NOAA Fellowship Application Guide

The following advice applies to the Knauss, National Marine Fisheries Services, and Coastal Management fellowships, all of which are ultimately administered by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Applicants go through a two-stage selection process for each fellowship program. Michigan Sea Grant reviews all applicants from Michigan and then recommends several candidates to be considered by the national program office. For more details, students should visit the website managed by each fellowship program.

For Applicants

Am I eligible to apply?

  • Visit the program websites to determine if you are considered a current or recent graduate student based on the program’s eligibility criteria.
  • You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to apply for the Knauss fellowship. Only U.S. citizens are eligible for the NOAA Coastal Management and National Marine Fisheries Services fellowships.
  • Graduate students with a wide range of backgrounds have been successful in these fellowships, including students with skills in law, social science, policy, planning, biological and physical science, and public health.
  • The fellowship programs require a full-time commitment, so most students participate after they graduate or between a master’s and Ph.D. program. However, you may make accommodations with your graduate program adviser to participate before you graduate.

Why should I apply?

  • The fellowships give students a chance to apply their graduate training to real-world issues such as climate change planning, habitat conservation, and fisheries management. These paid programs provide on-the-job experience and networking opportunities that are invaluable for building a career as a natural resource professional.
  • Fellows gain an insider perspective into how state and federal agencies work, how policies are developed, and how funding decisions are made, which is an advantage for working in the academic, non-profit, government, or private sectors.
  • Many fellows have found opportunities to continue working for their host agency or a partner organization after completing the fellowship.
  • Some students participate in the fellowship hoping to continue their graduate work in the future. Past fellows made very useful professional contacts and refined their research interests, but accomplished only a minimal amount of research or writing during the fellowship.
  • For personal stories, see: Fellowship Blog

Application materials

  • Visit each fellowship program website and review the specific application requirements and selection criteria.
  • For all programs, application materials can be submitted via our online application.
  • Unofficial transcripts are accepted for all fellowships. Any official transcripts should be sent directly from the providing university either electronically or by postal mail to Brandon Uckele, Michigan Sea Grant, 400 N. Ingalls Building. Suite G241, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Transcripts in official, sealed envelopes provided by students to Michigan Sea Grant will also be considered official.
  • During the initial application process, students do not need to secure a letter of endorsement from the Michigan Sea Grant director, but they must submit all other required application materials by the deadline.

Selection Process

  • After applying to Michigan Sea Grant, strong candidates will be invited for a phone or in-person interview. After the interview, we will prepare letters of endorsement for the candidates we recommend to the national program office or partnering organization, if required by the program.
  • Applicants who do not advance to the second stage of the application process will be notified by email within two months of the application deadline.
  • For the Knauss Fellowship Program, a national review panel selects finalists. Finalists are invited to a “placement week” in the fall where nearly all are successfully matched with a host office in Washington, D.C.

Additional Tips

  • As Michigan Sea Grant is facilitating these fellowships, stipends will come from the University of Michigan. Fellows are responsible for reporting that income to the IRS and paying all applicable taxes.
  • Review the fellowship websites, research past fellows and their projects, visit Michigan Sea Grant’s fellowship blog, and learn about your potential host offices.
  • Submit a 1-2 page resume with your application that highlights your academic achievements. Be sure to organize the information legibly.
  • The fellowship programs are looking for candidates who have strong academic records and outstanding interpersonal skills.
  • Your application is likely to be reviewed by people trained in biology, so be sure to explain how your specific skills (e.g., law, social science, engineering) can benefit a host office.
  • To be successful, you must demonstrate a connection to marine, aquatics, or Great Lakes issues.
  • Describe any extracurricular activities or personal experiences that have influenced your career path and interest in Great Lakes or marine issues.
  • Feel free to contact Michigan Sea Grant with any additional questions.

For Writers of Recommendation Letters


  • Address letters of recommendation to:
    Silvia Newell, Director
    Michigan Sea Grant 
    400 N. Ingalls Building, Suite G241
    Ann Arbor, MI 48109
  • Please use official letterhead.
  • Be sure to sign the letter. Electronic signatures are accepted.
  • Recommenders may give their letters to applicants to be added to the PDF application package. If the recommender would prefer to send their letter directly to Michigan Sea Grant instead, they can email it to They should mention the name of the applicant and the fellowship in the email. In this case, applicants should include a note in their PDF package that the letters will be coming separately. 
  • If a student is applying to more than one fellowship, please submit separate letters addressing a single fellowship program. Letters will be reviewed by different committees for each fellowship, so the letter narrative can be very similar.

Letter content

  • Indicate the fellowship program the applicant is seeking and explain how the writer know the applicant.
  • Focus on both academic as well as interpersonal characteristics, including written and oral communication skills, disposition, leadership abilities, personal convictions, and ambitions. The fellowship programs are looking for students that are skilled and ambitious, but who can also integrate well into a team.
  • Consider asking students for a copy of their resume or application essay.