By Olivia Davis
Fellowship applications are tough. They take hours of writing, editing, and interview preparation, and sometimes months pass before you’re notified of your status. Of course, the main goal of an application is to receive the award! However, there are many benefits to going through the application process.
If you’re on the fence about applying for a fellowship, consider how the application process itself will help you grow as a person, a thinker, and a professional. These seven benefits of applying for a fellowship might tip the scales just enough for you to sit down and start writing that application essay!
1. Clarifying your ambitions
I’ll be honest: When I decided to apply for a Fulbright, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do after my college graduation. This wouldn’t have been a very compelling statement in my application! Sketching at least a vague portrait of my future for my application essays made me clarify things that I wanted – and didn’t want. By the time I finished, I had a much stronger vision of the career and experiences I wanted to have.
As you work on your application, be open to learning about yourself as well as thinking deeply about hard questions like, What do I really want for my future? You may be surprised by your own answers, and you’ll have much clearer ambitions by the time you submit your application.
2. Learning how to receive and apply feedback
When you’re going through the application process, it’s essential that you ask several people to read your essays and give you candid feedback. Others’ perspectives are important because they reveal weaknesses that you might have missed, and they will help you write a stronger essay.
Accepting help – and admitting that you need it! – can be a humbling process. However, it becomes easier to be malleable and receptive to others’ ideas once you’ve seen how feedback improves your essay. Learning how to receive it and apply it in your writing will profit you in the future – and a fellowship application is a great opportunity to practice!
3. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses
As you’re writing your application, you’ll probably discover some of your strengths and weaknesses. When I did my application, I realized that while I had many interests – something the program desired – I tended to keep them to myself instead of sharing them with my community in meaningful ways. Learning this was valuable because it spurred me to find creative ways to be more involved in my community while doing what I already loved.
Using your application to discover strengths and weaknesses is very helpful because you’ll find opportunities for personal growth – before you even hear back from the fellowship committee!
4. Becoming a better writer
Applications are primarily about writing and articulating ideas. Often, there is a limit on the number of words you can use, which means that you have to figure out how to pack a lot of information into as few words as possible. As you’re editing your application essays, you’ll have to identify the words that are essential and those that can go. Building a radar for clarity and unnecessary words happens only with practice – but once you’ve honed it through a fellowship application, you’ll be able to use it when you are writing anything. As a result, your writing will be stronger and more articulate going forward.
5. Gaining tenacity
Fellowship applications are an enormous amount of hard work and an enormous amount of patience is required as you wait to hear if you’ve been selected! They stretch you and you have to embrace tenacity in the interim. I never thought I could have spent weeks on my Fulbright application and then six months waiting to hear if I received it – until I did.
Realizing that you have the ability to work at a new level is empowering because it breaks down false limitations you had set. This newly-instilled tenacity will help you in almost anything you do – it will remind you that you don’t have to give up, even when the end isn’t in sight.
6. Practicing time management
Fellowship applications take a lot of time – and most of the time, they happen on top of full-time school or work! Building an impressive application on top of other responsibilities forces you to be very disciplined when you work. You learn to avoid distractions because you simply can’t afford to be distracted! The habit of eeking out everything that you can from your time will transcend the application process and help you remain more focused so that you manage your time wisely in the future.
7. Thinking on your feet
Fellowship interviews are tough. The committee will ask you difficult questions that require thoughtful, articulate answers. To be successful, you have to be able to think on your feet at a high level. Preparing for an interview can teach you how to remain calm and clear-headed in a challenging environment so that you are able to think without getting overwhelmed.
The experience of interviewing in a high-pressure environment will help you have a reference point and prepare you to think on your feet in many different contexts. Things like public speaking seemed a lot less daunting to me after surviving my interminable campus interview!
There are many benefits to applying for a fellowship that go beyond the award itself. I grew professionally, personally, and academically by completing my Fulbright application. I experienced the benefits of each long before I heard back about my application status and long after I finished my grant. If you’re on the fence about applying for your dream program, remember that you have nothing to lose – and at least seven things to gain!
Olivia Davis is a writer based in Mississippi. She was a 2017-2018 Fulbright ETA in Athens, Greece and has a BA in English from the University of Mississippi. She runs Looking Upward, a Christian writing ministry. When she’s not writing, she is probably playing the piano, drawing, or cooking Greek food.
© Victoria Johnson 2020, all rights reserved