Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship Program

Funds two years of graduate school for college seniors and college graduates committed to joining the Foreign Service.

Pickering Fellowship: At a Glance


  • U.S. citizens
  • Fourth-year students and college graduates
  • Minimum GPA: 3.2
  • Intent to enter a two-year graduate program at a U.S. university

Selection Criteria:

  • Clear interest in a Foreign Service career with the U.S. Department of State
  • Strong academic background
  • Commitment to service
  • Leadership skills
  • Financial need for graduate school
  • Geographic, ethnic, gender, and social diversity
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Writing skills
  • Ability to overcome obstacles

Candidates for the Pickering Fellowship can affirm the following statements:

  • I have a strong commitment to a Foreign Service career.
  • I can demonstrate extracurricular, community, volunteer, or leadership experiences that would help me succeed in the Foreign Service.
  • I possess adequate academic preparation for the chosen graduate program.
  • I can demonstrate the need for financial assistance to attend graduate school.

Extensive Description

What is the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program? The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program is a program funded by the U.S. Department of State, administered by Howard University, that attracts and prepares outstanding young people for Foreign Service careers in the U.S. Department of State. It welcomes the application of members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the State Department, women, and those with a demonstrated financial need for graduate school. Based on the fundamental principle that diversity is a strength in our diplomatic efforts, the program values varied backgrounds, including ethnic, racial, social, and geographic diversity.

Upon successful completion of a two-year master’s degree program and fulfillment of Foreign Service entry requirements, fellows have the opportunity to work as Foreign Service Officers in accordance with applicable law and State Department policy, serving in Washington, DC and at a U.S. embassy, consulate, or diplomatic mission around the globe. They are promoting human rights, assisting American citizens overseas, enhancing prosperity and development, deepening ties between the United States and people around the world, and supporting U.S. global values and interests in many different ways.

Fellowship Benefits: In 2023, the Pickering Program plans to award 45 fellowships of up to $42,000 annually for a two year period for tuition, room, board, books, and mandatory fees for completion of a two-year master’s degree. This includes up to $24,000 per year for tuition and mandatory fees and an academic year stipend of $18,000. Fellows must obtain graduate degrees in a field of study relevant to a career in the State Department Foreign Service, such as public administration, public policy, international relations, business administration, economics, history, political science, communications, or foreign languages at a graduate school that is approved by the Pickering Program. Studies in law do not satisfy this requirement. 

Internships and Mentoring: Fellows will participate in two internships. The first, an internship working at the U.S. Department of State headquarters in Washington, DC, will occur in the summer in between their first and second year of graduate study. The second internship will be an overseas placement in a U.S. Embassy or Consulate that takes place during the summer after fellows’ graduation. The program provides additional support for summer travel, housing, and other related expenses. In addition, fellows will receive mentoring from a Foreign Service Officer for the duration of the fellowship.

Deadline Information

National Deadline: Thursday, September 29, 2022


Orientation: Fellows will participate in an orientation at Howard University in early June 2023. The purpose of this orientation is to familiarize the Fellows with all aspects of the fellowship and to enhance their understanding of, and skills for, Foreign Service careers.

Service: Each Fellow who obtains a master’s degree is committed to a minimum of five years of service in the Foreign Service. Candidates who do not successfully complete the Pickering Program and the subsequent five-year service obligation may be subject to a reimbursement obligation. See more information here.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Be a US citizen.
  • Seek admission to enter graduate school in the fall of 2023 for a two-year program at a U.S. university in an area of relevance to the Foreign Service.
  • Have a minimum GPA of 3.2.

Application Process

A complete application includes the following:

  • Personal background information
  • A personal statement (600 words)
  • A statement of financial need (400 words)
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Student Aid Report 
  • Official Financial Aid Statement from senior year, if financial aid was received
  • Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended for credit
  • GRE or GMAT Scores (optional)

Preparing a Competitive Application: The program seeks individuals who show clear interest in a Foreign Service career with the U.S. Department of State, along with a strong academic background, a commitment to service, leadership skills, financial need for graduate school, diverse interests in areas such as international affairs and government, cultural sensitivity, writing skills, and an ability to demonstrate resilience. A good application shows an applicant's unique motivations, experiences, accomplishments, and goals for a Foreign Service career. Please see application tips here.

UChicago Support: First, please email Sandra Zupan to seek general assistance with your application. Next, once you fully develop and write your essays set up a meeting with Sandra at least two weeks the application deadlineDuring the meeting you will obtain detailed feedback and suggestions for further revisions.

For more information on this opportunity, please contact: 
Sandra Zupan