Questions about applying for a JSK Fellowship? We’re here to help.

We recently hosted an open chat on Facebook to answer questions from people who are considering applying for a 2017-18 JSK Fellowship.

We want fellows who arrive at Stanford with more questions than answers, and who are open to having their assumptions and ideas challenged. Photo: Samaruddin Stewart

Several current JSK Fellows joined in to help us field lots of good questions from a very engaged online audience. For those who missed that session, we’ve put together this recap. Remember, the application deadline is Dec. 1 — less than a month away. If you haven’t started your application, it’s time to get moving because in addition to answering some questions about yourself, you’ll need to get letters of recommendation and put together other material to submit. Have a question that’s not covered below? Email us at

Application process

What is the biggest change regarding the new “Teams & Themes” concept and how is it different from the previous fellowship year?

For the 2017-18 class, we will consider applicants who want to pursue questions that fall within one of five topic areas that will be the focus of our program. The topics cover a broad range of the biggest challenges — and opportunities — for journalism. They include themes ranging from data journalism, algorithms and emerging technologies to free speech and democracy; audience engagement and diverse viewpoints, as well as news ecosystems and business models.

How competitive is enrollment into this program? On average, how many people apply for how many spots?

Last year we received more than 500 applications for 18 spots, which is typical. But just remember: if you don’t apply, you won’t get a fellowship.


Who can apply to be a fellow?

We have a few eligibility criteria; please review them carefully before applying. If you then have questions, email

What is the expected level of proficiency in English you expect from the candidates?

You will need to be fluent enough to take classes and communicate well in an academic environment. We don’t require any English language certifications, such as Toefl or IELTS.

What is the distinction between U.S. fellows and international fellows?

We select fellows based on where their work has impact, rather than just relying on citizenship. For example, if you are not a U.S. citizen, but your main audience is in the U.S., we would consider you a U.S. applicant. If you are a U.S. citizen and your main audience is in a foreign country, we would consider you an international applicant. All fellows, U.S. and international, receive the same benefits and experience.

Are spouses and partners allowed to participate in any of the program activities?

Yes! We welcome spouses and partners (whom we refer to as JSK affiliates) to participate in all of our events, though they are not required to. They also are able to sit in on classes in many parts of the university (currently, the Graduate School of Business generally is not available to our affiliates). Some recent affiliates have shared their experiences here and here.

I have a family. Can I still apply?

Yes! We welcome fellows with families, and provide them supplemental financial support to help with child care for fellows with young children.

Deadlines and timelines

What are the key dates?

  • The application deadline is Dec 1.
  • Recommendation letters are due Dec. 15.
  • In early February, all applicants will be notified whether they are moving on in the selection process.
  • We will interview our top candidates in March.
  • International fellows will be announced in mid-March and U.S. fellows in early May.

Recommendation letters

What kind of recommendation letters will you consider?

You should ask for letters from people who really know your work, and think you are fabulous. Letters from famous people are not necessary, and in many cases, not a good idea if they don’t really know your work. It’s best to get a letter from your supervisor if at all possible. Letters from co-workers — or your mom — are generally not a good idea.

Do they only have to be from current managers and colleagues or will you consider recommendations from former managers?

If you are employed by an organization, one of your recommenders should be your direct supervisor. If that is not possible, please be sure at least one of your recommenders is someone for whom you have produced journalistic work at some point.

Do the recommendation letters need to be in English?

Yes. Letters must be in English.

Completing the application

How should I think about approaching my fellowship proposal in the application?

We want applicants to present a terrific question they want to explore, but you do not need to have a solution in mind at the start. The most successful fellows have done some homework on their question. They also know who in the world is already working on a similar question and have in mind a plan to launch an exploration, including specific organizations or people to seek out at Stanford.

What are the main considerations of the selection committee?

We are looking for people who want to be deeply engaged in exploring solutions to journalism’s most important challenges with other fellows and collaborators. Successful fellows are journalists and journalism innovators who are passionate about a question, have done some homework to be prepared to work on their idea at Stanford and open to learning. And no brilliant jerks!

Your application asks for a one-minute video submission on the topic of fellowship. Is this required?

Yes, the one-minute video clip is required. But we are not expecting professional production values or anything fancy; webcam or cellphone videos are encouraged.

What kind of materials should I submit if I’m a journalism entrepreneur or manager?

If you are a journalism entrepreneur, you may submit material that shows and demonstrates your work in a journalism venture, with a brief explanation of your role. Managers may submit examples of work you supervised, and a brief explanation of your role. Please be selective and provide your best work. More is not necessarily better.

Do we need to submit copies of academic degrees?

No. You just need to submit your resume that provides your work history to explain your journalism experience. Specific academic degrees are not required to receive a fellowship.

If our work is not in English, do we have to translate our portfolio into English to be considered?

Work samples that are not in English can be provided along with a summary, in English, that explains the work and its impact.

The fellowship experience

Do you cover travel expenses to the fellowship?

Yes, we cover reasonable travel expenses for a fellow to travel from their home country to the fellowship.

What are the relationships like between fellows and professors? How can taking classes help with the challenge?

Many professors are familiar with the JSK program, and enthusiastic about JSK fellows joining their classes. As journalism professionals, fellows bring expertise and interesting perspective to class discussions. Yes, taking classes can be helpful to your challenge, both directly (picking up helpful skills such as computational journalism or public speaking) and indirectly (taking a drawing class may unleash innovative ideas from your creative side).

Could you describe a fellow’s day? What does she/he actually do? Does it change through the months?

Heather Bryant, current U.S. fellow: I’m working on collaboration between newsrooms. Right now I’m taking a light class load and spending most of my time on research and conversations with a wide variety of people in order to explore my challenge. I have class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and spend the other three days of the week having conversations and participating in the three scheduled fellowship events that happen each week. As time goes by, I suspect I may take even fewer or no classes so that I can put my time into my project because I’m really enjoying that work and the people I’m meeting while working on it. There’s a lot of freedom to create a schedule to works for your priorities whether that’s lots of classes or lots of time for your project.

From Frederick Filloux, current international fellow (France): Your time is split between the classes you have elected to take (a tough choice among hundreds), the activities of the fellowship and the work on your journalism challenge. The workload varies from one fellow to another. Many Fellows recommend to save time for various informal meetings either on campus on in the Bay Area.

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