Spark Program

Spark is fellowships foundations program meant to help students make the most of the time at Penn State. The Spark Program offers first- and second-year 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.

Whether your goal is to travel the world, engage in research, or make a difference in your community, Spark -- and fellowships -- can help you make the most of your time at Penn State. Participants of the Spark Program are introduced to such topics as identifying a faculty research mentor, 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.

Spark will be hosted on Tuesdays from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. and will begin January 30, running through March 19. The program will be hybrid, and applicants will be able to preference a modality (e.g. in-person or virtual). Applications are welcome from all campuses. Participants are expected to attend at least six of the seven sessions to earn a completion certificate at the end of the program.  

Application and Decision Timeline:

January 12, 2024 – Application Opens
January 24, 2024 – Application Deadline
January 26, 2024 – Decision Notification
January 30 – First Session

The application cycle for the Spring 2024 program is now OPEN!
Interested first and second year students can submit their application by Jan. 24 HERE


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