Fellowship Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to apply for a fellowship?

U.S. citizens who demonstrate a commitment to civic responsibilities and to professional and collegial activities and who qualify for admission with graduate standing at an accredited U.S. university that offers a qualifying master's degree program are eligible to apply. Applicants must be committed to teaching American history, American government, or civics classes where you will teach topics on the Constitution full-time in grades 7–12.

What is a "qualifying master's degree program"?

The fellowships are intended exclusively for graduate study leading to a master's degree. James Madison Fellows may attend any accredited institution of higher education in the United States. Each individual entering the James Madison Fellowship Program will be expected to pursue and complete a master's degree in one of the following (listed in order of the Foundation's preference):

  • Master of Arts (MA) in American history, political science, or government
  • Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) concentrating on either American Constitutional history (in a history department) or American government, political institutions, or political theory (in a political science department). MAT degrees without required constitutional coursework cannot be approved.
  • Master of Education (MEd) or the Master of Arts or Master of Science in Education with a concentration in American history or American government, political institutions, and political theory

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I already have a graduate degree. May I still apply for a James Madison Fellowship?

Yes, but the Foundation will strongly encourage the second master's degree to be a "content degree," i.e., Master’s of Arts (MA) in American history, political science, or government.

What are the selection criteria?

Applicants compete only against other applicants from the states of their legal residence. Applicants are evaluated on their demonstrated commitment to a career teaching American history, American government, or civics classes where you will teach topics on the Constitution at the secondary school level; demonstrated intent to pursue and complete a program of graduate study that emphasizes the Constitution and offers instruction in that subject; demonstrated devotion to civic responsibility; demonstrated capacity for study and performance as classroom teachers, and their proposed courses of graduate study. Applicants will be evaluated without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, political affiliation, marital status, sexual orientation or other non-merit factors.

How can I prepare an outstanding application?

A well thought out and reviewed application is key to being awarded a James Madison Fellowship. Review these tips to help you prepare an exemplary application.

Who selects the applicants?

An independent Fellowship Selection Committee is organized by Scholarship America to evaluate all valid applications submitted by the annual deadline. The Fellowship Selection Committee will review and rate each application on a merit basis. The Fellowship Selection Committee will then recommend to the Foundation the top applicants to be awarded a James Madison Fellowship.

How many fellowships are awarded?

The number of fellowships awarded is determined by the amount of funding (from government sources or from private donations) available in any given year. It is, however, the goal of the Foundation to select annually a James Madison Fellow from each state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and a single territorial entity (Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) from which at least two fully qualified applications, meeting the minimum requirements are received.

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Why are there two types of fellowships (junior and senior) and what's the difference between the two?

There are two types of fellowships to recognize the different challenges and circumstances between those without teaching experience and those currently teaching who seek to pursue graduate study. Junior fellowships are awarded to outstanding college seniors and college graduates without teaching experience who intend to become secondary school teachers of American history, American government, or any civics classes where you will teach topics on the Constitution in grades 7–12. Junior Fellows must complete graduate study within 2 academic years of full-time study. Senior fellowships are awarded to superior current teachers who must be able to complete graduate study within 5 calendar years.

If I'm awarded a fellowship, can I develop a plan of study for a doctoral program with courses counting toward a Master of Arts degree?

James Madison fellowships cannot be used to support doctoral-level study or law degrees.

If I'm awarded a fellowship as a Senior Fellow, could I pursue graduate study full time if my school of employment allows me a sabbatical or leave of absence?

Yes; however, the Foundation cannot provide over $12,000 in any academic year.

If I'm awarded a fellowship, what kind of courses would fulfill the required constitutional coursework?

Examples of constitutional content courses include: constitutional history; legal history; political science courses in federalism, presidency, Congress, the judiciary, American political thought, political and legal philosophy.

If I'm awarded a fellowship, can I attend a university outside of my legal state of residence?

Yes, provided the proposed course of graduate study offers a qualifying master's degree program within the United States and allows at least 12 semester hours or their equivalent of study of the origins, principles, and development of the U.S. Constitution.

What is the value of a fellowship award?

The maximum amount of each award is $24,000, prorated over the period of study. In no case shall the award exceed $12,000 for one academic year of study. Normally, Fellows receive less than these maximum amounts. Payments are made only for the actual costs of tuition, required fees, books, and room and board, and are made only for the minimum number of credits required for the award of the degree for which a Fellow is registered.

Thank you so much for the great gift you bestowed on me and my students.

— Christy Marrella-Davis, Fellow from New Jersey

Why are there two Foundation offices and phone numbers?

The Foundation and staff are located in Alexandria, VA. The program operations are conducted there, including the administration of fellowships and the provision of services for alumni Fellows. The Foundation contracts with Scholarship America to assist with the recruitment and national competition process. The Scholarship America office located in Saint Peter, MN distributes, receives, and evaluates applications.

Where can I obtain an application?

The application is available at www.jamesmadison.gov and click "APPLY NOW!"

When are applications due?

Completed applications must be submitted online no later than March 1 of each year. Transcript(s) must be received at the Saint Peter, MN, office address before or on March 1. Letters of recommendation must be submitted online by March 6. More information

When are applicants notified of their selection?

The Fellow Selection Committee meets to recommend the appointment of Fellows to the Foundation in late March of each year, and James Madison Fellows are named by the Foundation and notified of their selection in late April or early May.

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Fellows attending the annual James Madison lecture in the United States Senate

What are a Fellow's obligations to the Foundation during his/her graduate education?

Each Fellow must make satisfactory progress toward the degree and remain in good academic standing and must complete the graduate degree study within the amount of time indicated above. Junior Fellows may not be engaged in gainful employment that interferes with the Fellow's studies. In addition, each Fellow is required to attend the Foundation's Summer Institute during the term of fellowship. The four-week Summer Institute is held in Washington, D.C., each summer. The centerpiece of the Institute is a graduate course, "The Foundations of American Constitutionalism." In addition to the graduate coursework, participants will have the opportunity to visit historic sites associated with the institutions of American government and the Constitution's framers. Fellows are required to submit annually a Verification of Employment form (for those teaching) and an Annual Activities Report.

When does a Fellow attend the Summer Institute?

Fellows normally attend the Summer Institute the summer after the year they have been admitted to a master's degree program and taken six or more credits at the graduate level.

What is a Fellow's obligation after graduate study is completed?

After receiving the master's degree, each Fellow must teach American history, American government, or civics classes where you will teach topics on the Constitution in grades 7–12 for one full year for each academic year of aid received under a fellowship, preferably in the state from which the recipient won the fellowship. Teaching during the term of the fellowship study does not count toward satisfaction of this obligation, nor does transfer into an administrative position or to college or university teaching. A Fellow's failure to complete the study for which the fellowship is awarded, to attend the Summer Institute on the Constitution, or to teach a qualifying subject in grades 7–12 for the requisite amount of time entailed by the award will result in forfeiture of the fellowship and require the return of all funds paid under the fellowship, plus applicable interest under federal law.

After completing graduate education, when does a Fellow start the professional teaching obligation?

The Foundation requires that Fellows teach immediately following the award of the master's degree.

The Madison Fellowship is one of the proudest professional accomplishments of my career.

— Chris Cavanaugh, Fellow from Indiana