2019-2020 Applicant Information

  • The internal deadline is 11:59 p.m. PST on September 20th  (see "Application Process" below).


The Watson Fellowship Program each year gives approximately 50 exceptional college graduates the freedom to engage in a year of independent study and travel abroad in order to thoroughly explore a particular interest, test aspirations and abilities, view their lives and American society in greater perspective, and develop a more informed sense of international concern.

Programs Funded

The Fellowship provides $30,000 to each recipient (more if traveling with spouse or dependents), plus twelve months' payment for outstanding federally guaranteed student loans. Proposed projects should reflect a genuine interest in, and long-standing commitment to, a specific concern. The project need not be related to academic experience or plans. Formal study or affiliation with an organization is not permitted. Watson Fellows may not return to the U.S. at any time during their travel year.  Violating this rule incurs a severe penalty to the individual:  the award is canceled and funds must be returned.  The home institution may be removed from the eligibility list.


All graduating seniors at approximately 50 participating colleges are eligible for nomination by their institutions.

Selection Criteria

The Foundation seeks individuals who are able to carry out a year-long independent study project without the infrastructure and support found in study abroad programs.  Applicants should demonstrate integrity, strong ethical character, intelligence, the capacity for vision and leadership, and potential for effective participation in the world community. Feasibility of the project and language ability are important.

Application/Nomination Process

Email (fellowships@pomona.edu) to let the CDO know that you plan to apply. You will then be added to the Watson application portal (if you have already emailed asking to be added to the Sakai page, you will be added by early September).

On the Sakai Site, complete the application (including copying and pasting your Personal Statement and Project Proposal, whose prompts are below) by 11:59pm PST on September 20th. PLEASE DO NOT REQUEST LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION AT THIS TIME. You can also skip the "transcript" and "headshot photo" uploads.

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—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. The personal statement should be no more than 1500 words.

Project Proposal - The candidate should describe his plan for the 12-month Fellowship year, including a description of his project and an outline for carrying it out. The project proposal should detail the challenges the candidate expects to face and the preparation/strategy he has to confront them. All proposals must indicate the efforts taken to secure contacts “on the ground” in the proposed project countries. A list of project-related names/institutions obtained from an internet search cannot substitute for real communication. Please ensure that the project can be carried out in compliance with Watson guidelines (for example, that it does not hinge on travel to countries under a U.S. travel warning or embargo). The project proposal should be no more than 1500 words.

Applicants should also identify two recommenders who would be willing to write a recommendation for them (at least one must be a Pomona College faculty member). We will NOT collect these recommendations in September, but you will need to identify recommenders early in case you are nominated by the college in October. Send your recommenders the Watson recommendation form and let them know that, should you be nominated, their recommendation will be due in late October about two weeks after you are nominated (so they will need to be willing to write quickly). PLEASE NOTE: They do not need to write a recommendation unless you are nominated.

Semi-finalists will be interviewed in mid-October. In November the Pomona selection committee recommends three nominees to the Foundation, who must then complete the official Watson online application. A representative of the Foundation visits each campus during the winter to interview nominees. Awards are announced in mid-March.

Advisors for 2018-2019:

  • Clarissa Cheney (Committee Chair)
  • Zhiru Ng
  • Tom Leabhart


Official Watson Fellowship Website