By Olivia Davis
You’ve spent hours writing your application. Your personal statement is nearly memorized because you’ve gone over it many times. You’re about to click “submit” and be finished – but wait! You’re the only person who has read it.
You should have several people read your application. Not all editors are the same. Depending on their relationship with you, some are great proofreaders, while others offer great content suggestions. Because of this, it’s absolutely essential that multiple people read your application.
Here are the five people who should read your fellowship application and one question to ask each of them to make sure you get the most useful feedback possible.
1. Your fellowship advisor
If you’re an enrolled student and applying for a fellowship, such as a Fulbright U.S. Student Grant, you may need to apply for the fellowship through your university. For many, this involves meeting with someone on campus who acts as a liaison between your school and the fellowship program.
Your university’s fellowship advisor should read your application because it is possible that he or she has guided successful candidates through the application process. This person will guide you in terms of content, helping you shape a narrative that matches with what the program is looking for. You should ask your fellowship advisor, “Do I prove in my application that I’m a good fit for this program?”
2. A former fellow
Former fellows are the people who have been successful at what you are doing now. Past candidates usually are eager to help others access the same opportunities. Also, current and recent fellows know exactly the kind of person that the program is looking for. Ask your fellowship advisor for help finding one, do an internet search, or look at the fellowship program’s website for contact information. This person will be able to offer specific feedback to buttress your fellowship advisor’s more general advice. Ask this person, “Do you think I’m a good fit for this specific project in this program today?”
3. Someone at your university’s writing center
Many universities have a writing center staffed with people who help students develop strong writing skills. Someone at your school’s writing center can help simulate the experience of someone reading your application without any prior knowledge of you. The benefit of their reading is twofold: you’ll get your piece proofread by a trained editor, and you will also get to see how you come off through your application. Ask them, “Do you feel like you know me, after only reading this?”
4. Your thesis advisor
You want to have a professor who is very familiar with your writing style read your application. Your thesis advisor – or another professor who knows you well – will be able to make your writing flow in a way that preserves your unique voice. During the application process, you may want to take other people’s suggestions to your thesis advisor, who might help you incorporate ideas into your application in a way that makes it still sound like yourself. You should ask him or her, “Is this writing on par with that of other students who are strong writers?” And, if not, “How can I improve?”
5. Your best friend
The last thing you want to do in an application is come across as very qualified but lacking real excitement for your topic. Fellowships are very competitive, and you want to make sure that yours stands out by showing your personal connection and passion for your project. Best friends know how you talk when you care about something, and you want to make sure that your application conveys the same emotion. You should ask them, “From reading my application, do you believe that I care about this?”
If you have these five people read your application and provide feedback, you can strengthen your application. Constructive criticism can be hard to receive, but remember that these trusted advisors want to help you. Write down any advice that they give you. Try to account for each of their key points and ideas as you rework your application.
If you do these things, you will have five valuable perspectives on your work that each touch a different and very important part your application – and you’ll feel more confident when you finally hit that “submit” button!
Olivia Davis is originally from Florida and received a BA in English from the University of Mississippi. She is currently a Fulbright Fellow working at the Hellenic American Educational Foundation in Athens, Greece.
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