In parallel to applying to graduate schools, many students also apply to graduate fellowships. These are provided by organizations to fund the graduate study of promising future researchers. Keep in mind that not all of the fellowships are hyper-competitive: for example, about 1000 NSF fellowships are awarded per year. If you win a fellowship, this will give you more freedom to choose graduate schools because funding will become less of a consideration. In addition, your fellowship could exempt you from graduate teaching duties, allowing you to focus more on your classes and research. Applying to fellowships is a bit more involved than applying to grad schools, so getting started over the summer is the best way to get on track. However, another way to get on track is to be in touch early (i.e., Spring on junior year) with Princeton’s fellowships office. Drs. Moloney and Gump give great advice, and are fantastic resources for the fellowships process!
The most relevant fellowships for mathematics students are probably:
- Fulbright: best for a single year of research in continental Europe.
- Gates Cambridge: best for a single year of research at Cambridge, or for completing Part III.*
- Hertz: for applied math.
- Marshall: best for two years of research in the UK (not necessarily Oxbridge!), or one year of research and one year spent doing Part III.*
- NSF: for multiple years of funding during the PhD program. Many PhD programs will let you use NSF funding to replace having to teach courses.
*The “Part III” that keeps coming up is the legendary “Part III of the Mathematical Tripos.” That clears things up, doesn’t it! Okay, it doesn’t but it is of enough renown to have its own Wikipedia page. Part III is a intensive one-year Master’s degree program in mathematics at the University of Cambridge – it is notoriously difficult, but it has been a proving ground for many great mathematicians. If you think that Part III might be for you, definitely contact the fellowships office, as well as your mathematical advisors – they’ll be able to guide you through that process.