Presidential Fellowship

The Presidential Fellowship is funded by the President of the University and awarded by The Graduate School (TGS). This highly competitive award is the most prestigious fellowship awarded to graduate students by Northwestern University. Less than 15% of nominated students are appointed to the Fellowship.

Presidential Fellows are students who combine outstanding intellectual or creative ability with the capacity to play an active part in the life of the Society of Fellows—distinguished faculty members and previous Presidential Fellows. The Society creates future leaders who embrace and support Northwestern’s broad scholarship. All Presidential Fellows participate in the Society of Fellows functions which include quarterly dinners and lunches at which Fellows present their work, an annual retreat, special events (including a speaker series), and various outreach and volunteer activities.

 View a List of Fellows.

 Watch the 2017 Information Session here. To watch the 2016 information session, click here


The deadline for applicants to submit application materials is Tuesday, November 28, 2017, 11:59 pm (for fellowships beginning in fall 2018). Programs must notify TGS (via email to of the names of their nominees as early as possible, but no later than Wednesday, November 22.


Applications are by program nomination only. Students pursuing a PhD are eligible to be nominated. Doctoral programs may nominate one or two applicants, depending on size. Programs that may nominate two students are:

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • DGP
  • Economics
  • History
  • IBiS
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • NUIN
  • Physics and Astronomy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

All other doctoral programs may nominate one student. Programs that choose not to nominate the maximum allowable number of applicants in one year will not suffer a reduction of allowable nominations the following year. Applications in excess of the maximum will not be considered.

Applicants must be admitted to candidacy and may not be beyond the fifth year of their PhD program at the time of nomination (as of the application deadline).

Students appointed as Presidential Fellows are expected to be active in the Society of Fellows and should be on campus at least one year of the Fellowship but preferably the two years of the Fellowship.

Students receiving graduate assistance must meet adhere to the regulations governing recipients of University assistance.


24 months for PhD students starting in fall quarter of the award period.

  • Tuition payment (at the TGS 500 rate)
  • Monthly stipend
  • $1000 research award (for each academic year of the award)
  • $1000 travel funds (for each academic year of the award)

Students already supported by external fellowships are eligible to be nominated for, and awarded, an honorary Presidential Fellowship. The honorary Fellowship carries no monetary award other than the annual research award and travel fund, however, the honoree participates in all activities of the Society of Fellows.

Review Process and Criteria

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 winter 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 meet most if not all criteria:

  • Ability of the candidate to communicate the significance, innovation and impact of their dissertation research to a broad-field audience.
  • Scholarly/research achievement at Northwestern in the form of papers, book chapters, review articles, presentations, recitals, lectures, etc.
  • Significant internal and external leadership roles, outreach and interdisciplinary activity.
  • Letters of recommendation indicating academic/research performance and future potential.
  • High academic achievement.
  • Active participation in and contribution to the Society of Fellows during the two year fellowship term.

Application Instructions

Since programs may have earlier application deadlines and additional requirements and eligibility criteria, students should speak with their program’s Director of Graduate Study (DGS) for additional information. Applicants must be nominated by their program of study. Programs must notify TGS of the names of their nominees as early as possible, but no later than Wednesday, November 22.

The following items must be submitted 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 TGS to those nominated by their program:

1. Abstract

A short description, in lay terms, of the nature of the research or creative work and its implications, not to exceed one page, double-spaced.

2. Research description

Describe the 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 their field and intended trajectory beyond their degree. It should be written in a way that has both depth and breadth, can be understood by a broad-field audience, but avoids clichéd personal statements. 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 (in the format specified by the template)

4. Unofficial Northwestern transcript

Unofficial transcripts may be obtained from CAESAR. Select "For Students" then "Academic Information" then "View Unofficial Transcript."

5. Sample of research or creative work in electronic format

This could be a scholarly article, conference paper, 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). 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 detail their contribution to the work. Dissertation proposals, dissertation chapters and qualifying exams are not acceptable samples.

6. Two letters of recommendation

When submitting the application via the online application tool, applicants will invite a faculty member to submit a letter of recommendation. (Note: Faculty member must be invited using their email address.) Applicants should notify the intended letter-writer well in advance of entering their name in the online application tool.  Applicants can check the status of the recommendation letter or change the recommender via the online application tool.

Letters should address: the qualities that set this student apart from others in the program, the significance of the scholarly or creative research to thought and knowledge (within the discipline or across disciplines) and how the nominee would contribute to the Society of Fellows during their two year fellowship term.

  • One letter from the program should describe the outstanding qualities of both the nominee and his or her research or creative work. This letter should address the achievements and characteristics that make this student stand out within the home graduate program relative to other students. Chair, Director of Graduate Studies or other designated faculty member can write this letter on behalf of the program.
  • The second letter is to be from the faculty member best qualified to comment upon the student's scholarship and research goals (usually the student's advisor).


Email Kate Veraldi for more information.