Thomas J. Watson Fellowship (rising seniors)

Campus application deadline: 11:30 pm on Monday, October 3, 2022

Curious to learn more about the Watson? Join us for a live official webinar on September 15, 2022, at 4pm Eastern.

Missed the optional priority draft deadline on July 25?  You can still apply to fellowships with fall deadlines!  Fellowships appointment availability is limited in August and September, but you can book a Fall Deadline Fellowships Drop-in appointment.   These 15 minute appointments are for application questions, brainstorming recommenders, building personal timelines and goals (unfortunately we will not be able to do draft review).  Please only book one of these appointments per week so that others might have a chance to book one as well during our busiest season-- thank you!  You should also feel free to come to our Fellowships Virtual Pop-up advising  (search Career Education events listings in Handshake for "pop") and/or email us at with questions.

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. Read about Amal Cheema ‘17,  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, and 2022 Fellow Rinako Sonobe!

Check out our 5 Minute Fellowships: Watson 101 for a quick summary of the program and application! Also, don't miss this inspiring three and half minute video about the impact of the Watson.

Watch an official Watson webinarHear all about this extraordinary opportunity from Watson Executive Director (and Watson Fellow) Chris Kasabach and Sneha Subramanian, Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Associate Director, as well as recent Watson Fellows!


Who is eligible?

  • Graduating seniors nominated by one of the Watson Fellowship’s participating institutions (including Wellesley College).

What makes a strong applicant for this fellowship?

  • A realistic and innovative project that reflects your talents, interests, concerns, and commitments;
  • The ability to clearly explain how you would benefit from the unique experiences the Watson Fellowship permits and 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.


How do I apply?

Since all Watson applicants must be nominated by a participating institution, 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. You’ll find an application checklist and timeline below.

Interested applicants, having read this campus information and looked at the official Watson website, are warmly encouraged to make a Fellowships advising appointment through Handshake, to discuss project ideas and whom to ask for a reference, to get feedback on draft materials, etc. We’ll look forward to speaking with you! Note that appointments are offered during the summer as well as during the academic year, and via telephone and video chat. Applicants who meet the (optional) July 25 deadline to submit (even very rough!) drafts through this Google form will get priority in the booking of advising appointments after that; those who miss the draft deadline will be accommodated time permitting. Plan ahead and beat the rush for appointments in August and September!  

Application checklist

Please complete these steps by the campus application deadline in early October:

☐ Complete the official online application: to access the official online application system, please email The application includes a personal statement and project proposal (see further information below). Please complete the form but do not hit the submit button in the official application system.

☐ Using this Google form, submit the following additional materials:

  • An unlisted two-minute YouTube video clip introducing yourself and your project to the Watson committee (see instructions below). 
  • Resume, unofficial college and study abroad transcripts, together with the draft budget and contact list (see below, under Project Proposal) as a single PDF.
  • Wellesley Fellowships office signature document (please print, sign & date this form, then submit a scanned pdf or other image of the signed document along with your application materials)

☐ One confidential reference from a current faculty member, with answers to the questions outlined here. Please request that your recommenders submit at least a draft reference for the campus committtee via this link by the campus application deadline; should they have any difficulty with the online form, please ask them to email their letters to  (While only one reference is required for the campus application process, should your application be nominated to go forward to the national competition you'll need a second reference to be submitted by the beginning of November. While one reference must be from a faculty member, it's often helpful if one of your references comes from outside Wellesley, perhaps a supervisor or mentor who's seen work, whether paid or volunteer work.)

Personal Statement
The Personal Statement introduces the candidate and provides the backdrop for the entire application. It should also introduce the project topic, (but save most details for the Project Proposal). This statement should explain the personal significance  and provide the personal context for the proposed project. Applicants should discuss why they chose their topics, 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 topics this applicant could have chosen, this one was chosen. Personal anecdotes are often helpful, but they must be genuine, not forced; creative minds can find clever ways to connect life experience to a chosen topic, but only authentically felt experiences will ring true. The personal statement should be no more than 1500 words, and should be entered into the official application system.

Project Proposal
The project proposal is read in tandem with the Personal Statement, so the information in one place need not be repeated in the other. Applicants should describe their plans for the 12 month Fellowship year, including a description of the project and an outline for carrying it out. Keep in mind that you may not return to countries you've visited previously, to your home country or to the U.S.  Please also note Watson's guidelines for permitted countries of travel here on their website, under "Fellow Expectations." The project proposal should detail the challenges applicants expect to face and the preparation/strategy she they to confront them. The project proposal should be no more than 1500 words, and should be entered into the official application system.

Budget and Contact List
New as of spring 2022, all nominees must submit a budget and contact list with their applications. While you might still be working on these at the time of the campus application deadline, please submit drafts (via this Google form, together with your resume and unofficial college and study abroad transcripts, as a single pdf), that at least include the following:

  • 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. contacted, waiting to hear back, confirmed)

Required video clip for the Wellesley Watson committee
All Watson applicants must submit a video clip, two minutes maximum, introducing yourself and your project to the committee. We are requiring that you submit your video to YouTube, using their privacy settings to make the video unlisted and submit the url of your video to the Watson Committee through this form (required). The preferred clip format is .mov  If you do not have access to a computer or phone with a built-in camera: please go to a Mac Lab where there are computers with built-in cameras.

Please describe your project to the committee and tell us why you want to do it. We are looking for information that can come through on a video that may not come through on a written application. We want to see your passion and your enthusiasm - and other qualities that would make you a strong Watson candidate. (But don't stress too much about this: we're more interested in content than style! Some people present themselves better in speech than in writing, and we want to give everyone a chance to present their best and most authentic selves.)

Application timeline

Spring and Summer

Prospective applicants should consult campus application material and review the Watson Fellowship website, watch the official webinar, and begin their applications. To access the official online application system, please just email

July 25

Optional priority deadline for the submission of drafts for feedback in advance of the campus deadline. Submit what you have by then--no matter how rough the draft--through this Google form. (Why so early? Hopefully an earlier deadline helps you have a stronger proposal by the campus deadline; but it also makes it easier for us to give you thoughtful advice, despite the many deadlines and many Wellesley applicants looking for advice in August and September. But why wait? Fellowships advising appointments are available all summer long, via telephone and video chat as well as in person.)

Campus application deadline: 11:30 pm on Monday, October 3, 2022

  • Application materials should be completed/uploaded in the official application system by the campus deadline; however, please do not click to “submit” your application.
  • Please request that your recommenders submit at least a draft reference for the campus committtee via this link; should they have any difficulty with the online form, please ask them to email their letters to
  • Submit YouTube link, resume, and unofficial transcripts via this form.


All applicants will hear via e-mail whether or not they have been invited to interview with the campus Watson committee.

  • 20-minute campus Watson interviews will be held for shortlisted candidates
  • Short-listed candidates will receive an e-mail indicating the final endorsement decisions for the Watson.

Early November

Final Watson Fellowship applications are due online from nominees, together with final references.

Late November-January

Watson finalist interviews typically take place at Wellesley.


Watson decisions typically announced