Improve Your Chances
One of the most valuable resources you have is time. Start early and go through many revisions. An early draft is easy to spot in a competition.
Choose the right Fellowship
Every fellowship has a specific mission. Realistically evaluate your fit with the fellowship. Applying to the wrong fellowship can be a waste of your time.
Do your homework
Research the details of the fellowship in which you are interested. Review all the eligibility requirements, the deadlines, procedures, and selection criteria. To be disqualified on a technicality is a tragedy. The fellowship’s website is the best place to get accurate and complete information. Time spent on their website is time well spent.
Develop a team of readers
In addition to the fellowships office, ask two to three faculty members to give you feedback on your drafts. A wide variety of readers can give you varying insights that will improve your essay. Choose someone from your discipline, someone who specializes in the area of the world you are applying to (if applicable) and then someone completely outside your discipline. This well-rounded approach will strengthen your writing.
The fellowship office offers a variety of workshops particularly for the fellowships that have a large number of applicants. Take advantage of this resource.
Evaluate your application
Be honest with yourself. What are your weaker areas? Is it your research experience? Your language skills? Make specific plans to strengthen weaker areas. In particular make good use of your summers.
Be attentive to detail
Submit a clean application. One small mistake can cost you the fellowship.
For online submission, the websites are often slow on the day of the deadline. Submit two to three days early and avoid the stress. For snail mail submission, mail early, and pay for overnighting. This way you can track your application.