Helpful Information for Fellowship Applicants

I.  Eligible fields and Selection Criteria

View 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.

Visiting Scholar applicants should keep in mind that not all application reviewers are scholars in their specific field. It is important for candidates to present their research in a clear and coherent way so that scholars outside of their field of specialty will be able to understand.

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

The Harvard-Yenching Institute has established a rigorous process to review and evaluate applications for its various fellowship 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. Applicants may be interviewed in person or via Zoom.

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

  1. Please note that the interview alone does not determine the outcome of your application. The interview is only one part of a multi-stage competitive selection process, which includes an applicant’s home university nomination, research proposal, disciplinary screening, interview, and finally, decision by an inter-disciplinary faculty selection committee.
  2. Interviews are held in late December or early/mid-January. Each interview lasts for approximately 20-30 minutes and is conducted by a panel of 3 interviewers. Interview panels typically consist of one Harvard faculty member and 1-2 HYI alumni, and the interview is conducted entirely in English.  We will inform you of the time and location.
  3. The interview will be conducted entirely in English.
  4. This is an opportunity for candidates to introduce themselves and their research in greater depth.  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 and 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 should feel free to ask the interview panelists about the HYI and its visiting scholars program.
  5. This type of interview can be intimidating for some candidates, but it is important to present yourself confidently in the conversation. Candidates should feel free to ask questions if they need clarification on an issue. You are an expert in this specific field after all!
  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. The interview is intended to be a conversation. It is not necessary to prepare a PPT presentation or written remarks.
VI. The application review process

The Harvard-Yenching Institute’s application review process lasts from 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.  All candidates will be contacted by  mid-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 January. 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.