Tips for International Development Fellowship Applications

Written by Mwape Chibuye (Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni) and edited by Musonda Kambikambi

Several people have contacted me about how to write a good application for fellowships in international development. Below are a few summarised tips I can give:

1. Show impact in your essays. How are you making an impact in your community? I can’t begin to emphasise how important this is. Give suitable examples of how your work is making a difference! A trick from writing cover letters can be used to format these examples into impactful stories.

Writing impactful examples using the STAR format.

2. Do you have a track record in the area you are applying for? In civic, entrepreneurship, or public management? Some applicants tend to be too vague about their field of work. Therefore, be explicit about your areas of expertise.

3. Are you able to show how you will be able to use your experience from the fellowship to make an impact when you return? Think about the goals you want to achieve for your target population. It could be offering mentorship, learning how to create a strategy to reach a wider audience, etc. Be as straightforward as possible!

4 . Is your work or strategy unique in some way? This is something that can separate YOU from thousands of other applications. For example, when I applied for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, I used soccer to teach young people about HIV/AIDS. Soccer has been a part of me since I was 6 years old and has become a catalyst for change.

5. Additionally, align your professional, academic, and volunteer experience with the organisation and fellowships’ mission, objective, and selection criteria. This is similar to how you are required to tailor-make each CV to a job description.

Use keywords and phrases from the call for fellowship applications to make an impact on reviewers and recruiters.

6. You will engage with people from different backgrounds during the fellowship! Can you demonstrate that you can work with people from diverse cultures? Can you give an excellent example if this question is asked?

7. Lastly, do you personally connect to the issue you are addressing? Why does this issue matter to you? For example, someone could have lost their parent to cancer, and they decide to create a project that raises awareness of cancer and support others struggling with cancer.

Your personal connection doesn’t have to be tragic, but it can be inspirational to your “Why this issue matters to me”.


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About Mwape Chibuye

Mwape is passionate about youth leadership development and has experience in program designing, implementing, assessing, strategic planning, and strengthing youth programs, particularly in Education, Youth Leadership, and sports. She is a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow who has facilitated various youth discussions on leadership and Youth Development at the US Embassy in Zambia in the American Centre as a US Youth Exchange program participant. She currently serves as the Admissions Fellowship Coordinator for Global Health Corps. Find her on LinkedIn by clicking here.

2 thoughts on “Tips for International Development Fellowship Applications

  1. Wow! This is splendid I have been inspired by article.

    Bruce Likando Lundumuna
    Teacher, public/motivatuon Speaker aspirant and Sign Language Interpreter

    Deacon In the New Apostolic Church

    Liked by 1 person

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