As you begin to brainstorm and focus on a topic, talk through your idea and motivation with as many people as possible (faculty, advisors, friends, family, college staff). Show them the Watson Foundation website and share the criteria for what the foundation seeks in its Fellows. The more points of view you have about the feasibility and content of your project at the beginning of this process the more refined your finished proposal will be. Watson seeks imagination and passion, but they place equal value on feasibility and concept.
Develop a clear focus for your topic or idea. Feasibility of topic is very important so start thinking broadly and then narrow your subject to a small idea or hypothesis that can be implemented and followed through. What is the central question that you wish to answer? Can you clearly summarize your project on a short paragraph?
After you have a topic, think of where you would like to pursue your project. Remember that you can’t go to countries where you have previously vacationed, toured, studied, or lived. Consider issues such as language, visa regulations, and the relation and importance of location to your topic.
As you develop your proposals, think of what contacts you will need to use or locate to implement your project. At the initial stage of submitting your Watson application, you may have only a sketch or outline of contacts — this is fine. If you are selected as a nominee, you will need to include greater detail of contacts in countries. This will add to the feasibility of your project. Again your network of advisors, faculty, family, friends can be helpful.
The Watson Foundation does not expect you to be fluent in a language of a proposed country. You should however have a plan to how you will overcome any language barriers. Maybe you have rudimentary language skills, maybe you will take a language class in the six months leading up to your departure, etc…
Use College Writing Associates, faculty, and other Wheaton advisors to help you with the organization and grammar of your proposals.
Questions to Consider as You Draft Your Project Proposal and Personal Statement
- What do you specifically want to discover by traveling and immersing yourself in your chosen countries?
- What is the central or core question that you want to try to answer as you explore your topic during your year abroad?
- What methods are you going to utilize to carry out your project?
- What will a typical day look like for you? How do you think it would be different in your ninth month as a Watson Fellow versus in the first month?
- What background research have you done to help lay the foundation for a successful project?
- Have you done similar types of fieldwork in the past? Have you had previous academic or personal exposure to the topic that you propose?
- How has your background helped to prepare you and make you especially well equipped to carry out your proposed project?
Key Items to Consider as You Draft Your Project and Personal Statement
In the words of the Watson Foundation, they seek proposals that are:
- Creative: “A creative idea will take you into territory that is new for you. It can extend and build upon experiences that you have already had, but it is not a retracing or revisiting. What intrigues you? Where is it being studied, performed, made, etc.?”
- Feasible: “Consider budget, safety, visa regulations, availability of resources, and time constraints.” Where will you live? What will you do for food? How will you communicate with others?
- Personally Significant: “A Watson project is something that you have wanted to do and dreamed about doing for a considerable period of time. You must want to do this so badly that when it is cold and rainy, and you have lost your passport, and your camera has been stolen, and you’re sick, and your best friend is getting married back home, you will still want to stay abroad and pursue your project.”
It will include:
Watson Application Form
1500 word Personal Statement
1500 word Project Proposal
The Watson Fellowship seeks students with “unusual promise.”
Person: Leadership, resourcefulness, imagination and vision, independence, integrity, emotional maturity, and courage;
Project: Well organized, deeply thought out, have an openness and desire to explore all sides of an issue;
Fit: A demonstrated commitment to some aspect of the project from past experiences.