The YALI Network Team interviewed 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows and asked them to share their advice on putting together a successful application.
- Advocate for Yourself. When you are timid or shy, you don’t fully explain what you have accomplished through your activities. You are not demonstrating who you really are and how you’re a leader in your community or within your organization. Your written application needs to be able to stand out in a large pool of applicants.
- Reach Out. Don’t wait for someone to come to you and give you advice — take initiative and seek it. There are many Mandela Washington Fellows looking to help prospective applicants. Look up past Fellows and find their contact information, send them an email, or drop them a Facebook message and introduce yourself.
- Visit yali.state.gov. When filling in their application, current Fellows found the online blog posts and FAQ page very helpful.
- Take Your Time. Start early and familiarize yourself with the application questions. Do not rush your application or try to complete it at the last minute.
- Be Specific and Truthful. Narrow down your focus. It’s great that you’re interested in a lot of different projects, but make sure to emphasize your expertise on a certain topic. Know your projects, know your passion. Don’t pretend to be interested in something you’re not.
- Be Resourceful. If internet access is scarce or expensive, find a place to print out the application forms and fill out the answers directly on the form. This also gives you a chance to reflect on and refine your responses. Once you have finalized your answers, go back online and fill in the application based on what you already wrote.
- Ask For Help. Find someone (or a couple of people) to review your application and provide feedback, especially if English is not your native language.
- Take a Chance! If you’re reading this list, you’re already a step ahead! You’re here because you want to better your community — believe in yourself and what you can do, and apply!
- Stay Cautiously Optimistic. Applying for the Fellowship doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it. (Last year there were more than 64,000 applicants!) Having realistic expectations can help you articulate your goals and what you would hope to achieve through the Fellowship. Keep in mind that there are a lot of other opportunities open to you under the YALI program aside from the Fellowship — like the Regional Leadership Centers and YALI Network courses and resources.
Source: YALI Mandela Fellowship Blog