What is the Difference Between Fellowships and Assistantships?

The terms “fellowship” and “assistantship” are frequently used to describe a type of financial aid for students, but there is a distinct difference between the two forms of financial aid. A fellowship is a form of financial aid that is granted to a student on the basis of academic merit and/or research potential, while an assistantship is awarded to a student in exchange for teaching, research, or administrative services. Both fellowships and assistantships can be used to offset the costs of attending school, but they provide different benefits and require different qualifications.

 If you are looking at sources of funding for your study program. This is especially the case if you are a study abroad student because the costs of international education are high. In terms of study abroad destinations, the US is probably the most expensive in terms of tuition fees. Interestingly, US universities also have many more sources of funding to help students to cover their costs of education. Funding sources are also available in countries where education is less expensive for example the UK, Europe or Australia. In this blog, I will discuss the differences between fellowships and assistantships.

Tip: While education loans are available everywhere, students should always explore other sources of funding from their university om independent foundations (will explain this  below)

What is the Difference Between a Fellowships and an Assistantships?

I will answer this by distinguishing between the two terms.

What are Fellowships?

A fellowship is a ‘grant’ source of funding granted to you to cover your study-related costs. You apply for a grant asking for a sum of money explaining why you require it and how the grant will facilitate your ability to pursue this study program. Grants can vary from $500 to $1000! Some medical research grants can be $100,000 too! But that would probably involve a huge team of researchers spread across several geographical locations. The larger grants may come from the government or a wealthy foundation like Bill Gates Foundation or a United Nations Agency. Once you receive the funds, you can use the money for textbooks, housing, tuition or any other costs relating to your education.

What are Assistantships?

An assistantship is different. It is usually from the university where you are enrolled as a PhD student or a Post-Doc. While you still receive money for study or research, it comes with some responsibilities of working for a certain number of hours on campus. This may be assisting a professor as a research assistant, helping to coordinate their classes as their TA ( teaching assistant), or it may give you the flexibility to work on campus or the in the library for a given number of hours every week. An Assistantship, therefore, is like a work-study program.

Both are sources of funding. In academic vocabulary, a fellow is another name for the scholar. On the other hand, an assistant is someone who is assisting a professor or a department with some contribution to teaching or research.

How can You get Scholarships to Study Abroad?  

Theoretically speaking, anyone can apply for scholarships. Most international universities have funding for graduate school, PhD programs or postdoc programs. Undergraduate scholarships are few and far between and may be given because of low family income, disability etc. This information will be available on the university’s website.

Tip: To find available scholarships extensive research is required but it is all available online.

How can I get Fellowships Outside the University? Are There Other Sources of Funding Apart from the University where I am Enrolling?

 Yes! For other sources, you must do online searches. Below are searched Tips :

Inter-governmental Scholarships

The Indian government has agreements with several countries for student exchange programs. Check those sites. If there is a destination country you want to go to search for “Scholarships for Indian Students in ___”.

Private foundations

Also, fund research students. They may be Indian corporates like the Tata group or international foundations like Rhodes or Chevening Scholarships. Use keywords in different combinations and search: ‘Scholarships’; ‘Fellowships’, Graduate- fellowships”.Or, on a university website, search for: ‘Student Grants’; ‘International Fellowships’; ‘Grad Assistantships’;  ‘Post-doc Fellowships’.

How Do You Apply for Funding?

You can apply for funding through the university or individual organizations. It’s always advisable to apply through your university first.

Be alert :

  • Fellowships and grants are all highly competitive.
  • Apply early.
  • Plan your Application: It should demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the assistantship. It is OK to say that the funding will be financially very helpful in enabling you to pay for your overseas education.
  • Deadlines are important. If you miss applying in time, you may lose a year of funding!

What do I Need to Apply for Fellowships and Assistantships?   

There is no single template for all schools or foundations. Each one has a specific format. But they all need :

  • CV
  • Proof of the last degree
  • A Personal Essay (check required specifications)

Which One to Choose: Fellowships or Assistantships?

Fellowships give a student a lot of flexibility. Assistantships, on the other hand, come with certain responsibilities. Ask yourself “What are my time commitments?” “Which will suit me better?” and make a decision accordingly.

We will be back next Friday with another amazing blog from Dr Maina Chawla Singh. Till then, if you have any questions or suggestions, just drop us a comment and we will get back to you. Want to study abroad? Our Leverage Edu experts are ready to assist you in narrowing down the best course and university options according to your interests and preferences.