8 Tips to Follow for Obtaining a Fellowship

Elizabeth Hoyt

June 23, 2015

8 Tips to Follow for Obtaining a Fellowship
Fellowships can take your research (and your career) to new heights and some even offer financial and travel rewards.
If you’re hoping to obtain a fellowship, the competition can be stiff. But it’s worth it – fellowships can take your research (and your career) to new heights and some even offer financial and travel rewards. No matter what your career goals, obtaining a coveted fellowship can make your dreams a reality. Here’s what you should know before submitting a fellowship application:

1. Find a Fellowship That Fits

If you aren’t sure of what your goals are in taking on a fellowship, stop and think about it. Fellowships can be a lot of work and if you don’t think you’ll enjoy the opportunity or get much out of it, there’s no point in applying. Make sure the fellowships you’re applying for offer rewards that suit your needs. Ask yourself questions, such as:
• Will I get something out of this experience?
• Will I learn from this experience?
• What will I accomplish by taking on this opportunity?
• Will this help with my overall career goals?
• Am I passionate about the work or research I’d be taking on?
• Will this enhance me, both personally and professionally?

2. Determine Your Eligibility

Believe it or not, even though fellowships are technically based on your academic record, it’s not set in stone. Don’t count out a fellowship just because you meet the minimum requirements. Most committees selecting fellowship candidates are looking for balance between your academic record and your personality. They want assurance that you’ll work hard, you’re responsible and are able to accomplish the tasks at hand. That being said, most fellowships do outline eligibility requirements. Make sure you fit the minimum criteria before applying so you don’t waste your time or theirs. Some fellowships are academically based, while others are geared towards gaining experience within a certain field. You should have no problem finding a fellowship with so many available. The right fellowship will suit both your academic status and your personality.

3. Show Your Personality

Never stick to the responses you think selection committees are looking to read. What they are really looking for are stand-out candidates that aren’t afraid to be risk-takers. Think of your personal statement, essays and portfolio as your time to shine and show off your individuality. Utilize the required entry materials as your opportunity to set yourself apart from the pile of candidates and truly reflect your passions.

4. Think Through Your Project Proposal

Essentially, you need to create a project proposal that sells. You need to convince a selection committee that your project is valuable. Ask yourself if your project has real world applications, something selection committees are always looking for – and make sure you’re able to explain how you can make it happen. Your goals should be realistic in nature and you should provide realistic goals for the time of the fellowship. The committee will want to see that you’ve thought out your proposal and will want to hear the expected outcomes. Don’t leave them guessing – outline what your work goals are, how you plan to accomplish them and why you’re qualified to do so.

5. Give Examples of Related Experience

Sure, you can say you’re capable. But concrete evidence is really your key to obtaining your goal. Share your strengths, learning experiences and successes in related areas to demonstrate that you’re up for the task. Demonstrating what you’d bring to the role will allow the selection committee to validate your candidacy and picture you as a success, since you have already had successes in the past.

6. Obtain Stellar Recommendations

A great recommendation comes from someone who knows you (and your work) well. These are absolutely essential to having a successful fellowship application. Make sure each of your references can attest to your previous work, your successes and you as a potential candidate. Ensure you have great recommendations by providing everyone with your resume and going over your job experience before they are contacted. Talk to each person about why you’re applying for the particular opportunity, what makes you passionate about it and the strengths you possess that would make you an outstanding candidate for the position. While you’re never going to tell your references what to say, it’s your responsibility to provide them with thorough, accurate information so that they are able to reference your experiences and your personality – not one or the other.

7. Give a Great Interview

This is much easier said than done. The best advice is to be as real as possible. Feel free to practice your responses, but not so much that they come off as too formal, rehearsed or scripted. While you should always be professional, focus on showing your personality and your passion for the opportunity. Coming across as indifferent to the specific opportunity (which is often the result with rehearsed answers) is a surefire way to get into the reject pile. Know the details of the fellowship you’re applying for and speak to why you want that specific opportunity. If you’re the candidate that’s right for the job, that will be enough to win over any committee.

8. Put Your Heart & Soul Into It

The most successful candidates are generally those who are passionate about the topic and are able to convey this across the board - within your application materials, the people you choose to use as references and the interview. The key to successfully being offered a fellowship opportunity is being strong in all categories, not just one particular area. The winning formula is good old-fashioned hard work, experience, passion and drive. If you can convey that you have all of those essential elements, you’re likely going to be considered a great candidate.

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