The purpose of the NAFA is to provide its membership with access to information concerning national undergraduate and graduate grants, scholarships, and fellowships, as well as the foundations and agencies that support them. NAFA also provides a format for the exchange of ideas concerning the application process, scholarship foundations, and the ethical issues related to scholarship advising. The long-term goal is to provide support for faculty and staff who are assisting students through the process of applying for grants, scholarships, and fellowships.
Scholarship advising has taken place in one form or another for as long as scholarships have existed. The oldest scholarship, the Rhodes, was created in 1904. The Fulbright was established in 1946; the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, in 1952; and the Marshall Scholarship, in 1953. As more and more Americans began to pursue higher education and postgraduate study in the sixties and the seventies, government and private organizations offered more funding to support students whose achievements matched their interests. The Truman Scholarship was first awarded in 1977–1978; the first Goldwater, in 1986; and the first Udall Scholarship, in 1996. Fellowship advising developed as a profession in response to this growing number of scholarships as universities realized that organizing the competitions and preparing the students took time and effort. The foundations’ practice of requesting that university presidents appoint people to recruit students for their awards and shepherd them through the process established the need for a campus facilitator for scholarships. In this way foundations fostered the development of the field of fellowship advising.
By the late 1990s many fellowships advisors and foundation representatives had long realized that supporting students as they applied for nationally competitive awards was valuable as a process in itself, helping to expand those served and increasing student reflection and planning, as well as student success. Nancy Twiss, from Kansas State University, was one of these early scholarship advisors. She played a critical role in the beginning of the National Association of Fellowships Advisors (NAFA), though she retired before the organization was founded. The combination of a growing number of nationally competitive scholarships, the creation of the role of scholarship advisor, and the increasing need for communication between advisors and foundations set the stage for the development of NAFA.