5 Things to Strengthen Your Essentials or Tiny App

We are accepting applications for both the Essentials and Tiny Fellowships! The app opens September 14th at noon.

Despite being exhausted from running around like a mad woman and beating the streets of our community for referrals, application season is always a highlight for me. It’s my opportunity to get to know changemakers around the country that are breaking ground on ideas that make my inner child green with envy. As I read through their ideas, I find myself wishing I could turn back time and be on the receiving end of their work. If only I could be tucked into one of those learning spaces or schools that promise they won’t make me memorize content from a textbook or stifle my interests to focus on state mandated lessons void of fun. Application season makes me giddy because I know the people behind these ideas are going to create experiences my children will run home to tell me about.

As we begin this application cycle, we want to dig deep into our newly added value; transparency. As a team we are still ironing out organizational practices of transparency. For this post, I am channeling transparency for the sake of clarity. When you, yes YOU apply for our fellowships, I want you to have Windex level clarity that allows you to confidently answer questions and reference all the right insights.

Applicants have asked what we look for and how to best prepare their application. Below are a few tips that will help your application hit home as we review it. We’re sharing these tips now so you can get a jump start. Applications close 10/9.

1. Show YOUR Work

Whether you are telling us about the problem or the idea you have to solve it, evidence of your conclusions are what help us connect the dots as we go through a new concept. Although I have emphasized ‘your’ with all caps above, ideally your work has the user reflected every step of the way. If I read your answer, will I understand where your evidence comes from? Is it from your experiences and data about or conversations with your user?

2. Be Specific

One of the most difficult aspects of pitching is balancing specificity with conciseness. Specificity shows credibility and inspires confidence. Conciseness shows thoughtful storytelling. Treat your application like you are talking to someone about your idea, problem and user for the first time. Try not to leave out the crucial details that connect these three concepts.

3. Embrace Vulnerability

Trust me I struggle with this one all the time. It is much easier to coach someone who knows what they don’t know than someone who projects that they know everything. As a community, 4.0 Schools encourages you to be curious and to not have all the answers. We actually look forward to riding alongside as you dig into your unknowns.

4. Start Early

The application closes October 9th. All across the country, there are 4.0 alumni offering up advice or insight on our fellowships. You can catch them at one of our webinars or happy hours. Our team will also be on the webinar sharing info about the fellowships and answering your questions. Finally we have a little chat bubble on our website, ping us if you run into any problems. If you start early, you’re in a better position to take advantage of these tools and there’s time to have someone review your application. Also, by starting early you can set up time to talk with your users and increase your credibility. Any one of these things could help you add a little more stickiness to your application.

5. Trust Yourself

Whether you were referred or found out about 4.0 Schools on a whim, I am thrilled about it and hope to see an application with your name on it. The thing I love about our mission is that there are no qualifiers that exclude anyone from this work. We exist because we want more people to get a better shot at creating the future of school in their community. When we think about investment in you, it’s a long term game. By submitting your app you are beginning a conversation with us that we want to continue. In fact, we love seeing people who didn’t get into previous app rounds return with an updated take.

Bonus: We try our best not to use jargon at 4.0 Schools but sometimes it still sneaks in. Here are a few terms and how we use them within our fellowships.

Quick 4.0 Schools Glossary

Assumption: Behaviors of users you believe are true but need to (in)validate.

Phrasing of Assumptions: user will do action .

Equity: The practice of fairness/justice and those in power creating and sharing ownership. More from our CEO, Matt Candler on how 4.0 Schools is approaching this here.

Demand: The desire of the user (student, parent, teacher etc.) for a particular experience, service, or other item.

Iterate: Repetitive variations on a project or idea, tweaking something small each time.

Pilot: Week-to-semester long experience with 5–20 students that tests core assumptions about your solution.

Pop-up: A day (or less) experience with 5–20 students that tests core assumptions about your solution.

Problem: The core of the pain your user is experiencing.

Prototype: To test something out, usually with a first or early example that is used as a model for what comes later.

Solution: What venture or aspect of your venture are you creating to solve the problem you users are experiencing currently?

Test: A plan to interact with your users that will validate or invalidate an assumption you are making within your venture.

User: A person/group of people who is experiencing a problem that you are aiming to solve with your venture.

Ready to apply? Applications close 10/9 at noon.