The words “scholarship” and “fellowship” are often used interchangeably, as the differences are subtle and even debatable. Whereas scholarship monies are usually intended to cover tuition and other direct educational costs, funding from a fellowship might offer a cost of living stipend, an internship, a research experience, a study abroad program, or other experiential opportunity. Many fellowships fully fund post-graduate education, including cost-of-living stipends. They are based upon academic merit and future potential, and rarely consider financial need. The most prestigious fellowships also provide recipients with lifelong membership in a network of like-minded scholars.
Most fellowships requiring institutional nomination are administered by the Office of National Fellowships & Academic Opportunities (ONFAO). Other awards are verified by other offices on campus, but ONFAO provides guidance and feedback on essays. Still other awards require no sort of nomination at all; the ONFAO has developed a list of select “direct-apply” opportunities for which it offers guidance to URI applicants.