Frequent Reasons for Not Advancing

The vast majority of our applications are strong enough to advance to Finalist, but we lack the ability to interview all of the excellent applications that we receive. The difference between being invited to interview or not is often very slim. 

However, there are some common issues that arise that prevent otherwise competitive applications from advancing.

  • Little evidence of leadership. Applications sometimes lack either significant leadership shown in Questions 2 through 4 or a compelling leadership essay in Question 7. Occasionally, we see applications with seemingly sufficient leadership, but Question 7 fails to articulate leadership with any detail. The essay may over-rely on explaining the contributions of others while obscuring what the applicant did. The essay might fail to provide important context to understand the importance of the activity or the significance of the leadership.
  • No aspiration to a position that in time will enable the candidate to affect policies or to change programs. It is important that Questions 12 and 13 include specific examples of the type of position the applicant wishes to occupy. Applicants should also take care to distinguish between those occupations which are eligible (direct service occupations such as teachers, doctors and attorneys) and those which are competitive (policy, advocacy or leadership roles such as administrators, public health officials and lead advocates). Those students proposing careers in research should also take care to explain how they plan to translate their research into policy or advocacy.  
  • Inability to Select One Path for the Purposes of the Application: It is understandable that an applicant might be unsure of their exact path in public service. We are expecting to see you articulate one path that is likely to impact an area of interest that you have currently. The application is less about creating a contract with the Foundation and more about showing us how you think about an issue and how you imagine to have an impact in that area.
  • Poor writing. This can be dull, unrevealing, or wordy writing, especially in response to Items 7-9 and 14. Don't over rely on adjectives and clever turns of phrase, the readers really need to understand what you did and the impact you had. The prose can come in the supporting letters. Also remember, this application is being read by people who, by and large, are not college professors. You do not need to write in a formal academic style.

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