Senior Fellowships

Students conduct year-long independent projects in lieu of a traditional major.

Alternative to a traditional major

Dartmouth students have many options when deciding on a major course of study. Standard majors have specific requirements but also allow students to choose courses based on their specific interests. Some departments and programs offer modified majors which allow for even more flexibility. In rare cases, students may also apply for a special major.

The Senior Fellowship provides an alternative to all of these major paths. Senior Fellows are not required to complete a major, although they may do so if they choose. The Senior Fellowship project title is listed as a major on the transcript. The program is a good option for students who have the background and interest to pursue a large-scale project during senior year. Senior Fellows earn 4-6 credits for their projects so are able to enroll in fewer classes. This opens up time for in depth work on a project as well as opportunities to be away from campus doing field research or other fellowship-related work. Because Senior Fellowships are the equivalent of a major and students earn academic credit, projects must be primarily academic in nature.

The Senior Fellowship program is overseen by the Committee on Senior Fellowships, which is a standing committee in Arts & Sciences. As the Senior Fellowship is an academic major, the Committee on Senior Fellowships is the de facto major department for the program. Senior Fellowship projects are analogous to senior honors theses, and Senior Fellows therefore are eligible for honors based on an evaluation of the projects they submit. Each Senior Fellow has one primary faculty advisor who is responsible for mentoring the Senior Fellow throughout the fellowship year. Senior Fellows may have additional secondary faculty advisors for the project, and the roles of the faculty advisors are detailed below. The Committee on Senior Fellowships interviews applicants, and the President of the College selects the Senior Fellows based on the recommendation of the Committee. The Committee is responsible for determining requirements and guidelines for individual Fellows and their projects, monitoring the Fellows' progress throughout the fellowship year, and deciding on honors at the end of the year.

Guidelines

General program information:

  • Students work on year-long projects in which the intellectual scope and breadth of imagination goes beyond what can be accomplished by taking courses in the existing curriculum.
  • Senior fellows are not required to enroll in classes during their senior year nor are they required to complete a major.
  • Senior Fellows are selected and evaluated by the Committee on Senior Fellowships according to the guidelines specified in the ORC.
  • More information is available in the student research section of the UGAR website.

Information for faculty advisors:

  • Fellowship applicants are required to provide potential advisors with a packet of information outlining the program and explaining the role of the faculty advisors.
  • Faculty who are pre-tenure should consider very carefully whether to commit to advising a Senior Fellow, and it is strongly recommended that they discuss this with the department/program chair before agreeing to advise a fellowship.
  • Faculty may not serve as primary advisor for more than one Senior Fellow per academic year.
  • Note that some departments and programs take the view that they are so committed to their regular program and to directing senior honors projects that they cannot allow their faculty to devote extensive time to Senior Fellows.  

More information about the program and how to apply are available in the research section of the UGAR website.

Faculty Recommendations

The application process for the Senior Fellowship program is rigorous, and faculty input is essential to the selection process. See the letter guidelines below. Faculty are asked to address specific points depending on their role in the project, which is noted in the recommendation request email that you received.

Faculty may submit a document with numbered answers to the questions, or they may submit a more traditional recommendation letter (but it must address the elements in the relevant list below). Documents should be submitted to UGAR as email attachments.

Faculty recommendations are due the third week of the application term, which for most applicants is spring term. 

Primary and Secondary Faculty Advisors

The primary advisor works closely with the Senior Fellow throughout the Fellowship year and is responsible for oversight of the student and the project, coordination among any secondary advisors and/or consultants, and ensuring compliance with deadlines and requirements of the program.

The secondary advisor works with the Senior Fellow throughout the Fellowship year in collaboration with the primary advisor.

Primary and secondary advisors should carefully consider the level of involvement required. Faculty who are unable to commit the time and resources to the Senior Fellow or who have serious doubts about the project or the Fellow's ability to complete the project should inform the applicant early in the process and not agree to advise the project.

Please think carefully about the student's ability to carry out the proposed project and your own ability to commit the time to mentoring the student throughout the year. Some students make the most of this unique opportunity while others would be better served by taking courses and completing an honors thesis rather than pursuing a Senior Fellowship. The Committee on Senior Fellowships relies on primary and secondary advisors to provide honest assessments in their letters.  

Primary and secondary advisors should address the following:

  • What is the basis and length of your acquaintance with the applicant?
  • How long has the student been working with you on the preparation for his/her Senior Fellowship project?
  • What is your evaluation of the feasibility and quality of the proposed project?
  • Does the student have the academic background for this project?
  • Do you anticipate any challenges the student may face in completing this project?
  • What is your sense of the student's ability to complete the project successfully (e.g. ability to work independently, set and meet deadlines, accept and incorporate feedback)?
  • Could this project be completed as an honors thesis instead of a Senior Fellowship?
  • Why would a Senior Fellowship be a better way for the applicant to spend senior year than taking courses in the existing curriculum?
  • How does the applicant's proposed project align with your area of academic interests and expertise?
  • What role will you play in the project?
  • Will the student need input from other faculty during the fellowship year, and if so, do you know at this point which individuals or departments will be involved?

Consultants

Consultants advise the student on a specific aspect of the project but are not involved in the project as a whole.

Consultants should address the following:

  • What is the basis and length of your acquaintance with the applicant?
  • What is your experience of the student's academic ability and motivation?
  • Based on what you know about the student's project, what is your evaluation of the feasibility and quality of the project?
  • What role will you play in the project? Please address the extent of your involvement in terms of planned time commitment and specific areas in which you will provide guidance.

Recommenders

Recommenders are faculty who submit a recommendation on behalf of a student applying for a Senior Fellowship but have no other involvement in the project.

Recommenders should address the following:

  • What is the basis and length of your acquaintance with the applicant?
  • What is your experience of the student's academic ability and motivation?
  • What is your sense of the student's personal qualities, such as maturity, independence, and the ability to incorporate feedback?
  • Based on what you know about the student's project, what is your evaluation of the feasibility and quality of the project?
  • Do you anticipate any challenges the student may face in completing a year-long independent project?
  • How might a Senior Fellowship enrich this student's academic path?