7 Tips on running a fruitful fellowship program

by | Jul 7, 2022 | Articles

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Companies, institutions and organisations across the globe are constantly looking at ways to innovate, advance their goals and mission and march forward in their industry. 

One effective way to do this is to support promising people in academic pursuits and exploratory endeavours to ensure groundbreaking discoveries and advancements are made.

Through a fellowship program, organisations can foster this type of growth and innovation through stand-out candidates and professionals in the field.

But, a program of this nature takes careful planning and management. We’ll walk you through some tips and best practices below.  

What is a fellowship program?

A fellowship program is an opportunity that can last from a few months to several years and is sponsored by an organisation to foster progress and concentrate on the professional development of the fellows by providing funding for academics, research or other purposes. 

Thus, fellowships support a variety of activities including:

  • Graduate study and other forms of training to enhance the fellow’s growth
  • Deeper research in the line of business
  • Development of initiatives

While some fellowship programs help their fellows with educational costs such as tuition, books, housing and more, others go further to fund exploration in their industry.

It’s typical therefore to have rigid requirements for acceptance such as an internship, service or commitment. 

It’s noteworthy that fellowships are not typically awarded based on the applicants’ needs but on their future potential.

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Importance and benefits of a fellowship program

Fellowships are beneficial to both the fellow and the supporting organisation. For the fellow, the program provides free or reduced cost for an educational opportunity, advancement in their field, the change to make an impact, a boost to their resume, important networking opportunities and more. 

And for the organisation offering the fellowship, the benefits are also plentiful, including a way to recruit talent, advance their causes, and foster innovation inside their organisation and field. 

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Steps to create and run a thriving fellowship program

Running a successful fellowship program requires careful planning, management and execution. Here are 7 tips and best practices on making the process a breeze.  

1. Define your program goals

To create and run a successful fellowship program, the first step is to pinpoint the exact outcomes you want. A clear picture of the desired goals ensures that the application process is designed accordingly. Your targets could include:

  • Having a diverse batch of new fellows
  • Giving each applicant a fair opportunity to display their skills and traits 
  • Ensuring a quick and equitable selection process
  • Having a speedy, hassle-free and accessible application process

Your goals are the guiding star as you create an application process for the fellowship program.     

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2. Detail your program requirements and opportunity

To run a fellowship program successfully, transparency is a must. Prospective applicants should have clear expectations. It’s helpful to consider your audience. Who is the fellowship for? Create detailed program information to help promote and provide transparency around the opportunity.  

Give an unadulterated picture of what’s involved in the program. What can applicants expect when they’re accepted? How will it affect their academic or professional pursuits? What lies ahead?  

Highlight the strengths of the program, whether its flexibility, a practical approach or the myriad of mentors on hand.  

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3. Provide helpful support during the application process

It’s likely you’ll receive a torrent of questions from applicants. They’ll want to understand its demands, how they can apply and what they stand to benefit from it. 

Creating and running an efficient fellowship program necessitates attending to and answering these questions. And many questions you can avoid by providing detailed information in your application platform. 

For example, you can 

  • Publish content such as videos, blog posts and FAQs to answer common questions
  • Organise question-and-answer sessions in the form of online conferences and webinars 
  • Engage with applicants via social media, email and other communication platforms
  • Encourage alumni and current fellows to share their experiences

Addressing applicants’ concerns enhances applicant experience and demonstrates your investment in their success.      

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4. Encourage applicant individuality

You don’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree.

A thriving fellowship program allows applicants to be themselves. It gives them room to show their personality and motivations to give further insight into their potential. As we mentioned above, fellowships are typically awarded to applicants based on their future potential. So, whatever will better reveal an applicant’s prospect is necessary. 

Many fellowship programs focus only on written responses. Unfortunately, this accesses only a tiny fraction of the applicants’ capacity. What’s worse, it skews the process in favour of those with superior writing skills. 

Integrate diverse methods for applicants to showcase their abilities.

For example, you could require applicants to submit a video of themselves discussing a particular issue. Assess their proficiency in using visuals, dialoguing and storytelling. Or request a video presentation detailing the impact of a significant personal encounter where you can assess their oratory skills.  

Nurturing the uniqueness of each applicant helps in creating and running a winning fellowship program for multiple reasons. Firstly, it ensures inclusivity. For some applicants, English might be a second language. Additionally, it reduces inadvertent bias by providing diverse ways to showcase their abilities.   

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5. Emphasise accessibility, communication and seamless application monitoring

It’s important to make it easy for all candidates to apply. Consider the fact that people have differing schedules and some applicants might be differently abled. You want to ensure that the application process doesn’t come across as challenging to them.

To create and run an efficient fellowship program, communication is crucial. Considering the magnitude of joining a fellowship program, it stands to reason that applicants will excitedly anticipate responses at every stage of the application process.   

Keep your applicants informed with a detailed schedule for your application, review and decisin periods. Communicate any delays or changes if they arise.

Plan to provide communications for any updates in the application lifecycle, such as confirmation of application submission, entry into the various review stages and the eventual rejection or acceptance.

Make it easy for your applicants to check their application status at any time. It should be easy for them to track it at all times.         

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6. Leverage fellowship management software

To create and run an effective fellowship program, you need technology on your side. A manual setup will prove tedious and could result in mistakes or missteps. 

A fellowship management software can help you manage your program with ease and flexibility, and save hours of admin time for your organisation and staff. 

Using a fellowship management software makes it easy to achieve all the best practices above. 

Management software like Award Force can facilitate: 

  • Hassle-free communication between applicants, reviewers and program managers
  • A central portal to accept, review and manage all fellowship applications  
  • Powerful evaluation tools to help you choose the best fellows for your program 
  • Easy reporting functionality 
  • And more

Inevitably, implementing fellowship program management software yields a program characterised by accessibility, smooth communication and effortless application tracking.    

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7. Harness the support of your alumni 

Creating a buzzing alumni network can help you attract applicants into the fellowship pool and provide opportunities for networking as part of the program.

The opportunity to meet and network with others in the industry is a big boon for potential applicants considering your fellowship program. And it provides former fellows a way to stay engaged with your organisation–a win-win for all.  

It’s ideal to foster communication within the network with newsletters, social media posts and regular events to keep your program and goals at the forefront. 

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A fellowship program can help your organisation realise its ambition of supporting advancement and innovation. And these tips above will help you create and run your fellowship effortlessly.     

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