The Spark Program offers select undergraduate students the opportunity to learn about fellowship opportunities, high-impact educational experiences, and University resources, while providing them with the tools to develop into competitive fellowship applicants.
The Spark Program at Penn State is a joint initiative between Penn State University Libraries and Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring (URFM). Originally developed by the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, the Spark Program was launched at University Park in spring 2018.
The Spark Program is a voluntary seven-week educational experience for first and second year students meant to increase exposure to competitive fellowships (funded awards and/or engagement opportunities, such as Fulbright, Goldwater, and the Erickson Discovery Grant). The Spark Program will cover everything from "what is a fellowship?" to interactive workshops that will sharpen students' skills and enhance their undergraduate experience at Penn State and beyond.
First and second year students at all Penn State campuses are eligible to apply. No prior knowledge or experience with fellowships is required. Interested students must submit a brief application (see Participate in the Spark Program) to be considered for the program. Participants must commit to attending at least six of the seven workshops.
Few of the fellowship opportunities introduced cover the expenses of medical, dental, law, or pharmacy school. Therefore, the Spark Program may not be as relevant for students who plan on pursuing these career paths. Additionally, the majority of the fellowships covered in the program are available to U.S. citizens only.
Participants of the Spark Program are introduced to such topics as participating in undergraduate research and making the most of their undergraduate careers at Penn State, writing a personal statement, and applying for national and international fellowships. The program is designed to give participants the opportunity to develop their critical thinking and technical writing, envision their future, and create a plan to help them along their envisioned path, ultimately helping participants develop into competitive candidates for major fellowship opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Tentative Program Schedule
Week 1: Welcome to the Spark Program and an overview of fellowships.
Week 2: Student panel with Spark alumni, fellowship recipients, and Undergraduate Research Ambassadors.
Week 3: "What are your strengths?" workshop with Career Services.
Week 4: Choose your own adventure: Community and civic engagement.
Week 5: Oh the places you can go! Globalizing your undergraduate experience.
Week 6: Research roundtable with research mentors.
Week 7: Telling your story through application materials.
For Fall 2023, there will be two cohorts of the Spark Program. An in-person program will be conducted Tuesdays from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. at University Park, and a remote program will be offered over Zoom on Wednesdays from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Both programs will begin the week of October 3 and run through the week of November 14. Applications are welcome from all campuses. Participants are expected to attend at least six of the seven workshops.
Application and Decision Timeline:
August 15, 2023 – Application Opens
September 15, 2023 – Application Deadline
Late September – Decision Notification
October 3 – First Session
The application cycle for the Fall 2023 program is now OPEN!
Interested first and second year students can submit their application by Sept. 15 HERE.
Angie Pares Alicea
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Fahmi Bin Mohd Nadzri
Lorena De La Rosa
Wei Li Loo
Ernesto Estremera Jr.
Carley Anne Palkon
Daniela Lopez Melean