Undergraduate Research

OCRF Frequently Asked Questions

Is OCRF only or primarily for students in STEM?

The Fellowship is available to students in all fields, disciplines, or majors at Oberlin College and Conservatory—including the arts, humanities, social sciences, and STEM. In order to apply, students need only be first-generation college students, Pell-grant-eligible students, or students of color proposing a research project with a current Oberlin faculty member.

My grade point average (GPA) is at or just above the 2.5 minimum. Should I still apply?

Absolutely. In such a case, you can put yourself in the best position by addressing in your Personal Statement any challenges that might have contributed to your academic performance. Indicate how you managed those challenges, articulate the particular strategies you used or skills you developed as a result, and make a case for how those skills and strategies position you particularly well to be an outstanding fit for OCRF and for the future that you intend for yourself beyond the Fellowship.

What makes a strong personal statement?

The purpose of a personal statement, in this and any application, is to articulate the fit between you and the opportunity to which you are applying. That means you must make a clear case for why this program is the best for you and why you are the best for this program. To do so, you must have and present a clear understanding of what the nature and values of the opportunity are. The statement overall should tell the story of your past, or what in your background brings you to these interests; your present, or why you are the right fit for this program; and your future, or how and why participating in this program will help you to meet your long-term goals. Successful statements often open with an attention-getting narrative that frames the statement in those ways by telling a story that is unique to the applicant. The best statements are narrative and specific, answering not just “what” but also “how” and “why”, and they address every item asked for in the application instructions.

Whom should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?

Faculty members of the committee respond most positively to letters from professors who have had you in an academic class and can comment on your abilities in the skills related to a collaborative research opportunity: writing, argumentation and analysis, synthesis of sources or data, approaches to frustration or failure, and responsiveness to feedback. Successful applicants typically have two letters of this kind. The program director is interested in what kind of community member you would make amongst the group of Fellows. Therefore, letters that speak to how you work with others—including peers as well as faculty and staff members—are useful in this regard. The best letters will address both your academic abilities and your communal capacities. If you have a recommender who can speak well to the latter (like an advisor, coach, or program director) but not also the former, you may consider including this person’s letter as a third recommendation beyond the requisite two.

Is there a faculty stipend of some sort?

OCRF mentors each receive a $1500 (1st student), $750 (2nd student), and $500 (3rd student) (pre-tax) in recognition of their work with Fellows.

How do student research and travel funds work?

Fellows in OCRF get $350 of funds for research supplies and/or travel per summer. Any amounts unspent from the first summer get carried forward. The $350 per summer of research funds that you receive as part of your OCRF award is for you and your mentor to put toward supplies and/or travel for your OCRF research project. That is why we always ask that the two of you collaborate and agree upon how those funds will be spent. To access these funds, please e-mail OUR (our@oberlin.edu).

If you have questions not answered here, or would like additional information, please contact Oberlin Undergraduate Research by email at our@oberlin.edu.