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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions frequently asked about the Pickering Graduate Fellowship Program.

New Elements of the 2024 Award

The Program will select 45 fellows for the 2024 fellowship with benefits including funding for tuition, mandatory fees, and stipends up to $42,000 per year (for two years).

The Program will continue to allow a fuller range of management- and immigration-related two-year programs such as a master’s in business administration, management science, organizational development/leadership or migration studies.  These degrees must have an international component.  These degrees are excellent preparation for those interested in our management, consular, and economic career tracks. 

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must

  • be U.S. citizens;
  • be seeking admission to enter graduate school in fall 2024 for a two-year program at a U.S. based university in an area of relevance to the Foreign Service;
  • have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale at the time of application.

No. The 3.2 GPA requirement is for a cumulative GPA, which includes all courses taken at institutions at a college/university level. The Program has no flexibility on the GPA requirement.

Applicants must meet the minimum cumulative GPA eligibility of 3.2 on a 4.0 scale. To determine cumulative GPA eligibility, the Program uses:

The undergraduate GPA issued by the institution which conferred or will confer the applicant’s degree at the time of application


A combination of the GPA issued by the undergraduate degree-conferring institution and GPAs obtained at other institutions where the applicant was enrolled for a minimum of one full academic year as defined by the institution.

Applicants who attend schools that do not provide formal GPAs must provide, on official school letterhead, a signed statement from their university’s registrar, academic advisor or other similarly ranked university official. This letter should state that the school official has reviewed the applicants’ transcript/coursework/evaluations/etc. and has determined, to the best of their ability, the applicant’s equivalent GPA on a 4.0 scale. The letter must specify the GPA equivalent. In such circumstances, applications without this written record are ineligible.

Yes. For applicants who are US citizens attending foreign institutions, the Program will determine U.S. GPA equivalents based on published standards for determining equivalency between foreign and U.S. grades from a particular country or university. The applicant should submit information on grade equivalency with their application, to be confirmed by the Program.

To determine cumulative GPA eligibility, the program uses: 1) the undergraduate GPA issued by the institution which conferred or will confer the applicant’s degree at the time of application or 2) a combination of the GPA issued by the undergraduate degree-conferring institution and GPAs obtained at other institutions where the applicant was enrolled for a minimum of one full academic year as defined by the institution.  If the Master’s degree covered a period of more than one year, applicants should provide all transcripts and calculate a cumulative GPA to determine eligibility. 

Applicants must be U.S. citizens on the day of application (September 21).  If they have not yet received citizenship by that day, they can apply in a future year once they get citizenship.

No. The undergraduate component of the program was phased out starting with the 2018 cohort. The Pickering Program now offers the graduate fellowship exclusively. You may apply to the graduate fellowship during the senior year of your undergraduate program or any time after you graduate, as long as you plan to start graduate school in the fall of the year for which you are applying.

Applicants must be seeking to start a two-year graduate program in fall 2024.  Thus, an applicant could not use the fellowship to fund the remainder of an existing program.  If the individual is planning to start a new two-year program in an area of relevance to the Foreign Service in fall 2024, he/she would be eligible.  Applicants seeking admission to law school are not eligible.

Yes. Applicants seeking admission to enter graduate school in the fall of 2024 for a two-year program are eligible to apply.  The second master’s degree must be in a field related to the Foreign Service.

The Pickering Program welcomes applications from individuals with any undergraduate major.

No.  Students who meet the eligibility requirements can apply, no matter where they did their undergraduate studies.  Pickering Fellows come from schools around the country.

The fellowship has no specific age requirements.  However, the State Department Foreign Service has an upper limit of 59 years old for entry, and the period between application to the fellowship and Foreign Service is normally around three years. 

Application Questions

Applicants have the option to submit their GRE or GMAT scores to demonstrate their readiness for graduate school.  They are not required nor will applicants be disadvantaged by not providing them.  Applicants should upload a copy of the official score sheet they receive.  The GRE scores should not be sent directly to Howard University by testing authorities.  Please note that graduate programs to which applicants are applying may require the GRE.  In those cases, applicants should consider how to meet the graduate school requirements independent of the Pickering Fellowship selection process.  Waiting to take the GRE until after they hear the results of the fellowship decision may affect applicants’ competitiveness for some graduate programs.

You can check the status of your application, including uploaded materials, in your online application.  You will also be able to check whether we have received your letters of recommendation.  You may e-mail if you have any questions.

The application will close on September 21 at 11:59pm ET. You have the option to submit the application earlier and to edit the application before the deadline. Your application is not automatically submitted at the close of the deadline. Once the application closes, you will not be able to edit your application.

Since the Pickering Program takes into consideration an applicant’s financial need, we ask that candidates request an official financial aid statement from their undergraduate university/college.  If the university/college no longer has the applicant’s financial records, mailing in financial aid documentation from a student’s own records will suffice.  Also, applicants should be sure to discuss, in detail, their financial need in the required statement in the online application.

You must submit unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities from which you obtained credits for more than two course (usually 6 credits) with your application.  You do not need to send transcripts for courses taken in high school, include dual enrollment and AP classes, for which you received college credit.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to provide/arrange a translation, even if it is informal, and attach it to the transcript.  

Applicants should check their applications to make sure they added their recommenders’ correct email addresses.  If they did, an email invitation should have been sent to the recommender.  However, based on the security settings of the recommender’s email, automated notifications may get sent to “Junk” or “Spam” Folders.  Your recommender can check these folders too.  Because applicants will be copied on all email notifications sent to their recommenders, applicants should check their own emails and junk mailboxes to see if they can find a copy of the email notification that they can forward it again to their recommenders. If applicants are unable to find the notification, please contact the Program staff at

Yes, you can apply to both the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship and the Thomas R. Pickering Affairs Fellowship. The two application and selection processes are separate.

Our strong preference is that applicants provide a letter from an academic professional because this individual can provide insights into academic skills, performance and potential that is relevant both to success in graduate school and the Foreign Service.  If this is not possible, applicants can submit a letter from a non-academic source who is able to attest to academic-related skills such as analytical skills, writing skills, substantive knowledge, and organization 

Yes.  All applicants must complete the latest FAFSA (2023-2024 academic year) and upload the SAR even if they are not currently enrolled in a college or university. Materials must be uploaded in advance of the fellowship deadline.  The production of the SAR often takes several days to process after the FAFSA request is submitted, so applicants should file the FAFSA at least a week before the application deadline for the Pickering Fellowship.

Applicants should review and follow guidance provided by FAFSA in filling out these forms.  Applicants will upload the Student Aid report generated by the FAFSA directly into their applications.  Do not ask FAFSA to send information directly to Howard University.

Both programs are U.S. Department of State programs that promote excellence and diversity in the Foreign Service.  The main difference between the two programs is the nature of the domestic internship.  Pickering Fellows do a domestic internship at the State Department in Washington, DC, and the Rangel Fellows do a domestic internship on Capitol Hill that focuses on Congress’ role in foreign policy. 

  • The Department of State prohibits candidates from plagiarizing any portion of their employment application materials to include responses to questions in which candidates must provide a narrative response.  Candidates must create their own responses originally and not copy or adapt them from other sources.  The Department analyzes candidate submissions for plagiarism and will discontinue any individual’s candidacy if found to have violated this plagiarism policy.

·       While the Department of State encourages candidates to create their narratives with great care, including correct use of grammar and style, candidates are prohibited from using any artificial intelligence (AI) tool, to include but not limited to ChatGPT, to aid in their written responses.  The Department will discontinue any individual’s candidacy if found to have violated this prohibition on use of AI tools in the application process

Graduate School

No. The fellowship can be used to attend graduate programs throughout the United States, not just at Howard University.

The fellow is expected to pursue a two-year degree at a U.S. based institution in international affairs or another area of relevance to the work of the Foreign Service, such as public administration, public policy, business administration, foreign languages, economics, political science or communications. It must be an in-person rather than an online program.  If COVID-19 or another emergency causes a graduate program that is normally held in person to be offered online, fellows can provide this information to the program, and the State Department and Pickering Program staff will make decisions on a case-by-case basis.  Applicants apply for graduate school independently of their fellowship application.  They should include in their application proposed graduate schools to which they have applied or plan to apply.  If selected for the fellowship, the Program will discuss the graduate school choices with individual fellows.  The Pickering Program, working with the Department of State, has final approval on the graduate program.  Among the universities that Pickering Fellows have attended in the past are Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Yale University, University of Denver, Syracuse University, Columbia University, University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, George Washington University, American University, University of Texas at Austin, University of California, Penn State, Georgia Tech University, and the University of Washington.

The Foreign Service seeks to attract individuals interested in management, consular affairs, and economic affairs who have a strong grounding in best practices in areas such as management, leadership, talent management, data analytics, organizational development, and migration policy or law.  Two-year graduate programs that focus on these areas may be acceptable, provided these programs are applicable to the Foreign Service and have an international component (international-focused coursework).  Any study of law must lead to a two-year master’s in legal studies, not a JD, with a focus on an area of relevance to the Foreign Service (e.g., management or migration).  

No.  Applicants are generally starting the application process for graduate school at the same time they are applying for the Pickering Fellowship.  So, applicants should list programs to which they have applied or plan to apply.  No acceptances are required.  If you have already been admitted to a program that you plan to attend, you can upload your acceptance letter with your transcripts.

There is no approved list of schools. However, Pickering Fellows are expected to pursue graduate studies in a program that will prepare them for their Foreign Service careers. As noted above, applicants may apply to two programs at a U.S. university in an area of relevance to the Foreign Service; the Pickering Program discusses selected Fellows’ desired programs with them before giving final approval to a specific program.

Some universities (called partner schools) agree up front to provide supplemental financial assistance to Pickering Fellows who are admitted to their programs.  Other universities provide additional financial assistance on a case-by-case basis. 
Click here for the full list of partner schools. 

No, the fellowship can only be used at a U.S. based institution.

No.  The Pickering Program will only approve graduate programs that are in-person programs for fellowship funding.  If COVID-19 or another emergency causes a graduate program that is normally held in person to be offered online, fellows can provide this information to the program, and the State Department and Pickering Program staff will make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Interview Process/Selection of Fellows

The program will invite those selected as finalists to participate in a final round, which includes an interview with three selection panel members and a one-hour essay writing exercise.  Finalists will also participate in discussions with State Department and program alumni who will talk more about the Foreign Service, program benefits and obligations, and the Pickering Program experience. 

The program will select 90 finalists to participate in the final round of selections, which includes an interview and a writing exercise.  The selection panel will choose 45 fellows based on the final round assessments.

The Program will select and advise finalists by November 02, 2023 and advise all applicants of the decisions by email.  For those selected as finalists, the interviews/writing exercises will be held November 13-16, 2023 with final decisions and offers conveyed by the end of the day on November 17, 2023.