Online applications are accepted beginning in October through the deadline in early February. Applicants move through the three stages of the process (outlined below) based on their eligibility, academic achievement, faculty endorsements, and interview. Successful finalists are admitted to the program in early April and formally join the cohort in May. Transfer students are awarded conditional fellowships, pending acceptance to UCR and completion of the UCR Statement of Intent to Register (SIR). New fellows then attend a summer research program at UCR designed to help prepare them to begin research in the fall quarter.

Find more information about each step by clicking on the + links below.

Pay close attention to the instructions and deadlines for each step.

The UC Riverside Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship application process is organized into three stages.

Stage 1 is an online application that collects basic information and helps the committee determine your eligibility for the program. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you will be invited to move to Stage 2.

In Stage 2, you submit supporting documentation and ask faculty for letters of recommendation. After review of the applications, supporting documentation, and letters of reference, the committee compiles a short list of finalists to invite for interviews.

In Stage 3, finalists are invited to meet with the committee to talk about the program, research interests, and future goals. The committee then selects up to five finalists for admission to the program.

APPLY NOW! (Click on this link to access the application)

Notes on completing the application:

  • Please provide an email that you can access easily. Email will be the primary method of communication with our program.
  • You will be prompted to submit your contact information, GPA, major, number of units completed, and other basic information. After you complete the application, click SUBMIT. You will receive an email confirming your submission. (If you do not receive the confirmation email within a few hours, contact us.)

Note: Apply as soon as you can! Stage 1 applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and applicants are informed as soon as their eligibility has been confirmed. We strongly encourage early submissions of the Stage 1 application so that you have sufficient time to complete Stage 2.

Students majoring in one of the Mellon-designated fields below may apply to the program. A second major and/or minor in other fields is allowed, but applicants must intend to pursue graduate studies in a Mellon-approved field. If you have questions about your major or your eligibility for the program, contact us.

Anthropology & Archaeology
Area/Cultural/Ethnic/Gender Studies

Art History
Geography & Population Studies
Film, Cinema & Media Studies (theoretical focus)
Musicology, Ethnomusicology & Music Theory
Foreign Languages & Literatures
Performance Studies (theoretical focus)
Philosophy & Political Theory
Religion & Theology
Theater (theoretical focus)


After your eligibility has been confirmed via the Stage 1 application, you will be asked to submit the following documents by 11:59pm Pacific Time, Monday, February 27, 2023.

A complete Stage 2 application will include the following:

  • Three (3) Short Essays: You will submit three (3) short essays that respond to specific prompts about your research interests, academic activity, and goals for applying to the MMUF program. Please find these prompts in the “Short Essay Prompts” section below.
  • Writing Sample: You will submit a sample of your strongest academic writing (up to 1,500 words or 5 double-spaced pages, not including references or bibliography). Make sure that this sample highlights the kind of thinker you are and/or the kind of research you want to do.
  • Transcript(s): You will submit a copy of your unofficial college transcript(s). The transcript(s) should contain your current GPA and course list/grades for all undergraduate classes you have taken to date. UCR students can request a free copy as an e-transcript under “Transcripts and Verifications” in their R’Web account.

**Please note that letter writers will send in their letters to us directly. See the “Letters of Recommendation” tab below for details.

  • Two (2) Letters of Recommendation: Please ask your recommenders to send letters directly to with your full name in the subject line. It is your responsibility to follow up with your letter writers to ensure that they submit by the deadline. (For advice on soliciting letters, please see the next section below.)

Stage 2 applicants will craft three (3) short essays, each of which will respond to each specific prompt below.

Prompt #1
In up to 500 words, describe the academic and life experiences and encounters that have helped to shape your intellectual development. Please use the following questions to develop your response:

  • Why do I want to participate in MMUF?
  • What courses have been most influential in shaping my interests and motivating me?
  • Why did I choose my major? What issues, questions and themes stimulate and sustain my intellectual curiosity?
  • Why would I like to enter a PhD program in my field and pursue a career as a college/university professor?
  • Who are my intellectual mentors or role models?

Prompt #2
For this essay, please first carefully review the eligibility criteria for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, specifically the following criteria:

(1) race and ethnicity, in relation to their underrepresentation in designated fields of study;
(2) demonstrated commitment to the goals of MMUF: to reduce the serious underrepresenta­tion of faculties of individuals from minority groups, as well as to address the consequences of these racial disparities for the educational system itself and for the larger society that it serves. Examples of such commitment might include serious undergraduate research into racial dispari­ties in higher education; a strong record of tutoring students from underrepresented groups; sustained mentoring of children from such groups; or other forms of community service or leadership activities in campus or off-campus organizations.

In up to 500 words, make an argument for why you are the right fit for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program and its mission “to address, over time, the problem of underrepresentation in the academy at the level of college and university faculties.” Explain how your background, personal goals, and commitment to diversity reflect the legacy of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, for whom the Mellon Mays program is named. A biography of Dr. Mays can be viewed at

Prompt #3
During their two years in the program, Mellon Mays fellows develop an independent research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. In up to 500 words, propose a research theme that you might be interested in developing as a Mellon Mays Fellow. [Note: You may not have research experience and this may be the first time you have thought about a research project of your own. That’s ok! We are interested in hearing about a topic that interests you and how you might develop a project on that topic, based on what you know right now.]

Consider these questions as you prepare your response:

  • What is a research topic or theme that you are interested in studying?
  • What draws you to this question? What are your goals and objectives for the project? Include a highlight of any coursework you have taken relating to the research question.
  • What other scholars have studied this topic (based on what you know so far from courses or your own reading) that is similar to what you’re proposing? How would your research do something different or add to that existing scholarship?
  • Have you been working with a professor on this research topic, or is there a faculty member you think could help you think through this project? What might you hope to gain from this mentoring relationship?

Please submit a sample of your strongest academic writing (up to 1,500 words or 5 double-spaced pages, not including references or bibliography). Make sure that this sample highlights the kind of thinker you are and/or the kind of research you want to do.

The writing may contain creative elements, as long as it also demonstrates analysis and argumentation with a thesis statement and supporting evidence. The writing sample need not be on the same topic as your proposed MMUF research, and there is no need to write anything new. Instead, you can use a clean copy (without instructor’s comments) of something you already submitted for a college class.

Please submit an unofficial copy of all undergraduate transcript(s). The transcript(s) should contain your current GPA and course list/grades for all undergraduate classes you have taken to date. UCR students can request a free copy as an e-transcript under “Transcripts and Verifications” in their R’Web account.

You must submit TWO (2) letters of recommendation to complete your Stage 2 application submission. Letters from faculty members at UCR or your current institution are preferred, since they can best comment on your academic/research skills. Advisors, mentors, and graduate student TAs may also write letters on your behalf.

The best advice on requesting letters of recommendation is: Don’t wait! Faculty and mentors write stronger letters of recommendation for students they know well and who ask them early (ideally 4 weeks in advance). This means that you should ask your potential letter writers early, meet with them during their office hours, and provide them with information about our program and your interest in it. You should also provide them with information about yourself. This includes, but is not limited to, your academic interests, resume, and extracurricular activities. Finally, it is a good idea to show your letter writers drafts of your application documents (personal essay, research statement, writing sample). They will get a better sense of how you are presenting yourself, and they will be able to provide you valuable feedback on your application documents.

Feel free to contact us for advice on requesting letters.

After careful review of all supporting documentation and letters of recommendation, the committee selects a short list of students to interview in the final stage of the application process. The interview gives finalists the opportunity to ask questions about the program and allows the committee an opportunity to learn more about the applicant’s future plans and interests. Of those interviewed, the committee offers admittance to no more than five students per year.


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