The Watson Foundation selects about 40 winners from a national pool of 160 nominated by about 40 small liberal arts colleges similar to Colby. The national Watson Foundation awards seniors a $40,000 stipend to travel the world for a year after graduation, as well as paying most student loans for the year. Unlike Marshall or Fulbright, the Watson is not related to academic achievement. 

Selection is based on leadership potential (broadly defined), not the project per se. Your project is a means of realizing your potential through a year of intense self-exploration. The outcome is you after your Watson journey. Projects are highly individual, but they must take place for a year outside of the U.S., and not involve returning to a country you’ve spent more than six weeks previously (with a few exceptions). 

Past winners from Colby have explored environmental challenges besetting the world’s rivers, compiled oral history from survivors of Stalin’s Terror, and participated in running cultures around the world.

If you would like to know more, please visit:

Our campus deadline is Oct. 3, 12:00pm. You apply on the national Watson Fellowship website. Your two recommenders must respond to several questions on the national website by the campus deadline as well, so contact them well in advance. Watson liaison Prof. Ben Fallaw must clear you to begin applying. Please contact him at [email protected]. The campus committee will nominate four students in October after reviewing written applications and interviewing candidates. Our four Colby nominees will submit final applications to the Watson Foundation electronically by 3 p.m. the first Wednesday in November after Election Tuesday (your submit button does not work until then). 

The two most important parts of the application are the 1,500-word personal statement and the 1,500-word project description. Most successful candidates go through numerous drafts, so I strongly encourage you to start now.

Feel free to contact Prof. Fallaw ([email protected]) if you have questions. Informational sessions are held the first week of classes, later in the fall semester, the spring semester, and during the summer. The committee is made up of professors Plesch, Nuss, El-Shaarawi, Martin, and Shabangu.

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