Thomas J. Watson Fellowship (rising seniors)

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

Fellowships Summer Starting Line: Ready, Set, Fellowship!  Fill out this form by June 10 to gain special access to 15 minute advising sessions throughout the summer (don’t worry: you’ll still have access to regular 30 minute appointments through Handshake too!).  As an added bonus, you'll be able to book more than two of the 15 minute appointments at a time (including weekly or bi-weekly recurring meetings), which ordinarily you can't do in Handshake.

Optional Priority Draft Deadline - 11:30 pm on July 25, 2022: Note that July 25 is the optional priority deadline for Wellesley applicants for postgraduate fellowships with deadlines that fall between August 20 and December 31, 2022: if you submit drafts through this Google form by the July 25 deadline you are guaranteed feedback before the relevant deadlines, and you'll get priority in the booking of advising appointments.

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, and 2021 Fellows Grace Callahan and Connie Chao!

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 letters of recommendation addressing your personal qualities and academic abilities, 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 very welcome 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 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 submit these materials by the campus application deadline in early October:

☐ Completed 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).

☐ Using this Google form, submit the following:

  • A two-minute YouTube video clip introducing yourself and your project to the Watson committee (see instructions below). 
  • Resume unofficial college and study abroad transcripts 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, via the official form (available via the official application portal, above, or for informational purposes here). Please request that your recommenders submit their references for the campus committtee by the campus application deadline, via the official application system. (While only one letter is needed 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.)

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. The candidate should discuss why she chose her topic, how it 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 she could have chosen, she chose this one. 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.

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. The candidate should describe her plan for the 12 month Fellowship year, including a description of his 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 the candidate expects to face and the preparation/strategy she has to confront them. Many proposals describe early contacts in the proposed countries, demonstrating feasibility. The project proposal should be no more than 1500 words.

Application timeline

Spring and Summer

Prospective applicants should consult campus application material and review the Watson Fellowship website, watch the official webinar (the spring '21 webinar features Wellesley Watson Fellow Sophia Zupanc '19!), 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 5, 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 their letters via the official application system.
  • Submit YouTube link, resume, and unofficial transcripts via this form.



All applicants will receive e-mailed letters indicating 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-mailed letter indicating the final endorsement decisions for the Watson.


Early November

Final Watson Fellowship applications are due online.


Late November-January

Watson finalist interviews take place at Wellesley.



Watson decisions typically announced

Required Video Clip for the Watson Fellowship

All Watson candidates 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 private video to the Watson Committee through this form (required). The preferred clip format is .mov  If you do not have access to a computer with a built-in camera: 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.


Email or call Caitlin Roberts-Donovan at 781.283.2347.