There’s an abundance of content on the internet to help you navigate your college application process. However, when it comes to fellowships, there is a scarcity of literature that offers specific, condensed advice on how to cruise through the fellowship essay writing process. Applying to fellowships can be quite challenging, thanks to its competitive nature and highly-qualified applicant pool. These applications demand thorough introspection and reflection about one’s academic and occupational choices; sifting through this and identifying key metrics to include in your essay can be difficult.
To lighten this load, the co-founder of Application Ally—a boutique student mentorship program—Arya Diwase, has answered 4 FAQs that can help you strengthen your fellowship application essay. She is a recipient of the William J. Clinton Fellowship, American India Foundation, where 1 of 20 individuals were chosen from 1000+ applicants to work with developmental organisations in Indian on scalable and sustainable solutions in the field of education, livelihood and public health. Here’s her take on how to address these commonly asked questions, read on to know more.
1. Share your story with us.
This is a challenging question and from my mentoring experience, I can say that a lot of clients struggle to answer this one. My advice is simple - create a mind map with the following sections. Firstly, list down the values that are important to you. Second, note down your work experience and highlight the different sectors you’ve explored. Add information about the beneficiaries and the skills you’ve picked up. Once you have this information, try to find common themes. For eg. Does your work have a specific subject? Have you targetedly worked towards serving a particular community? Find a common thread across all experiences using a mind map and explore that. That’s your story.
2. Tell us something special and personal about yourself that you bring to the table.
A question that requires exhaustive self-research. This involves exploring every aspect of your life that makes you, you. This could be anything - your family background, gender, religion, heritage, interests and so on. Identify how few, all or one of these aspects have made an impact in your life. It’s important to elaborate on the ‘how’ of it, rather than just listing it. For example, you might hail from a small town - explain the impact of it and how it’s made you realise the importance of a tightly-knit community. Once you’ve explained the impact add how this will help you navigate the fellowship, how you will strive to build a community and bring people together. Avoid simply listing elements that make you stand out, explain how they motivate you and how you will use this to your advantage while pursuing said fellowship.
3. Describe a time when you disagreed with something in a community or culture different from your own. What happened and why?
Answer this question with a specific experience and avoid being vague. Explain the challenge you faced in crisp sentences, keep it unbiased and reportative. Next, reflect on what was preventing you from achieving success with said interaction. Were you simply shy? Did you feel like you didn’t have the means to communicate? Or that your voice was overpowered? Examine the reason why. Once you identify the ‘why’ of it, include the assertive steps you took to overcome it. Conclude with an explanation of the outcome that was a result of the steps. It’s best to follow a sequential process when it comes to addressing challenge-based questions. Maintain a sensible flow.
4. What draws you to XYZ Fellowship at this time?
Scan your CV and identify any holes in your profile. This will help you understand how the fellowship can help stitch these gaps together. Be specific about these gaps. For example, do you have an absence of multicultural experiences? Have you never worked in a service role before? Follow up these yes and no questions with why that gap is holding you back. Include how the fellowship might offer a diverse cultural experience that your profile lacks. To put it simply, include pointed answers about why there’s an absence of a certain experience and how this fellowship will fill the gaps and enrich your profile. Conduct ample research about the fellowship program and understand how it can strengthen your profile. Your knowledge of the fellowship has to be extremely intensive.