Why You Shouldn’t Work on Your Fellowship Application Alone

Oct 25, 2018

By Deborah Vieyra

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

– African proverb

When it comes to your fellowship application, take this African proverb to heart. Of course, it’s possible to get your fellowship application done quickly if you go it alone, but the worth of having a friend, colleague or mentor look over it with you is unparalleled.

The truth is, you see your application from very close up, as if you were in an art gallery standing only inches away from the picture you have created. Having a new set of eyes cast over what you have made will allow you to understand elements of your application which may have simply not been visible to you. They will be able to point out glitches and opportunities from a more distant perspective that will allow you to take your application to the next level.

Let’s dive in to just some of the reasons it is in your best interests to have someone assist you with your fellowship application — even if that assistance simply means reading over it once before you hand it over.

#1 Improve Your Pitch

Here’s the sad reality of trying to write anything — you may think that you’ve got your point across, but the minute someone else reads what you have written, you realize that this is not the case at all. A second set of eyes cast over your application will help you understand where you might need to clarify your goals, highlight particular elements or emphasize your intentions. You want your personal statement to pop out of the page when others read this. Unless it does that for your very first reader, it may not be quite ready to submit. Remember that when your application reaches a selection committee, it will be one amongst many. You have to ensure that the story you tell is interesting enough to make it stand out from the crowd. That means clarity, careful calibration and compelling writing — and a partner-in-crime who is willing to point out where it is not working.

#2 Hone Your Tone

You may not be aware of your own tone. After all, you live with your way of thinking 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unknowingly, your writing may come across as being overly self-deprecating or too self-promotional. This is where your trusty fellowship companion steps in. After reading your application, they should quickly be able to step in to let you know where they think you might need to adjust your sentences. Choose someone who will be frank with you (like a sibling or trusted mentor). It’s not helpful to approach someone who will only compliment you for your efforts without providing constructive criticism (like your mom!). Remember why you have asked them to be a part of this process.

#3 Correct Grammar Mistakes

Even if you’re a grammar whiz, it can be easy to miss your own mistakes. You’ve probably read through your application more times than necessary. The problem is, after a while it becomes impossible to see your own mistakes. This is where a fresh set of eyes can be your best friend. While a grammar mistake may not necessarily be a deal breaker for an application, it does show a degree of negligence. Try your best to get your application as close to perfect as you can.

Right. It’s time to go in search of your fellowship application buddy. Even better – find more than one! Get a friend or classmate to look over your first draft, and then pass on your next version on to a teacher or mentor. Each bit of advice can put you that much closer to a successful application.

Good luck!

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 2018, all rights reserved.