Thomas J. Watson Fellowship
What is it?
Students with creative or offbeat projects can travel and live abroad even with a substantial stipend. The overall GPA is less important than the originality of the proposal.
The Watson Foundation selects about 40 winners from a national pool of 160 nominated by about 40 small liberal arts colleges similar to Colby. The national Watson Foundation awards seniors a $40,000 stipend to travel the world for a year after graduation, as well as paying most student loans for the year. Unlike Marshall or Fulbright, the Watson is not related to academic achievement.
Selection is based on leadership potential (broadly defined), not the project per se. Your project is a means of realizing your potential through a year of intense self-exploration. The outcome is you after your Watson journey. Projects are highly individual, but they must take place for a year outside of the U.S., and not involve returning to a country you’ve spent more than six weeks previously (with a few exceptions).
Past winners from Colby have explored environmental challenges besetting the world’s rivers, compiled oral history from survivors of Stalin’s Terror, and participated in running cultures around the world.
Takes place in late September.
- Written. A well worked-out project of 5 pages or so, showing that you have a firm idea of what you want to do and that you have constructed a realistic budget. Creativity counts for a lot. Plus, strong support from faculty recommendations.
- Oral interviews. On campus with Colby professors and later with Watson representatives
How Difficult is it to Receive?
Highly competitive. Colby chooses 4 finalists from the entire senior class. Every year one or two students have won the award. In 2008, for example, Emilia Tjernström, studied nomads in Mongolia, Mali, Mauritania, and Argentina. A few years earlier, another one of our students worked on an art project in Senegal and neighboring countries.
– See the campus website. The password is “eustis” or “Eustis.”
– Also visit the National Foundation website: https://watson.foundation/fellowships/tj
“You will find there all the important information (for instance the length of the personal and project statements); you should familiarize yourself as much as possible with the process and details and will find examples on the Colby one (although it’s really YOUR project).
As you start thinking about your project, please keep in mind that this needs to be a student-designed project as opposed to a research project or an internship, and that you cannot return to a place where you’ve spent more than six weeks.”