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Vassar College

The Watson Fellowship enables graduating seniors the opportunity to engage in one year of self-designed independent study and travel abroad after graduation. The Fellowship provides $40,000 to each recipient, plus twelve months' payment for outstanding federally guaranteed student loans. Proposed projects should reflect a genuine interest in, and long-standing commitment to, a specific concern. The project need not be related to academic experience or plans. Formal study or affiliation with an organization is not permitted. Watson Fellows may not return to the U.S. at any time during their travel year. 

The mission of the Fellowship Program is to offer college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel outside of the United States in order to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community.

Vassar College has been invited to nominate up to four graduating seniors to be considered for this opportunity. 

Would you like a chance to interview with a member of the Watson committee? Anyone who submits a draft of their proposal and personal statement by September 1st (one month before the October 1st campus deadline) will get a chance to present their project to a member of the Watson Fellowship committee. The faculty interviewer will review your drafts and provide feedback on them prior to the campus deadline; this person will also have your perspective to present at the meeting where we’ll determine the finalists.

Complete a Preliminary Application by September 1st to take advantage of this added support. A draft for the preliminary application should be an application that is near completion. This means the project proposal should outline the countries you intend to visit and include a general itinerary. 

If you choose to submit a draft after this deadline, you may submit it to the director to provide feedback, but we will not be able to provide individual interviews with committee members after the September 1st deadline. You can compete in the general pool for an interview with the committee.

Watch the 2021 Webinar!

As part of the 50th Anniversary, Carolyn Barnwell, Watson '07, interviewed Watson Fellow leaders who built remarkable futures from their fellowship journeys. We hope you enjoy this Audio Journey about Regina Joseph, Watson '87. 

New Watson Film
For Watson's 50th Anniversary, Steven Holleran, filmmaker, and 2008 Watson Fellow, visited fellows in the field and completed interviews with remarkable Watson Fellows from across five decades. This three-minute+ film features 10 incredible fellows, their projects and Watson's impact on their lives.  Watson Film Site

CAMPUS DEADLINE: October 1, this includes all letters of recommendation

In order to be considered for this award through Vassar College please complete a confidentiality waiver and email it to

  1. If you are interested in applying, schedule a "Fellowships Advising" appointment on Handshake.
  2. The application consists of a project proposal and a personal statement each with a 1500 word limit. The application must be submitted electronically through the Watson application system 
  3. Contact your referees as soon as possible. Once you create an account and indicate who your referees will be, they will automatically receive an email with instructions and the appropriate form for the letter. View a sample of the form (90KB).
  4. Finalists will be invited to interview with the Watson Fellowship Committee.

Important Hints and Warning

You must think about traveling beyond places where you have lived, studied, or traveled before for any significant period of time. Your proposed project must not represent a return to the study abroad experience and/or other location where you have spent time. You cannot travel to any countries that are currently on a  US State Department Level 3 or 4 (or areas within countries listed as “Do Not Travel” and “Reconsider Travel”), on Treasury Embargo, or designated CDC Level 3.

From the Watson selection committee:

In selecting Watson Fellows, the program is most concerned with holistically identifying individuals of unusual promise who demonstrate the capacity for leadership, resourcefulness, imagination or vision, independence, integrity, responsibility and emotional maturity and courage. A candidate’s academic record, while not of primary importance, is also considered, together with extra curricular activities that reflect initiative and serious dedication.

Dear Watson, Where Are You Now?

Two Watson Fellows Embark on World Travel