Monthly stipend and tuition (at the advanced rate) starting in fall quarter of the award period for 24 months (or until the student completes all degree requirements, whichever comes first).
  • A $1000 research award in each year of the fellowship period that may be used within each award year on research-related expenses.
  • Up to $1000 each year in research/conference-related travel funds, available by request in each year of the fellowship. 

Application instructions

Since programs may have earlier application deadlines or additional requirements and eligibility criteria, students should speak with their program’s Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for additional information. Applicants must be nominated by their program of study. Programs must notify The Graduate School of the names of their nominees as early as possible, but no later than 5:00 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2024.

The following items must be submitted as PDF files to the online application tool directly by students who have been nominated by their programs. A link to submit the application will be provided by The Graduate School to those nominated by their program:

  1. Abstract: A short description, in terms appropriate for a broad academic audience, of the nature of the proposed or ongoing research or creative work and its implications, not to exceed one page, double-spaced.
  2. Research description: Describe the proposed or ongoing research or creative work, not to exceed five pages, double-spaced. The description should be a narrative: clearly focused, organized, jargon-free and encompassing all dimensions of the student’s work. The narrative might touch on the impact of the student’s work on the field of study and the student’s intended trajectory beyond the degree. It should be written with a scholarly sensibility, offering both depth and breadth and communicating to a broad academic audience. Endnotes, bibliography, or pictures do not count toward the five-page limit, but these may not exceed a total of two additional pages.
  3. Curriculum vitae, including an outreach/leadership statement:  There is no specific requirement for how the CV is formatted, but it must include a statement on leadership roles and outreach activities (past and present).  There is no length limit for the CV, but the outreach/leadership statement may be no more than one-page, double-spaced.
  4. Unofficial Northwestern transcript: Unofficial transcripts may be obtained from CAESAR. Log in to CAESAR; select "For Students" then "Academic Information" then "View Unofficial Transcript."
  5. Sample of research or creative work in electronic format: One representative sample may be submitted. This could be a scholarly article, conference paper or poster, review article or work of art such as a series of images (no more than 10) of traditional artwork, a musical composition, a website or a film (no longer than 15 minutes), dissertation proposal, class paper, or some other sample that is representative of the student’s outstanding intellectual or creative ability. Samples that cannot be embedded in a text document (such as sound or video clips) must be made available on the web and the student should write a one-page statement describing the work(s) and provide URL(s) so that the committee members can access the work(s). If the sample work has multiple authors/contributors, the applicant should specify their contributions to the work.
  6. Two letters of recommendation: When submitting the application via the online application tool, applicants will invite two faculty members to submit  letters of recommendation.
    • One letter should be from the faculty member best qualified to comment upon the student’s scholarship, potential, and research goals (usually the student’s adviser). (Note: The faculty member invited must have a email address.) Applicants should notify the intended letter-writer well in advance of entering the name in the online application tool.  Applicants can check the status of the recommendation letter or change the recommender via the online application tool. Faculty recommendation letters should address: the qualities that set this student apart from others in the program, the significance of the scholarly or creative research to knowledge within the discipline or across disciplines, and the contributions that the nominee would make to the Society of Fellows.
    • A second letter, from the graduate degree program, should describe the outstanding qualities of both the nominee and his or her research or creative work. This letter should address the promise, potential, and characteristics that make this student stand out within the home graduate program relative to other students. The Chair, Director of Graduate Studies, or another designated faculty member can write this letter on behalf of the program. 

Review process

All applications are initially reviewed by a faculty committee representing a broad range of disciplines. Students selected for the second round of review will be interviewed. Interviews take place during spring quarter and applicants are expected to be present for an interview.

Throughout the process, applicants are evaluated based on the following criteria. All are used in the evaluation and finalists typically meet most criteria:

  • Ability of the candidate to communicate the significance, innovation, and impact of the dissertation research to a broad academic audience
  • Evidence of scholarly and/or research achievement which may include but is not limited to: papers, book chapters, review articles, presentations, recitals, lectures, conference talks, awards, or honors
  • Significant internal and external leadership roles, outreach, and interdisciplinary activity
  • Letters of recommendation indicating academic/research performance and future potential
  • High academic achievement
  • Potential to actively participate in and contribute to the Society of Fellows while enrolled as a graduate student at Northwestern University


Email for additional information.