University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Fellowship Finder

University of Illinois Graduate College - Aspire Fellowships for Underrepresented Students

Deadline: Anticipated 1/2023 ( Previous deadline 1/14/2022 )

Nominations are due at 5:00 p.m. on the deadline day. 

The Graduate College's Aspire Fellowship program aims to strengthen the institution and its doctoral programs by increasing the enrollment of outstanding students from populations that have been historically underrepresented in graduate study.  The program offers three years of support and provides a $25,000 annual stipend and full tuition waiver (note that the benefits and terms of the Aspire Fellowship are identical to those of the Graduate College Fellowship). The Aspire Fellowship is open exclusively to students who participate in the University of Illinois' Aspire Early Application & Campus Visit Program.


Award Amount: The fellowship provides three years of support and includes the following:


The fellows' academic programs are required to provide support after the fellowship period (see Funding Commitment information below). 

During the fellowship period, concurrent assistantship support of up to 50% is permissible, though not required.  Employment (through an assistantship or through other on-campus or off-campus sources) of 51% or higher is not permissible.

Fellows are encouraged to participate in the Summer Predoctoral Institute (SPI) administered by the Graduate College Educational Equity Programs Office.

The fellowship offers flexibility in that recipients have a five-year window within which to use the three years of support. The window begins with the 2022-23 academic year and ends with the 2026-27 academic year.  All years on fellowship will have an August 16 start date. A fellowship cycle (either a funded year or a deferral year) may start only in the fall, not in the spring or summer.

Fellows must be registered during the terms in which they receive the award (and this includes being registered for at least four weeks during the summer). 

Selection Criteria:

The Fellowship Board will conduct a holistic assessment of the nominee's academic record, achievements, and promise of scholarly success.  Evaluation of academic performance will be made in the context of cultural background and previous academic opportunity.  Evaluation criteria include undergraduate grade-point average, quality of undergraduate preparation, letters of recommendation, and the nominee's personal statement. If the department requires and uses the GRE in its evaluation of candidates, the Fellowship Board will do likewise and take the applicant’s GRE scores into account.  Otherwise, the Board will not take GRE scores into account.  Slate allows departments to check whether or not they want the Fellowship Board to take the applicant’s GRE scores into account.  Performance in graduate work is also evaluated for those nominees who have taken graduate courses.  Critical to the evaluation is also the department’s Nomination Statement, through which the nominating official (either the Director of Graduate Study or the Executive Officer) explains why the department considers the applicant worthy of a Graduate College Fellowship.  

The Fellowship Board will also take into consideration the level of financial support the department is offering to the student, as specified in the department’s admissions letter to the student.  The Board will view the level of financial support offered as an indicator of the department’s interest in and level of commitment to the student.   

The Fellowship Board will also take disciplinary distribution into account, i.e., the Board aims to distribute fellowships fairly and equitably to departments across campus. 

Departmental Commitments:

Funding Commitment: Following the Aspire fellowship award period, departments must provide a waiver-generating fellowship or assistantship to the awardee for the duration of the awardee's doctoral program, provided that academic progress remains satisfactory.  If the degree program requires an internship, support during the internship year may consist of a stand-alone waiver, with the approval of the Graduate College.

Summer Predoctoral Institute (SPI): GCF awardees are invited to participate in SPI, administered by the Graduate College Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. The Graduate College asks that departments encourage such participation in their correspondence with students following notification of the fellowship.

The departmental Nomination Form must confirm adherence to the departmental commitments. Departments that cannot meet the commitments should not submit nominations for this fellowship.


Departments must nominate students for Aspire Fellowships through Slate.  Please find instructions for starting a nomination through Slate in the Slate Fellowship Nomination Quick Guide 

In Slate, departments must certify adherence to the funding commitment (explained above), certify intention to support the nominee's SPI application, explain the rationale for the ranking (if more than one nomination is submitted), and explain in the "Nomination Statement" section why the nominee is extraordinary and should be considered for the fellowship. 

Nominating officials (either the DGS or Head) should pay particular attention to the guidelines found in Slate regarding the Ranking Statement and the Nomination Statement.  For additional guidance on preparing those two statements, watch the 10 Minute Tips video entitled “Preparing Effective Nomination Statements for Graduate College Grants & Fellowships.”

In preparing the Nomination Statement, the nominating official should keep in mind that the Fellowship Board is multidisciplinary and consists of representatives from the sciences, humanities, engineering, social sciences, fine arts, and professional programs. Board members will rely on the Nomination Statement to explain what counts for intellectual merit and academic achievement within the discipline, and they will use the statement as a key resource in their attempt to compare the department’s nominee with other nominees from across campus. It is therefore best to explain, in detail, why the department wishes to recruit this student, and it is best to use concrete, quantified measures whenever possible to characterize the nominee’s accomplishments. If there are any oddities or weaknesses in the applicant’s record, it’s best to address those directly.

In Slate, departments will also need to insert text copied from the letter offering admission to the nominee (see paragraph under "Selection Criteria" above regarding role of the admissions letter).

All other materials -- the nominee’s Personal Statement, transcripts, GRE scores (if applicable), and letters of recommendation -- will be assembled automatically by Slate. 

Nominations for Other Fellowships:

Students nominated for the Aspire Fellowship may also be nominated for the Graduate College Fellowship and the Illinois Distinguished Fellowship, if the department wishes. 

Confirmation of Nomination:

Slate will send email confirmations for all nominations that have been successfully submitted.  Departments not receiving confirmation can assume that their nominations have not been submitted and should contact Ken Vickery directly at

Ken Vickery, PhD
Director of Fellowships
Graduate College



Categories: Fellowship/Grant

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