By Deborah Vieyra
Why is it that the time between the moment you press send on your fellowship application and the one when you hear the results seems to go slower than what is supposedly allowable by scientific law? All you want to do is get an answer — or at the very least find out whether or not have a legitimate chance of success.
So what should you do? Is it advisable to reach out to the body you have applied to check on the status, or should you let this napping dog lie? While you don’t want to be pushy or annoying, you also want to ensure that the committee has all the information they might need to make an informed decision on your application.
Where does that leave you? The answer to the question of whether or not you should follow up after submitting a fellowship application is, well, yes and no. I know, I know, that doesn’t seem very helpful at all — but the reality is, everyone’s situation is different and this question is best answered on a case-by-case basis.
To help you plot whether or not it is appropriate for you to follow up after your submission, here are three scenarios and ways to navigate them.
You have received a confirmation that your application was received.
If you have had clear communication from the organization that they have your application in hand and that they’ll be in contact with you, you do not need to follow up with them. They have articulated that everything is in order as far as possible, and that the next move will be played by them. Even if your fingers are twitching to reach out to communicate with them, try to resist the urge. The last thing you want to do is inundate an already busy office with requests for information that you already have.
You did not receive a confirmation electronically or otherwise.
If you haven’t heard from them, there is a good chance that there has been a glitch in the system. You do not want to be in the position where you think your application has been received, but they have no record of it. The sooner you can confirm whether all is in order or if you need to resubmit, the better, particularly if the submission deadline has already passed. When you follow up, ask them if they have received all elements of your application. Certain parts, such as recommendation letters, are often submitted separately. Get confirmation that they are in possession of all the items on the checklist.
You would like to inform the committee of a significant change in your status.
If a change or development has occurred in your life that impacts your application — whether positive or negative — it’s important to follow up with the fellowship organization as soon as possible. You may want to let them know of a positive development, such as an award or honor, that will have direct bearing on their decision. In this case, considering sending them a message along the lines of, “I’m following up to let you know I’ve received our university’s highest civic service honor, and I’d like to append this information to my recent application.”
On the other hand, you may have to inform them of the need to rescind your application. Perhaps you are taking another opportunity or have a family, health or personal issue. Life happens, and they will generally be understanding about this. Having said that, it’s important to let them know as soon as possible so they can provide the opportunity to another candidate.
Another reason why you may need to follow up with them is a simple change in your personal details — a new contact number, email address or change in marital status. Keep them informed as these changes occur.
Good luck with the waiting game! Be comforted by the fact that time won’t alway feel this drawn out.
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.
© Victoria Johnson 2019, all rights reserved.