The United States government, through its embassy in each eligible country, is currently receiving applications for the 10-month Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship tenable at 18 partnering American universities.
And applications for fifteen other media scholarships and fellowships are open right now.
First, by way of distinction, scholarships are sponsorships for study leading to an academic award such as a degree at bachelor, masters or doctorate levels.
On the other hand, fellowships can be academic or non-academic and are largely grants by governments, institutions or foundations tailored to enrich professional knowledge/experience. Awardees hosted at academic or professional institutes choose what classes, relevant or tailored to their career trajectory, to take; attend on or off-campus seminars; research and make public presentations; sometimes teach; interface and network with peers (including through membership of otherwise restricted professional groupings); and undertake travels to enrich global understanding.
I cannot claim to be expert at writing successful applications. The tips below derive from my own submissions and guidance by my mentors such as Bernard Tabaire, Alex Atuhaire, Daniel Kalinaki and Peter Mwesige who variously enabled me put together successful applications for Fulbright (Humphrey) and David Astor fellowships as well as the Chevening scholarship:
- Read and understand the purpose, eligibility criteria and other guidelines, noting that specific requirements vary between fellowships/scholarships.
- Submit application in time; waiting until last minute can be counter-productive in case of Internet glitch or an unanticipated development.
- Prepare required documents and secure references timely, including university admission if a prerequisite.
- Choose people of high repute and professional or academic achievement (preferably in your career) as referees, not just any friend or acquaintance.
- Research on previous winner(s), to seek their guidance or weigh your own chances to succeed. Note that slots for certain prestigious fellowships/scholarships are annually rotated between countries and professions as such the selection of an awardee in a field precludes award opportunity in same field/country in the next year.
- Include evidence of stellar academic and professional feats e.g. a degree of fine quality, preferably First Class or Upper Second or internationally recognised honour.
- Show value of planned study to future career or professional growth.
- Establish if the fellowship/scholarship covers all costs, and if not, whether you have means to top-up funding.
- Demonstrate ability, including past examples of progress, to rise to leadership and positively impact people/society.
This list is non-exhaustive. The principle is if eligible, apply. I have multiple times encountered friends interested in further studies, but unwilling to apply yet in want of a scholarship! Some think obtaining it is a function of luck (may be), but are oblivious of or discount the intense and sometimes-expensive efforts awardees inject. Let a not-successful response demotivate you from re-applying or exploring a new opportunity.
As a testimony, I applied for the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship in May 2013 unaware that it was a Fulbright exchange programme until I received the “Congratulations, Fulbrighter!” award letter from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Clearly, I did not do a complete research on the programme before applying, which is a mistake an applicant should avoid.
According to archived information, four other Ugandan journalists, among them Monitor Publications Ltd co-founder late Richard Tebere, have been offered this Fulbright (Humphrey) Fellowship since its inception in 1978. The others are The Independent magazine’s Joseph Were, Marion Ddamulira and Sarah Male Bamugye.
More Ugandans have come on the programme to study agriculture (14), economic development (7), public policy and public health (12 combined), urban planning and human resource management (combined count, 10). Other eligible fields are law, natural resource management, human/drug trafficking, education and HIV/Aids policy.
Furthering one’s studies is important because it contributes to a person getting better at what he or she does. While sharing the new knowledge or practices and derived opportunities has the potential to uplift relations and the (media) industry.