Public Interest Fellowship FAQs

1. What is a public interest fellowship?
A public interest fellowship is a funded, postgraduate educational and professional immersion in the public interest sector. The fellowship is an opportunity to explore career direction and at the same time make a significant contribution to addressing issues of public concern.

2. What are some examples of issues and/or fields that public fellowships focus on?
Public issues can range from prisoner reentry to climate change to educational inequities in rural China. Fields that fellows may work in include criminal justice, environment, education, public health, public interest law, and government, to name a few.

3. What is the length of a public interest fellowship?
Fellowships are one to two years long, with the length varying by program. For example, the High Meadows and Puttkammer fellowships supported by the Pace Center are two-year fellowships, and Princeton affiliated/partner program fellowships are typically only one year. It is important to check out each fellowship’s duration, since you become a full-time employee of the host organization, meaning you were hired to do a job!

4. How is a fellowship different than an actual job? What are the benefits?
A fellowship is a job! A difference is that many fellowships have a program sponsor that provides the funding in support of your salary (often referred to as a stipend for a fellowship). Some fellowships, such as those with a Princeton University sponsor affiliation, offer an administrative and educational component that provides logistical support in addition to a holistic and robust learning experience. Fellowships offer you the flexibility after graduation to try something new and hone or expand your knowledge, skills, and network. Oftentimes fellowships lead to jobs. As you can see, there are numerous benefits to a fellowship.

5. Where can I find out more about the different fellowship offerings?
Information about fellowships sponsored by Princeton programs, departments, and affiliates as well as fellowships sponsored by external organizations can be found  through the offices of Fellowship Advising and Career Services.

6. Who is eligible to apply for fellowships?
Princeton seniors are eligible to apply for Pace-sponsored High Meadows and Puttkammer fellowships. Other fellowship programs have their own unique criteria as to how “recent” a Princeton applicant must be, with some programs permitting non-Princeton graduates to apply. Citizenship requirements vary by program and in some cases, by sponsor organization of the fellowship. To find out the eligibility requirements of a particular program, visit the website of the program sponsoring the fellowship, where you will find detailed information about eligibility for the fellowship opportunity.

7. How competitive are fellowships?
It is dependent on the applicant pool which varies from year to year. It also depends on the program sponsor and the number of positions available. That said, Princeton has found Princeton-sponsored, affiliated, and recognized public interest fellowships to be the number one source of job opportunities for new graduates.

8. Can I apply for multiple fellowships?
Yes. Within a program, there may be specific restrictions on how many positions you can apply to.

9. What is required to apply?
The application requirements differ among programs, but common to all of them is a resume and some form of a statement of interest articulating your reasons for applying and interest in this organization, position, social/public issue, and/or community. Many require an in-person interview with the program sponsor and/or someone from the fellowship organization, such as the direct supervisor or human resources. For information on resume and interview skills, visit Career Services.

10. What is the average stipend award for a fellowship?
Stipends are competitive and vary among programs and location of the fellowship placement. To find out more about stipends for a specific fellowship, visit the program sponsor website.

11. Does the stipend award cover health benefit costs for the fellowship?
Again, this depends on the program. For example, the Pace  Center-sponsored High Meadows and Puttkammer fellowships offer an annual stipend and funds to cover the annual basic health benefit costs of the fellow as an employee of the organization.

12. How do I get paid during the fellowship?
It varies by program. For many, you are paid directly by the organization in the same way any full-time employee is paid which is how you are paid for the High Meadows and Puttkammer Fellowships.

13. What are the expectations of a fellowship?
Overall expectations of a fellowship are that you learn how public interest organizations work and tackle issues of public/societal concern, make a significant contribution, and practice and develop new skills and perspectives. Depending on the program, you may also be expected to share what you have learned with various on- and off-campus constituents, during and after the fellowship.

14. How do I apply for a fellowship?
Visit the program sponsor website for information on application process. Information on application processes of fellowships sponsored by Princeton and those sponsored by external organizations can be found on the Fellowships Advising and/or Career Services website.  

15. When should I start applying for fellowships?
Students should start researching fellowships toward the end of their junior year. Information sessions are typically held in the fall. Application deadlines vary but many are in the December/January time frame.

16. When are decisions made?
Decisions are made in the late winter or early spring, depending on the program sponsor. Selected applicants are then usually given 5 business days to accept or decline the fellowship offer.

17. How are students selected?
Depending on the program, students are selected for fellowships based on the quality and substance of their application materials and feedback from in-person interviews. Interviews are a significant element of the selection process. Contact Career Services for more information on job interviews.

18. Can I get in touch with a student who has had the fellowship position to which I am applying?
Yes. Visit the program website, or contact one of the program administrators for referrals to those who had the position for which you are applying. For the High Meadows and Puttkammer Fellowships, contact Elsie Sheidler.

19. What kinds of things do fellows usually go on to do after they complete the fellowship?
Fellows go on to do a variety of things. Some fellows are hired by the organization as full-time employees or consultants. Some fellows have focused on a particular area of interest and decide to pursue further learning in graduate school or other educational venue. Others have been recruited to start another non-profit or engage in similar entrepreneurial ventures. And, many see the fellowship as a period of exploration and reflection, and afterwards pursue other professions and studies.