When Vicki Johnson, Founder and Director of ProFellow.com, graduated from college in 2001, she came across fellowships and discovered a world of new opportunities and experiences. In her early career, she used fellowships for career growth and to work abroad. She was first selected for the New York City Urban Fellows program, and through this fellowship, entered the field of public health. Since that time, Vicki has participated in four competitive fellowships, including positions in Germany and New Zealand.
Despite Vicki’s success in applying for fellowships, finding fellowship opportunities was a bit difficult. She often found out about them through word of mouth or deep Internet research. She even kept a list of fellowships in a Word document, but lost them all after her computer crashed. People would often ask her how she would find them, which provided Vicki with a source of inspiration. She wanted to make the search for fellowships easier and faster. She and her husband Ryan decided to develop a centralized website for information on fellowships, which led to the creation of ProFellow. The website was founded in 2011 and is now the number one place to find fellowships. The website includes a free, searchable database of more than 850 fellowship programs all over the world and includes articles on application tips written by former fellows.
Vicki designed the website based on her own experience and extensive user feedback so that no one will ever have to keep a fellowship list on a Word document again. One way she did this was by adding a bookmark feature on the website so that users can view applicants they are interested in later.
Vicki Johnson also published a how-to guide on applying for fellowships. She advises prospective applicants to search for fellowships based on the experiences they want to have. For example, students can search for summer fellowships and experienced professionals can search for fellowships in their respective. You can filter fellowships in the database by type and discipline, or you can type in a keyword, such as “public policy” or “visual arts,” to find more. Applicants should keep the search broad, skim the fellowship descriptions, and save applications of interest. It is important to keep in mind that many fellowships are multidisciplinary, meaning they recruit applicants from many academic and professional fields.
How does one stay up to date with deadlines? The ProFellow staff checks deadlines often in order to keep the fellowship listings up to date. Vicki advises that it is also important to check the websites of fellowships you are interested in as deadlines often change.
As a fellowship expert, Vicki has found these 4 tips to be the foundation for a successful application:
1) If the fellowship requests that you design your own project, it is important that you be specific about your project proposal and what you aim to accomplish. Be sure to demonstrate that you have the right skills and experiences to successfully complete the project.
2) Portray your skills, but do not be too broad. If it is a fellowship seeking leaders, give clear examples of leadership positions, team projects you’ve led, and initiatives you’re spearheaded.
3) Do not spend too much time describing previous experience. It is important that applicants also describe what their plans are for the future and how the fellowship will help you reach your personal and professional goals.
4) Be honest and tell a story about yourself. Do not be afraid to put your personality in it. Fellowships often look for open-minded and social individuals.
No matter what your professional aspirations may be, it is good practice to start looking fellowships and considering how they will help you in the future.
Vicki Johnson is a four-time fellow and the Founder of ProFellow.com, the leading online platform for information on professional and academic fellowships.
Contributor: Laissa Alexis