External Fellowship Policy

Applying for External Awards

GSAS considers support of its PhD students essential to their success and timely completion of the degree. External fellowship awards help students remain funded for additional semesters past their GSAS fellowship years, develop grant-writing skills, and enhance their curriculum vitae for their subsequent job search.

As part of an application for renewal of a multiyear GSAS fellowship, GSAS requires that students apply for at least one academic-year external award during years one through four of their GSAS fellowship years. Students will be required to submit evidence of at least one good-faith effort to obtain funding from a funding source external to the university to their director of graduate studies (DGS); students should consult with the DGS to determine what constitutes such an effort for a particular field and stage in the program. The DGS supplies this information to the dean of the Graduate School.

Receiving an External Award

Humanities and Social Sciences

As an incentive to seek outside awards, PhD students who receive a competitively awarded external fellowship during an academic year (September through May) in which they would have otherwise received a GSAS-funded fellowship may choose to either:

  1. receive a supplement to the external fellowship (top-off)
  2. extend a year of GSAS funding.

1. The Top-Off of an External Fellowship

Students in the Humanities and Social Sciences who choose the top-off option to supplement their outside award with their GSAS funding may receive GSAS funds up to a maximum of $6,000 above the standard academic year stipend. In 2016-17, this maximum combined award will be $33,270. Students whose academic year awards exceed this amount may prefer to use option 2, extending a year of GSAS funding, and “bank” their GSAS fellowship for future use.

Students in the Humanities and Social Sciences who wish to top off an external fellowship should complete the Statement of Understanding form, sign it, have it signed by your departmental administrator, and send it to the GSAS Office of Financial Aid, 107 Low Library, MC 4304, by September 15 (for the fall semester or for the academic year), or by January 16 (for spring-semester-only awards).

Students who receive either an outside award during the academic year for which the stipend is at least $18,000 or who receive an academic year Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) award will not be required to teach during the period of the outside award unless the student will not have another opportunity to complete the GSAS instructional requirement.

Students in the Humanities and Social Sciences who receive an external fellowship that is awarded explicitly for the months of June, July, and August will also receive their GSAS summer stipend.

2. Extension of GSAS Funding

Instead of topping off, students in the Humanities and Social sciences may choose to defer a year (or, a semester, for semester-long awards) of their GSAS multiyear fellowship, subject to the GSAS instructional requirement for PhD students. Students who select this option will not be topped off. 

Students in the Humanities and Social sciences will receive neither option until the Statement of Understanding form is received in GSAS. Students whose forms are not received by September 15 (for the fall semester or for the academic year, or by January 16 (for spring-semester-only awards) will automatically receive the Top-Off of External Fellowship option and will not defer their GSAS funding.

Natural Sciences

GSAS allows students in the Natural Sciences departments to top off their external awards with their multiyear package up to a maximum funding cap. Students in departments that support students in the summer on faculty research grants* may combine their awards up to a maximum of $40,000. Students in the remaining Natural Sciences departments may combine their awards up to a maximum of $6,000 above the academic year (September through May) stipend. In 2015-16, the maximum combined award will be $40,000. Students in Natural Sciences departments are not eligible to extend a year of GSAS funding. Accordingly, students in the Natural Sciences do not need to submit the Statement of Understanding form.

*Those departments include Astronomy, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Physics, and Psychology.

External Award Policies

It is important to note the following:

  • Unless the outside award's policy explicitly requires the university to permit deferral of the award, fellowship students are not allowed to defer outside funding.
  • GSAS funds must be used in the first seven years of the PhD program.
  • With the option of extended GSAS funding, a teaching fellowship year remains a teaching fellowship year, regardless of which year the funding is used. Students who receive an external award in a year when they would be teaching (according to the terms of their multiyear fellowship) and who extend their GSAS funding are required to complete the teaching obligation when they use the GSAS funding extension. For example, if a year of teaching fellowship is replaced with an external fellowship, then the extended funding year remains a teaching fellowship year. Regardless of how a student is supported, all PhD students must complete the mandatory one-year GSAS teaching requirement.
  • Students on external fellowships must be registered full time during the term of the fellowship. If the fellowship does not cover students' tuition and fees, the appropriate full-time tuition and health-related fees (basic insurance plus access to Columbia Health Services) will be covered by GSAS. In the event that the external award pays some of the tuition and health fees, GSAS will pay the difference.
  • Students receiving Lindt and other awards that are granted through internal selection committees may not choose the extended GSAS funding option. In addition, teaching assistantships, such as the Cordier, PEPM, IRAAS, IRWAGS, and CSER, for example, are not considered external awards. External fellowships are defined as those awarded in a competitive application process external to the university.
  • Beginning with the 2013-14 award year, students who receive GSAS International Travel and Lurcy awards and are eligible for GSAS funding through the multiyear funding package awarded upon admission will have their GSAS funding extended by up to a year (option 2 above).
  • Beginning in 2016-17, for students who receive an academic year FLAS award and spend that year abroad deepening proficiency in the target language, GSAS will not count that year as one of the student’s funded years. The top-off option will be applied for FLAS recipients who are not studying abroad. 

If you have questions about these policies, please see these Frequently Asked Questions.