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 overcomeobstacles

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 inthe Foreign Service.
  • I possess adequate academic preparation for the chosen graduate program.
  • I can demonstrate the need for financial assistance to attend graduate school.

What is the Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship? The Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship is a U.S. Department of State program that seeks to attract and prepare outstanding young people who  have an interest in pursuing a Foreign Service career in the U.S. Department of State. Upon successful completion of a two-year master’s degree program and fulfillment of Foreign Service entry requirements, fellows work as Foreign Service Officers in Washington, DC and at a U.S. embassy, consulate, or diplomatic mission around the globe. 

The U.S. Department of State is committed to promoting a workforce that reflects the rich diversity of America. Therefore, applicants should strive to reflect on their talents, experiences, perspectives and backgrounds broadly, including geographic region, rural, urban, religion, sexual orientation, disability, first generation student, immigrant origin etc. The application of members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the Foreign Service, women, and those with financial need is encouraged.

Fellowship Benefits: The program awards approximately 45 fellowships of up to $42,000 annually for a two-year period for tuition, room, board, books, and mandatory fees for completion of two-year master’s degrees. 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 international affairs or a related subject such as public administration, public policy, international relations, business administration, economics, history, political science, communications, or foreign languages at a graduate school approved by the Pickering Program. 

Internships and Mentoring: Fellows 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 receive mentoring from a Foreign Service Officer for the duration of the fellowship.

Deadline Information

National Deadline: Wednesday, October 21, 2020


Orientation: Fellows participate in an orientation at Howard University, May 30 – June 5, 2021. 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 2021 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:

  • Backrgound information
  • A personal statement (600 words)
  • A short essay (350 words)
  • A statement of financial need (400 words)
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Student Aid Report 
  • GRE or GMAT Scores (optional)
  • Official Financial Aid Statement from senior year, if financial aid was received
  • Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended for credit

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 overcome obstacles. A good application shows an applicant's unique motivations, experiences, accomplishments, and career goals. Please see application tips here.

UChicago Resources and Support: Please email Sandra Zupan to seek assistance with your application. Next, once you fully develop and write your essays set up a meeting with Sandra at least a month before the application deadline During the meeting you will obtain detailed feedback and suggestions for further revisions.

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