University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Fellowship Finder

University of Illinois Graduate College - Aspire Master's Fellowship for Underrepresented Students

Deadline: Anticipated 1/2024 ( Previous deadline 1/11/2023 )

The Graduate College's Aspire Master's Fellowship program aims to strengthen the institution and its master's programs by increasing the enrollment of outstanding students from populations that have been historically underrepresented in graduate study.  The program offers one year of support and provides a $20,000 stipend and full tuition waiver (note that the benefits and terms of the Aspire Master's Fellowship are identical to those of the Graduate College Master's Fellowship). The Aspire Master's Fellowship is open exclusively to students who participate in the University of Illinois' Aspire Early Application & Campus Visit Program.


Award Amount:

The Aspire Master's Fellowship will come with a $20,000 stipend and will offer one year of support. Along with the stipend, fellowships include 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% or supplemental fellowship support 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.

All fellowships will have an August 16 start date. 

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).  

Concurrent assistantship support of up to 50% or supplemental fellowship support is permissible.

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 an Aspire Master's 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: Departments must provide a waiver-generating fellowship or assistantship to the awardee for at least one year following the fellowship award period. 

Community of Scholars (COS) Campus Visit Program: Nominating departments are expected to invite nominees to visit campus through the Community of Scholars (COS) Campus Visit Program or a department sponsored visit.

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


Departments must nominate students for Aspire Master's 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 invite the nominee for a campus visit, 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. 

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

For more information contact the Graduate College Fellowship Office at (217) 333-0036 or


Categories: Social Sciences; Sciences/Engineering/Math; Professional Programs; Fine Arts; Humanities; US Citizens, Nationals, or Permanent Residents; Master's; Fellowship/Grant; University of Illinois Students; Underrepresented Students

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