10 insights from #AskJSK that will improve your application for the JSK Fellowships

Applications will soon close for the John S. Knight Fellowships Class of 2019. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. PT Dec. 4, 2017. Recently, several members of our staff hosted a Twitter chat to answer some of the questions potential fellows have about the application process and our fellowship program.

Here are 10 of the top questions and answers from the #AskJSK.

1. How much experience in journalism should applicants have?

Our fellows have a range of experience but most typically have five to seven years of professional experience. Keep in mind, though, that the path to being a JSK Fellow is often unique, and we’re looking for people with a range of expertise, ideas and backgrounds. Take a look at our previous fellows. We champion journalists and journalism innovators to become leaders and change agents to reinvent and improve journalism.

2. Do I need a college degree to be a fellow? Will I receive a degree at the end of the fellowship?

We are not an academic program, and you do not need a college degree to be a JSK Fellow. While you will have the opportunity to sit in on classes at Stanford University, the JSK Fellowships is not a degree-granting program. In fact, some of the most valuable experiences during the fellowship year happen outside of the classroom. Stanford is the home of dozens of centers, laboratories and institutes that may benefit our fellows.

3. How do you choose fellows? Do you have quotas for certain continents?

We choose the best qualified candidates from all over the world. We do not have quotas.

4. Are freelancers eligible to apply for a fellowship?

Freelancers are eligible to apply for the JSK Fellowships. Our best candidates come with journalistic accomplishments and are eager to learn new ways of thinking and to help solve journalism’s biggest challenges.

5. I applied once and didn’t make it. Can I apply again?

Absolutely! There is a history of people getting into the program on subsequent tries. Plus, just the process of going through the application process can help refine your ideas about the future of journalism and ways you can help advance the industry.

6. What if my proposed project doesn’t fit one of your four themes?

Your journalism question must fit within one of our four themes, which we believe have wide applicability in countries around the world. The themes are:

  • Challenging misinformation and disinformation.
  • Holding the powerful accountable.
  • Eradicating news deserts and strengthening local news.
  • Fighting bias, intolerance and injustice.

These four themes are the framework for how our fellows work and for our program, including partnerships, events and other opportunities we explore. If your question doesn’t fit one of these themes, the JSK Fellowships is not for you.

7. Who are the best people to write my three recommendation letters? Should I share my project and journalism question with them?

We want to hear from people in the industry who are familiar with your work and who have informed opinions about your ability to effectively pursue your project at Stanford University. Ideally, these people are your current and former supervisors, and others with knowledge of your professional work. The letters should not be from neighbors, college buddies or your mom. And, yes. You absolutely should share your question and project idea with the people recommending you. Letters carry more weight when the recommender can discuss your ability to explore the question you are proposing. Also, keep in mind that the recommenders themselves have to file the letters by the same deadline you have for filing your application, 11:59 p.m. PT Dec. 4, 2017. If you haven’t asked people to recommend you yet, get moving!

8. Am I allowed to work while being a fellow? Can I attend conferences and take other trips while I am a fellow?

You are not allowed to work while being a fellow. Being a fellow becomes your full-time job during the 10 months, from September to June, that you are in residence at Stanford University. Fellows receive a stipend of $75,000, health insurance and Stanford tuition. We provide additional support for fellows with children. Check out the Benefits of the Fellowship page. You are allowed to travel to a limited number of conferences or other events related to the journalism question you are pursuing. At the beginning of the fellowship year, we explain the process for seeking permission.

9. One minute is not a lot of time for the video that has to accompany the application. Can mine be longer?

You can say a lot in a minute. The video is just a little window into who you are and your proposal. Keep in mind we will receive hundreds of these. Previous fellows have successfully completed this requirement, even with time to spare!

10. What mistakes do candidates usually make in their applications?

Some of the common mistakes include not clearly articulating why the proposed journalism question matters, not explaining what in an applicant’s background prepares them to work on the question and failing to explain why the project needs to be pursued at Stanford as part of the JSK Fellowships. And don’t forget to have one (or even two people) proofread your application! Have them read for errors and to make sure that it makes sense.

For the latest on the open application period, follow @JSKstanford on Twitter, and read our previous post about applying for the program. Email Mary Beth Boch, our selection and resources administrator, with questions, via jskfellowships@stanford.edu. We plan to hold another Twitter chat on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 11 a.m. PT. Join us! And don’t forget to apply by 11:59 p.m. PT Dec. 4, 2017.