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2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship Application Questions Answered
September 25, 2018

The 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship applications opened last week, and we are excited to see that so many young leaders have already begun applying. New questions always arise as applicants start to navigate the online application, so we partnered with the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the State Department for another #YALICHAT to make the application process a little easier!

Here are some important tips to keep in mind as you complete your MWF application:

Do I have to have a college degree to participate in the Fellowship?
No, applicants will not be disqualified if they do not have a formal application or degree; however, education does play a role in the qualities desired in applicants, such as leadership skills and the ability to think critically!

I do not meet the age requirement. Can I still participate in the Fellowship?
Unfortunately, eligible applicants must be between the ages of 25 and 35 at the time the application period closes. An exception to this rule can be made for exceptional candidates ages 21–24. If you are younger than 21 years old or older than 35 years old, you are encouraged to visit the ECA website to browse other exchange opportunities. Additionally, the YALI website contains information on becoming involved with one of the YALI Regional Leadership centers.

Do certain application questions carry more weight than others?
No, the Fellowship selection committee looks at your entire profile to determine the strength of your application. Because applications are evaluated holistically, no one application question is more important to the selection criteria than others. You can review the selection criteria and learn tips from MWF alumni here.

I don’t have any professional experience on my resume other than volunteering. Should I still apply?
Yes, you do not need to have a formal profession to be a strong candidate for the Fellowship. Your resume can include volunteer experience. Successful applicants clearly demonstrate their expertise in their work, explain their role in their community and highlight their leadership capacity. It is important not only to explain these things but also to include how your role, work experience or activities impact those around you.

I am from an eligible African country, but I am currently studying abroad. Can I apply for the Fellowship?
No, unfortunately, you are not eligible for the Fellowship. Residents of noneligible countries are not eligible for the Fellowship under any circumstances, even those with temporary residency, such as students. You may be eligible for a future Fellowship year once you permanently return to your home country, provided that you meet the other technical eligibility requirements.

What are the benefits of being a Fellow?
There are many benefits to being a Mandela Washington Fellow. Fellows have the opportunity to develop their skills at six-week institutes at U.S. colleges and universities. They will strengthen their leadership skills and experience personal growth through participation in academic sessions, workshops, site visits, community service, networking, and organized cultural and civic activities. After completing the Fellowship, alumni return to their home countries to apply what they learned in their local communities. Mandela Washington Fellows benefit their communities in a variety of ways, from spurring growth and prosperity to strengthening democratic governance and enhancing peace and security across sub-Saharan Africa. If you are interested in learning more about the work of MWF alumni, visit the Fellowship Facebook Page.

I don’t have a passport yet. Am I still eligible to apply?
Yes, you may still apply. Applicants are not required to have passports at the time of application; however, all selected Fellows will need to acquire a passport in order to participate in the program. Not having a passport at the time of application will not negatively affect your application, so please indicate on your application the passport status that is most applicable to your current situation.

If I submit my application early, will I have a better chance of being accepted?
No, finishing the application early does not affect your chances of being selected. All applications are reviewed individually after the application period closes. Don’t rush through your application! It is important to take your time, craft thoughtful answers to application questions and carefully review your application before submitting. Remember, applications are only accepted through the online application portal, and you can find more information about the application process on the Fellowship website.

What happens after the Fellowship?
After Fellows return to their communities, they remain members of the MWF community because they become part of an alumni network that provides them with additional opportunities for professional development in their home countries.

The 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship application closes October 10. If you are interested in applying to the program, please complete the online application. Good luck!