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YouthActionNet Blog

How to Take Your Fellowship Application to the Next Level

Jessie Elisberg | February 15, 2016

Here at YouthActionNet, this is always an exciting time of year— we’ll see hundreds of young leaders from around the world apply to become one of the 20 social entrepreneurs selected for the Laureate Global Fellowship. Every year, we receive applications from amazing innovators doing fascinating and critical work in their communities. In order to convey your story effectively, it’s important to thoroughly and thoughtfully complete your application.

Here are five tips to help your application stand out from the crowd:

1. Take your time

We know there are a lot of questions, but consider the application process as an opportunity to reflect on your great work and experience! Every question is important to the selection process, so if you skip questions or only give half-answers, the judges will likely pass you over and go for someone who put a strong effort into the entire application. Each question must be complete and have a tailored response—please don’t copy and paste generic answers from other materials!

2. Pay attention to details

Most people who apply are not native English speakers, so the judges are not expecting perfect spelling and grammar. However, to get the most out of the fellowship, you’ll need to be able to communicate in English, and it’s important to demonstrate in your application that you can do that. Make sure that you’re following the instructions throughout the application; you might be surprised how many people don’t.

3. Focus your message

You may have a lot of things you want to communicate about yourself and your venture, but word limits require that you pare down your thoughts into succinct responses. Think through the most unique and compelling elements of your venture and clearly communicate these points.  After you finish your response to a question, re-read the question and answer. Ask yourself: Did I fully answer the question? Will the reader have a clear takeaway?

4. Consider your audience

You should assume that the people reading your application don’t know you, aren’t familiar with the field you’re working in, and may not be knowledgeable about the place you’re working in either. Avoid jargon and include important contextual information that might help the reader better understand your work. But don’t forget about #3 – stay focused on the details that matter most!

5. Be honest

It’s always disappointing when we find an applicant who embellished their accomplishments (can you really claim 13,000,000 beneficiaries?) or used someone else’s video for the video submission in the application (yes, that HAS happened!). The truth is – we’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for honesty, openness, and willingness to learn.

Video Tips:

We’re more interested in substance than “polish.” Yes, the video needs to be high-enough quality that we can understand you, and we appreciate seeing the effort to show your project activities or your team, but some of the most effective video entries I’ve seen were simply the applicant sitting in front of their web cam and talking about their work. Remember that the video is another opportunity for the judges to get to know you, not for them to get to know your friend who can do really cool video editing tricks.

Remember: Videos must be original responses to the specific questions in the video portion of the application—use of pre-existing program videos will result in application disqualification.

I hope that applicants will find these tips helpful as they prepare to apply for the Laureate Global Fellowship. We’re looking forward to seeing your application soon!

Jessie Elisberg is a YouthActionNet Program and Operations Manager; she leads the Laureate Global Fellowship program as well as network development in Sub-Saharan Africa.