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Applying to be a Mandela Washington Fellow: Tips from a 2014 Fellow
October 2, 2015

Nigerian entrepreneur Adepeju Jaiyeoba meets President Obama. (White House/Pete Souza)
Nigerian entrepreneur Adepeju Jaiyeoba meets President Obama. (White House/Pete Souza)

Adepeju Jaiyeoba, a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow, has put together the following tips for YALI Network members on preparing a great application.

Story of change

What’s your driving force? What motivates you to do the work you do? What’s your story? Do not spend a paragraph on this. Trust me, a line is more than sufficient.

Understand the questions asked

Don’t be too quick to provide answers to the questions. Understand the questions asked, as every question is aimed at discovering certain things about you as an individual and leader.

Demonstrate practical knowledge of the needs of your community

Let your writing show you understand the problem of your community. Connect the problem to real-life stories and situations to drive home your point and let your solution not be in doubt.

Emphasize that you are a leader who takes initiative

Communities across Africa have varying challenges. In your own little corner of the world, before the opportunity to apply for this fellowship, tell about how you have been helping your community solve pressing problems.

Proofread your application

Every year, thousands of applicants apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The applications are not scored by robots or machines — they are scored by human beings, which is why you should really proofread your application and rid it of errors so you do not turn off the markers.

Don’t confuse the marker

A lot of times we are involved in a series of businesses as well as running different NGOs, which in many cases are unrelated. For example, you could be selling fabrics, be into waste management, run an NGO on climate change and still want to keep girls in school. Completing the application may be a real challenge to you as you may want to put all of your various aspects into the application. This may only end up confusing the marker. Let there be a sequential flow in your thoughts and writings so you don’t get the marker scrolling up to check your name and be sure he’s still scoring the same application he started out with.

Visit yali.state.gov/mwf/ for more tips and information on preparing a great application.