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Fellowships

What is a Fellowship?

While the term "fellowship" is used by a variety of different programs, generally fellowships:

  • are short-term opportunities lasting from a few months to several years
  • focus on the professional development of the fellow
  • are sponsored by a specific association or organization seeking to expand leadership in their field

Fellowship programs can be designed to support a range of activities including:

  • graduate study in a specific field
  • research to advance work on a particular issue
  • developing a new community-based organization or initiative
  • training and reflection to support the fellow's growth
  • opportunities to further explore a particular field of work

Fellowships have traditionally been awarded to graduate and post-graduate students, but there are an increasing number of fellowships available to recent college graduates in public policy, the arts, education, and other nonprofit fields.

Benefits of a Fellowship

Experiential Learning

Fellowships are structured to provide significant work experiences, and fellows are often expected to take on a great deal of responsibility quickly. Generally, fellows are provided with unique experiences that are not typically available to someone starting out in an entry-level position. This experiential learning component varies depending upon the fellowship program.

Training and Professional Development

Fellowship programs are known for their commitment to the professional development of individual fellows and often include intensive training. Key elements of this training might include:

  • academic seminars to develop frameworks and apply theory
  • in-depth research and analysis of a particular issue area
  • a broad curriculum of skills development: leadership, community organizing, public speaking, grant writing, media relation

Compensation

Compensation is often considered the biggest drawback of a fellowship. Although most fellowship programs do provide a living allowance or stipend, it is typically not comparable to the salary of a full-time job. This financial compensation varies greatly - stipends can range from $10,000 to up to $25,000 for a 9-12 month program.

Other incentives are often provided to fellows such as healthcare coverage, student loan repayment assistance, and housing stipends.

The Application Process

Although eligibility requirements vary with the fellowship, most programs do look for:

  • motivation, self-direction and personal integrity
  • highly developed interpersonal and writing skills
  • demonstrated leadership and potential for continued leadership

Applications can be extensive and often include a resume, transcript, letters of recommendation and writing sample. Depending on the fellowship, there may be additional application materials required as well.

In addition, the application to most programs includes an interview, either a series of individual interviews, a single panel interview, or situational group interviews in which candidates work together to devise responses to a problem or question.

Tips and Listings

  1. Search fellowship sites such as:
  2. Search job listings - Do a keyword search "fellowship" while reviewing online job listings. Also search for "internships" - some internships are essentially fellowships. Idealist.org is a particularly good website for this type of search.
  3. Network - The nonprofit community is very collaborative and can provide good word-of-mouth information.
  4. Identify organizations of interest to you - Contact them to see if they offer fellowships.
  5. Talk to current fellows - Get the inside story. They are expecting to hear from prospective fellows. Most fellowship websites profile current and former fellows. There may be an alum from your campus who has been a recent fellow.
 
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This page last updated 7/18/2012 (jw)