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Are You the Next Washington Fellow? Read 3 Tips to Guide in Your Application for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders



One of the highlights of President Obama’s Africa visit last month was the announcement of the newly created Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, a program designed to annually create mentoring, work, and funding opportunities for 500 Africans leaders between the ages of 25 and 35.

Although the application for the program does not come out until later this year, now is the best time to start thinking about your application, when there is no stress or anxiety of a looming deadline.  We have compiled a list of ideas to help you start preparing an application that sets you apart from other applicants and highlights your most important achievements.

Do You have Your References?
For a fellowship program such as the Washington Fellowship, you can certainly expect the applications to require at least 2 or 3 letters of recommendation from respected individuals who can attest to your character, professional achievements, and skills. So, here’s the question to think about: do you have people who can write your letters of recommendation? Remember, that uncle of yours who always stands as your reference will not make the cut for this application.

You want to seek recommendations from professionals such as your boss, a professional mentor, or even past professors who can write convincingly about your knowledge, successes, and the value you bring to the fellowship program. Make a list of the individuals who you would like to potentially ask for a recommendation letter. Don’t forget to consider issues such as their personal time and how to get in touch with them. For example, would your boss be too busy working on a project when applications come out? Or will he or she be out of town on a family vacation? If you choose a professor, can he or she remember you and exactly how you stood out in their class or in your research?

Can You Describe Your Past Achievements?
The Washington Fellowship is seeking individuals who can demonstrate their leadership in public service, business or entrepreneurship, and civic engagement. You should be prepared to write personal essays and answer questions that show your involvement in any of these areas. The emphasis is on show.

Most times people make the mistake of telling instead of showing. In order to write a persuasive essay that shows the depth of your knowledge, skills, and experiences in these areas, you need to reacquaint yourself with your current and past work experiences. Prioritize your experiences– not every experience is necessary. But don’t discount failures. Remember failure is only disguised growth if you took away a new lesson from the failure and have grown as a result of that lesson. Focus on those experiences that explicitly describe the range of skills that you have acquired and consistently developed. Articulate what you achieved or learned through those experiences where you utilized your skills. Most importantly, explain the importance behind what you did and what you accomplished. What was the impact on individuals, your community, an organization, or even your country? Don’t forget to draw connections to the bigger picture of public service, business, or civic engagement.

What is Your Vision for The Future?
You might be wondering what this question has to do with preparing your application. But don’t overlook it just yet. The goal of the fellowship program is to aid in the development of the next generation of leaders across Africa. Now, what do leaders have? Leaders have vision. You should have a vision that you can communicate in your application. Can you communicate how the fellowship program will help you achieve this vision? Give thought to the connection between the fellowship, your past and current experiences, and your future ambitions. You should aim to present the fellowship as the thread that connects your past and present with your future.

Do you have other ideas that applicants should begin to think about for their Washington Fellowship applications? Please share them in the comments section. For more information on the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders click {HERE}.

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