How to Choose Between Two Fellowship Offers

Feb 14, 2019

By Deborah Vieyra

If you are in the position where you have to choose between two fellowship offers, congratulations! This in and of itself is a great achievement, regardless of the decision you make.

While it is reason to be mightily proud of yourself, having two offers to decide between can be the source of great anxiety. The choice will steer the trajectory of your life going forward, and making the right pick can feel more high-stakes than a bomb diffusion scene in a Hollywood movie.

What should you consider when making this choice? For starters, it’s advisable to steer away from publicly bragging about your two acceptance offers. This is a decision that you need to make thoughtfully, unencumbered by what status you feel your position affords you among your peers.

Let’s have a look at some of the key questions that are vital to answer for yourself when making this decision. We want you to get to the other end of this choice feeling like you have made the most appropriate move for both your career trajectory and personal goals.

#1 Can you defer one of the fellowships, or apply again in the future?

Different fellowships have different policies when it comes to both deferral and the number of times an applicant is allowed to apply. Contact both organizations and find out the exact implications of not accepting the offer at this time. This simple element may quickly sway your decision in one direction or the next. In the best case scenario, you may be able to have your cake and eat it too, perhaps accepting one fellowship after the other has run its course. Is there a way that this is not an OR decision, but an AND path?

If not and a decision does need to be made between one and the other, move onto the next question:

#2 Which one gives you the best skill set and network for long-term job opportunities?

Think about your post-fellowship life. Where do you see yourself? How can each of the fellowships help you get there? One of the most advantageous elements of a fellowship experience is growing a professional network that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your career. Consider how each fellowship option may help you in this way. Rather than think short term, this decision should be made with your future in mind. Which fellowship is the best vehicle to get to where you ultimately want to go?

#3 Which structure best fits into your life and family obligations?

Sometimes, the decision between two fellowships will be made for you. Does a particular fellowship require you to be away from your family for an extended period of time? If so, are you able to do this? Consider in each case how much you will be giving up in order to fulfill the obligations of the fellowship — then answer the simple question of which option feels more possible.

#4 What perks come with each fellowship opportunity?

On the other side of the coin, what other opportunities are included in each fellowship option? Is travel involved and funded? Would you get the opportunity to live and work in a place of interest to you? Do either possibilities provide internship or work experience opportunities that will benefit you down the line? My own fellowship opportunity included both a local internship and the opportunity to conduct research in a foreign country. Weigh up the added benefits of each option.

And onto the most important question…

#5 Which one excites you more?

Which one of the options makes your gut go, “Yes!” If one truly excites you more than the other, listen to that voice. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life wondering what might have happened if you had followed your instincts.

Deborah Vieyra is a Fulbright alumna from South Africa who completed her MA in Applied Theatre Arts at the University of Southern California. She now works as a writer, proofreader and performer in Vancouver, Canada.

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