By Sarah Cunningham, Marketing and Recruitment Specialist at The Rotary Foundation
Although the application window for fellowship programs is generally short, applying for a fellowship is a long-term process requiring research, planning, outreach, and perseverance. Here are seven critical application steps we’ve learned from 15 years reviewing and selecting finalists for the Rotary Peace Fellowship.
- Verify eligibility before embarking on the application process. This might seem obvious, but every year we receive a large number of submissions from applicants who invested valuable time in completing an application, but who do not meet the minimum eligibility requirements. The Rotary Peace Fellowship application includes an eligibility quiz to simplify this step. Like many fellowship programs, we look for candidates that have strong leadership skills, a compelling personal narrative, and a commitment to the mission of our program. In addition, applicants must also be proficient in English and have the required minimum full-time relevant work experience.
- Develop a plan. For any fellowship it’s critical to develop a plan before you start. Be sure to read application guidelines thoroughly to understand the scope of the process and to determine the steps you’ll need to complete by the application deadline. Many fellowships include a checklist – use it!
- Research and outreach. Some fellowships offer one program option while others offer a menu of options. The Rotary Peace Fellowship offers six Master’s programs and a certificate program. Research fellowship options fully and identify the program that best fits your qualifications and career goals. After you’ve done ample research, reach out to current or former fellows and ask thoughtful questions that cannot be found online.
- Gather all required documents. Many fellowships require university transcripts, a tailored resume/CV, test scores, and recommendation letters. Gathering these documents takes time. We never enjoy turning away otherwise qualified candidates because of missing documents, but a deadline is a deadline. Download the Rotary Peace Center Application guidelines.
- Prepare for the interview. The Rotary Peace Fellowship requires applicants to interview with a Rotary district for endorsement. Be sure to research the organization and individuals you will be interviewing with and arrive prepared with a copy of your application and supplemental materials. Prior to your interview do something you enjoy, like taking a walk in nature, singing to warm up your vocal chords, or practicing power poses. This will help you be relaxed, authentic, and allow your true personality to shine. Brush up on your interview skills by practicing with a friend or colleague. We often direct candidates to the PCDN website for interview tips.
- Prepare powerful essays or a personal statement. This is the most critical part of most fellowship applications. The best essays are intriguing, honest, specific, well organized, not repetitive, grammatically correct, and clearly answer the questions being asked. Be sure to include an intriguing opening and end with a strong closing statement. Demonstrate why you have chosen your particular career path and how the fellowship will help you achieve your future goals.
- Edit, Edit, Edit! Spend ample time reviewing your application to ensure it is free of careless mistakes. Review your essays to ensure they are consistent with information on your resume/CV. Have friends or colleagues review your application. Revisit and revise your essays several times before submitting your application.
Lastly, be persistent! Persistence is often a key to securing the fellowship you desire. In the case of the Rotary Peace Fellowship program, 30 percent of our 2018 selected fellows applied the previous year. Don’t assume that if you are not selected one year, that you will not be selected the following year. However, do make improvements to your application by acquiring new leadership experiences before the next application cycle.