Helpful information for fellowship applicants

Helpful information for fellowship applicants

I.  Eligible fields and Selection Criteria

For the Visiting Scholars Program:

II. Writing a Research Proposal

A strong research proposal is a key component of the application.

The proposal should, in a few pages, explain your research plans, including your research approach and methodology. A clear research proposal allows a reviewer to understand what you wish to do, how you will do it, and why it is intellectually valuable.

For helpful general advice on writing a research proposal, please visit:

The Art of Writing Proposals:

III. Listing faculty to consult

On the application form you will be asked to "List 1-2 faculty member(s) at Harvard University or any other major universities in the Unites States with whom you wish to consult during the fellowship if selected."

This information is for the HYI's reference only.  Do not write directly to faculty member(s) you list.  Writing to the faculty member(s) listed will have no bearing on your application. HYI will identify an appropriate faculty member as your mentor only if you are selected.

IV.  Recommendation Letters

A strong letter of recommendation can be a tremendous asset to an application. The best letters serve as advocates for a candidate’s application, highlighting what is original and outstanding about the applicant’s research. Therefore, it is best to ask for recommendation letters from those who are well acquainted with you and your work as well as the Harvard-Yenching Institute and its fellowship programs. A colleague who is familiar with your research and career and well understands the mission of HYI programs can paint a clearer and more substantive picture of why you are a strong candidate.

We strongly suggest that you provide  a description of the fellowship program and a copy of your CV and research proposal (or dissertation description) for your colleagues who will write letters for your application.

V. Interviews

Select candidates will be invited for an interview. Interviews are held in late December or early/mid-January in the applicant’s country of residence.

The Harvard-Yenching Institute sets up a rigorous process to review and evaluate applications for its fellowship programs including our regular visiting scholars program and a range of advanced field development training programs.  This process is designed to assess candidates’ ability to think originally and critically about their concerned field and to articulate their research and academic pursuits in English.  

The following are interview guidelines to answer questions you may have about the interview process and to help you prepare for a lively and productive conversation.

  1. We want to emphasize that the interview alone does not determine the outcome of your application. The interview is only one part of a rigorous selection process, which includes an applicant’s home university nomination, research proposal, disciplinary screening, the interview, and finally, a decision by an inter-disciplinary faculty selection committee.
  2. Interviews are held between late December and mid-January in the applicant’s country of residence. Each interview lasts for approximately 20-30 minutes and in most cases is conducted by a panel of 3 interviewers.  Interview panels typically consist of one Harvard faculty member and two HYI alumni, and the interview is conducted entirely in English.  In Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, interviews are usually conducted by a single Harvard faculty member.  We will inform you of the time and location of your interview.  Please arrive at least ten minutes prior to the scheduled interview time.
  3. The interview will be conducted entirely in English.
  4. This is an opportunity for you to introduce yourself and your research in depth through the give-and-take of a conversation. Please do not plan to read from written remarks or prepare a formal presentation. The interview panelists may ask you questions related to your previous academic training and current teaching and research interests as well as the connection between your publications to date and your current research project.  In general, this is an opportunity not only for the interviewers to learn more about your candidacy for the HYI visiting scholar program, but also for you to provide further information that you were unable to present in your application.  You are welcome to ask the interview panelists about the HYI and its visiting scholars program.
  5. This type of interview can be intimidating for some candidates, who may feel that they have no control over the panel. However, you are the expert on your specific field, after all, and you have very reason to approach the interview with confidence!  It is important for candidates to present themselves confidently in the conversation, including speaking clearly and making eye contact with the panelists. Candidates should feel free to ask questions if they need clarification on an issue.
  6. Not all interview panelists are scholars in your specific field, so it is important to present your research in a clear and coherent way so that scholars outside of your field of specialty will be able to understand.
  7. Please remember to silence your mobile phone before the interview!

VI. The application review process

The Harvard-Yenching Institute’s application review process lasts from the end of September (when applications are received) to late February (when selection results are announced). During this five month period, each application goes through several stages of review.

In October and November, all applications undergo faculty review. Applicants who pass through this initial screening will be invited for an interview to be conducted in their country of residence.  All candidates will be contacted in late November or early December about the status of their application.  Please feel free to write to us if you have not heard about your application review process by mid-December.

Interviews are typically held in late December or early January in a central location in your country of residence. The interview panel evaluates each candidate, but does not make selection decisions. In February, a HYI Selection Committee (made up of faculty members from multiple disciplines) reviews all application files, including the candidate’s research proposal, recommendation letters, and comments/rankings from the screener and interview panel. Following the final decisions of the Selection Committee, applicants and universities are notified of the results in late February.