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
  • Focused on the professional development of the fellow
  • 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.

  • 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 a few thousand for the summer months, to $10,000 – $25,000 for a 9 – 12 month program. Still others can compensate in the $40,000 – $65,000 annually and last for up to a 2-year period. Other incentives are often provided to fellows such as healthcare coverage, student loan repayment assistance, and housing stipends.

*Adapted from Berkeley, University of California, Career Center Website.

Deadlines to apply for these opportunities vary, though many fall between September and April. Please check individual websites for these details as well as additional application instructions.

  • Research: Learn about as many different fellowships as possible, and about the application/interview process. It is fine to reach out to current fellows at organizations you are interested in. Know that they are often involved in the applicant screening process, so make those contacts professional and meaningful (e.g. don’t ask questions you can easily find the answers to on their website).
  • Focus: Develop a list of fellowship programs that particularly interest you, either due to the organization’s focus, location, or the structure of the fellowship itself. Some programs limit students to 10 applications; we don’t, but that is not a bad target. You will need to tailor and personalize each cover letter and application, so you need to narrow down to a number that is manageable.
  • Reach out: If you are planning to apply for administrative fellowships, it is ESSENTIAL that you identify your recommendation writers and contact them early to seek their participation. Many fellowships require a “program director” letter and, at BUSPH, that person is your concentration faculty director. It is strongly recommended that you contact your potential letter writers by August 1, since many of the fellowship deadlines are in September and early October. Many of the application processes require you to submit all materials on paper, in a single packet, so the logistics of asking for and getting letters can be challenging. We also suggest that you provide recommenders with electronic versions of your resume, your draft personal statement, and a table listing the letters you need, with full address and salutation information, along with submission method, and due dates (see example). This will increase the likelihood of the recommenders being able to provide what you are requesting, when you need it.
  • Prepare: The interview process varies by fellowship, and the timeline tends to be fast. Programs usually start with phone and/or Skype screening interviews, and if you are invited for an onsite interview, it will likely be in mid-October to early November. Be sure you are prepared to travel with appropriate attire, hard copies of your resume, a portfolio to carry them in, etc. Review the video on the HPM concentrator Blackboard site in which a program alum discusses the application/interview process. Be prepared to make some difficult decisions if you are invited for conflicting interviews. Seek consultation from a faculty advisor or Career Services.  Additionally, communicate schedule changes that may effect your missing class time and group projects to your faculty and classmates.
  • Utilize the following Career Services Office resources:
    1. Fellowship Program listing below
    2. Resume Review: Make an appointment via sphcareeroffice@bu.edu or attend drop-in sessions during the academic year.
    3. Personal Statement Review: Make an appointment via sphcareeroffice@bu.edu. Please allow 6 weeks before deadline for review and revisions.
    4. Online Interview Guides for Screening, Behavioral and Case Interviews located in the Career Services Library.
    5. In-person and phone Mock Interviews: Make an appointment via sphcareeroffice@bu.edu