Having recently served as a member of selection committee for the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), where I reviewed over 22 applications from Latin America and Caribbean, coupled with the overwhelming requests I received from young people like myself, throughout the world, who are seeking my inputs on how to get selected for fellowships, especially Atlas Corps, I deem it imperative on me to put this piece together for the purpose of reducing their worries.

The most important hint about any fellowship program is for the applicants to study their requirements. Almost all fellowships have huge consideration and limitation to age and class of social work/professional demands. Fellowship programs like Atlas Corps only require that their applicants have a minimum of 2 years working experience in nonprofit sector. If you don’t have that minimum requirement, you don’t have to apply. Likewise, if you are above or below the stipulated age limit or you are not working in the sectors they state, it is advisable that you source another fellowships/programs that consider your age bracket and profession.

If you meet up with their minimum requirements, the next step is to beautifully tell your stories via provision of excellent responses to the application’s questions/essays. From personal experience as an application reviewer, there is a limited time allocated to reading the 500 or 1,000 words you typed in giving an account of your past/present leadership or social projects. Your first 2 sentences determine whether the reviewers would be interested in reading the whole 500/1,000 words or not. If your start sentence is not ‘catchy’, there is every tendency that the whole essay would be left unread. No reviewer would reject not to read to the last words, a response that starts like this:

Sending one’s child to school in my community is so expensive to the extent that more than 75% school-aged children are always in the farm during the school hours. Within 2 years of my intervention, we have doubled the number of children attending schools, through…

To be successful as an Atlas Corps Fellowship applicant (this is applicable to other fellowships), my advice to you is to give a short but loaded background information on your education, various positions held, and comprehensive information on social issues you have worked on. No educational qualification is irrelevant – this includes non-degree certificate courses. Your resume becomes attractive to application reviewers and prospective host organizations if you have worked on different social issues and held different positions in the past. Below is a personal example:

Abdulahi holds bachelor degree in Demography and Social Statistics, Ordinary National Diploma Certificate in Accountancy, and other certifications on: Social Sector Management, Project Management, Managing People, NGO Management and Administration, Proposal Writing & Funding, Civic Leadership, and Impacts Measurement. He has once served as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for HPDPII/World Bank-funded project; an Account Officer for: CSS/Global Fund project, and TB Care I project – funded by Damien Foundation; a volunteer for American Jewish World Service; and he is presently the Founder and Executive Director of the Initiative for Sound Education, Relationship & Health (ISERH). He has excellent track records on Health Projects:  HIV/AIDs Project, Tuberculosis and Malaria projects, etc; Education Projects; Leadership Development Skills; and 21st Century Skills. He has worked with this set of populations: TBAs, FSWs, Pregnant Women, Women of Reproductive Age, PLWHIV, Youth, In- and Out-of-school Youth, and Government Parastatals.

Any host organization that sees the above profile has a belief that the candidate is a resource to them, because of the richness of his educational and professional backgrounds. The above profile is a tip of my submitted profile to Atlas Corps, which got me interviewed by two (2) different global host organizations. The world largest volunteer organization, Points of Light, where I current serve as the Program Impact and Evaluation Fellow, acted fast in selecting me before Bretton Woods II (the first host organization to interview me) did.

It is important that I let you know that there are many applicants who have passed the Final Interview of Atlas Corps Fellowship for the past 2 years or more but are yet to get interviewed or selected by any host organization. Without getting successfully interviewed and selected by a host organization, you are not yet an Atlas Corps Fellow. What mostly gets you selected is your resume. My resume (and prayer – as we believe), got me selected for the fellowship, in less than 10 months I submitted my application. I commenced the fellowship registration (first stage) in Feb. 16, 2016 and I received ‘Congratulatory Message’ for being selected for the Jan. 2017 fellowship in Nov. 17, 2016.

In conclusion, I advise you to never state or claim to possess what you truly don’t possess. The host organizations make use of professionals in interviewing finalists, via skype (video), and they have pertinent questions that would definitely expose your deceit and the fake information submitted. I hope and wish that these tips would go a long way in guiding you to turning in a winning application.

If I get requests to write on ‘Tips to a Successful Fellowship Interview’, I shall definitely take the pain to put a piece together. I wish you and myself successes in our endeavours…

Abdulahi Abayomi Abdulraheem,

Atlas Corps Fellow (Class 23)