The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Watson Fellowship

Apply through Reed Fellowships and Awards Committee

Internal Deadline: September 20th, 2023 at 12:00 PM

» Scholarship's official website
» List of previous winners
» Internal application instructions
» Recommenders: Information about Writing Letters


The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship offers college graduates of unusual promise a year of purposeful, independent exploration and travel outside of the United States. Fellows enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and foster their humane and effective participation in the world community. The stipend for the fellowship year is $40,000. Watson Fellows must create, execute, and evaluate their own projects. The Watson Fellowship is intended to be a time when fellows are their own advisors. The fellow should decide how questions can be answered, when it is time to move on, if a project must be adjusted in any way, etc. It is for this reason that Watson Fellows do not affiliate themselves with an academic institution, do not spend twelve months exclusively in a training course, and do not have volunteer work as their primary activity.

Watson fellows should seek out new experiences in new places. Proposals may not include return to a country where the applicant has significant previous experiences. This is generally considered to be about four weeks. There is flexibility with this rule for countries with vast lands with areas that are linguistically and culturally different from previous areas visited. If the applicant previously had spent time in Beijing, plans in Hong Kong, for example, might be considered—or plans in Tibet. Ultimately, the Watson Foundation's decision would be based on how the proposal frames the need to work in such areas.

Fellows must begin their year no later than August 1 and return in time to attend the Returning Fellows Conference—generally the following August.


Applicants must be currently enrolled seniors who are graduating between that December and August 1st of the following year. This means that spring fall seniors are eligible to apply. There is no minimum GPA. Any age or nationality is eligible. Applicants must be nominated by the college in order to be eligible to apply for the program.

Selection Criteria

The Watson Foundation reads and evaluates each application, looking for the following qualities:
  • Leadership
  • Imagination
  • Independence
  • Emotional Maturity
  • Courage
  • Integrity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Responsibility

Application Procedure

Interested students should review our internal application instructions. The faculty Fellowships and Awards Committee will interview the strongest applicants on-campus in the fall, and will select up to four to participate in the national competition. Those finalists will participate in one-hour interviews with a representative of the Watson Foundation on-campus in fall or winter. Fellows are announced in mid-March. Contact CLBR Fellowships with any questions.

Hear from a Reedie Awardee

Check out this interview between Watson awardee Alisa Chen '21 and CLBR advisor Shania Siron:

Watson Film

Check out this video from the Watson Foundation website: "For Watson's 50th Anniversary, Steven Holleran, filmmaker, and 2008 Watson Fellow, joined fellows in the field and completed interviews with remarkable Watson Fellows from across five decades. This three-minute+ film introduces 10 fellows, their projects and Watson's impact on their lives."