The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Watson Fellowship

Apply through Reed Fellowships and Awards Committee

Internal Deadline: September 18th, 2024 at 12:00 PM pacific

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» List of previous winners
» Internal application instructions
» Recommenders: Information about Writing Letters
» Watson Fellowship Summer Webinar


The Thomas J. Wat­son Fel­low­ship is a one-year grant for pur­pose­ful, inde­pen­dent explo­ration out­side the Unit­ed States, award­ed to grad­u­at­ing seniors nom­i­nat­ed by one of 41 part­ner insti­tu­tions. This fellowship is a rare window after college and pre-career to engage your deepest interest on a global scale. Fellows conceive original projects, execute them outside of the United States for one year and embrace the ensuing journey. They decide where to go, who to meet and when to change course. They do not affiliate with academic institutions and may not hold formal employment.

The program produces a year of personal insight, perspective and confidence that shapes the arc of fellows' lives. Started in 1968, Watson Fellows comprise leaders in every field. The one year stipend is $40,000. In addition, the foundation provides health insurance, the equivalent of 12-months of payments on outstanding institutional and federally guaranteed (Perkins, Stafford) loans, and an additional stipend for the support of Personal Assistance Services (PAS) or spouse. Only partner colleges may nominate students.


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, along with all majors and fields of inquiry. Applicants must be nominated by the college in order to be eligible to apply for the program. They strongly recommend that applicants and fellows are up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations.

The foundation's vision and values grow from the belief that a diversity of people, ideas, and experiences is critical to creating more humane and effective leaders; Watson Fellows are selected without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability.


This application requires a transcript, but there is no GPA requirement. The primary purpose of the transcript is to see academic themes relevant to the proposed project and to identify preparation in important project skills. It also helps to show how applicants have challenged themselves, the breadth or specialization of their work, and the detours they have taken. The internal and external selection processes adhere to the selection criteria when selecting applicants.

Selection Criteria

Qualities sought in the selection of fellows include:

Person Criteria

  • Leadership
  • Imagination
  • Independence
  • Emotional Maturity
  • Courage
  • Integrity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Responsibility

Project Criteria

  • Organic
  • Inspiring
  • Open
  • Bold
  • Realistic
  • Connected
  • 3-Dimensional

Please see the Watson website FAQ for a description of each criteria.

Fellow Expectations

Everyone who participates in the program must be able to do the following, either independently or with the support of Personal Assistance Services (PAS).

  • Attend the pre-departure webinar (spring)
  • Depart by August 1 of the award year
  • Remain outside of the United States for twelve consecutive months
  • Remain outside countries that are US State Department Level 3 or 4 (or areas within countries listed as "Do Not Travel" and "Reconsider Travel") on US Treasury Sanction, or designated CDC Level 3.
  • Submit quarterly reports and an end of year expense report
  • Attend the returning fellows' conference (August)

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 nominees 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.

Internal Application Instructions

Watson Fellowship Summer Webinar

Staff from the Watson Foundation held a virtual info session on June 4th 2024. Reed alum and Watson Fellow Stevie Hoesel '22 was featured as a guest speaker from a van in New Zealand. Learn about Stevie's Watson experience and more in the recording at the link below.

Watson Summer Webinar

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."