As a deferred action for early childhood arrival (DACA) student, I found out that I am not eligible for federal fellowships from the government or through the university.

Some universities allow for fellowships to DACA students if they meet in-state requirements but being a student who attended undergrad at another state, I do not qualify. (I applied to all out-of-state graduate programs)

With the DACA status, I can still apply and work as teaching assistant or research assistant to fund my Ph.D. program.

So my question would be, if I do not have any fellowships on my CV and only RA & TA positions, how much would this negatively impact me when applying for assistant professor positions, if at all?

Do hiring committees ever place emphasis on whether the student had had fellowships or not? And would it be more worth it to go into a Ph.D. program in-state where I may qualify for some federal fellowships made through the school (from a funding perspective)?

  • 6
    I would argue that RA and TA positions are both kinds of graduate fellowships. In my experience it is very rare that they are treated like the kinds of merely part-time employment that they may sound like. For instance, usually when one is a grad student TA, you put in your pocket all the money you make. You don't apply that towards tuition; rather, the tuition gets waived. That's a fellowship. Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 5:26
  • I'm in the UK, so please consider this as a "global" rather than "local" perspective. What hiring committees especially want here are: (a) good publications; (b) evidence of teaching experience; and (c) mainly as a "bonus round" -- successful grant applications (small ones are OK). They may have differing priorities among (a-c) and there are probably some other things I haven't thought of. But a fellowship is sort of like a type of "grant" and not as important as the other two (in my own opinion). Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 0:41
  • It looks like you've found an additional but hopefully minor downside to the deferred action status. I think the comments and answers on this page have downplayed the potential negative effect partly because the probability of it affecting your chances are probably small, and partly from wishful thinking. But I can see your point. A competitive merit fellowship might be a feather in an applicant's cap. // Regarding your last question, my guess is that it would be wise to take this factor into account, but in the context of the whole funding picture at the schools you are considering. Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 21:43

5 Answers 5


There's no way that you are going to be disqualified from faculty positions by not having a graduate student fellowship. There's no "has a fellowship" checkbox on rubric that search committees use. What will matter is a holistic evaluation of the quality of your research, your publications, your teaching experience, and your letters of recommendation.

Of course, evaluating junior faculty candidates is difficult and lots other things matter as well and can help reinforce (or cast doubt) on a committee's evaluation of a candidates quality. In that sense, a prestigious fellowship can be an additional positive signal in an otherwise strong packet. In that context, you should think of a fellowship as a "nice to have" — it does nothing to replace great research, great publications, and great letters.

In some ways, not having a fellowship might even help, if it translates into more work as a TA and RA. This might lead to teaching experience and publications, which will be viewed as more valuable than all but the most prestigious fellowships. For example, I've seen faculty candidates who had made it entirely through graduate school on fellowships dinged for a lack of teaching experience.


The same restrictions apply to international graduate students, so this won't make you unusual at all. Certainly many international grad students get jobs, so that's proof that it won't put you at a prohibitive disadvantage.

  • One major difference is that a DACA student could potentially look like a US citizen from the point of view of a faculty hiring committee (US bachelor's degree, US-specific history.) I think fellowship-eligible students who don't get them might get some questions (did they not apply? did they not succeed?). This might argue for disclosing DACA status earlier - though this is obviously a complex, fraught question.
    – AJK
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 4:26
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    @AJK: It's a fair point, but I don't really see hiring committees reading that much into these things anyway. Remember that award of a fellowship would be based on your undergraduate record, which in general counts for very little in faculty applications. Most jobs will not even bother to ask for undergraduate transcripts. And I think hiring committees know that such fellowships are usually competitive, and even strong candidates can get left out. Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 4:52
  • @NateEldredge - this is true. Of course, depending on the field, this could continue to be an issue through a postdoc, where applying for fellowship funds is both standard and based on your track record. Also, as a related note: faculty can sometimes recruit postdocs under the assumption that they will help fund their own work via fellowships, which can depend on citizenship quite a bit.
    – AJK
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 5:12
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    @AJK Tons of students are not US citizens by have US undergrad and Ph.D. degrees, so that seems like an odd objection (I even know some examples where the person went to high school in the US, though). The answer will probably depend on the field though: certainly in lots of fields people will not assume postdocs can fund themselves. Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 0:53

I cannot speak to your field (which you have not specified) but I did not have any fellowships (fellowships are fairly rare in public health) and was fine getting a tenure track job. Fellowships are nice little prestige markers, but letters, publications, funding applications, etc. are also critical.

So no, it's certainly not impossible. It might not even make things appreciably more difficult.


Graduate fellowships are usually awarded at the time of admission to a graduate program; as such, the question of whether or not someone gets one is only a reflection of their undergraduate record. In my experience (mainly in math), tenure-track hiring committees care very little about an applicant's undergraduate record. For instance, most applications do not ask for any information about the undergraduate degree beyond the date and the name of the institution - not even the GPA. A minority ask for an undergraduate transcript, but my impression is that they don't really read them - they are mainly to weed out fraudsters claiming degrees that they don't actually have.

As such, I would expect graduate fellowships, or lack thereof, to carry negligible weight in a faculty application.


It would be helpful to specify your field, since as usual academia varies. From my perspective, I would be embarrassed to try to argue to my colleagues in favor of a candidate for a tenure-track position based on their having a graduate fellowship. I would expect their reaction to be some mix of laughing off the suggestion and thinking I'm a prat. So in mathematics, I think in their direct effect they are mostly irrelevant. Indirectly having the time away from teaching to do research can be helpful, but the effect is uncertain. Certainly, DACA students have much more serious concerns over the next few years than this one.

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