Have more questions that aren’t asked frequently enough to make this FAQ list? Contact us at fellows@phillyfellows.org!

Applications are due on February 5, 2017. Selected applicants will be invited to interview with Philly Fellows in late February.  Fellows will be selected in mid-March.  Those who accept our offer to become fellows will then interview at 3-5 host agencies before the final placements are made.

Yes.  Fellowships are open only to first-year graduates.

Yes.  While we actively recruit and hold information sessions at several Philadelphia-area schools with which we have built strong partnerships, the application process, is open to all graduating seniors.  For applicants who don’t attend local colleges, we generally look for them to have some kind of connection to Philadelphia or particular reason for wanting to start their careers there.

Due to AmeriCorps regulations, Philly Fellows must be US Citizens or Permanent Residents.

For most recent years, we’ve received around 125 applications for 15-16 fellowship slots.

The personal statement is open-ended, though the topic should be relevant to Philly Fellows. The personal statement is not a cover letter, so make sure it says more than a narrative version of your résumé would. It should be unique and give Philly Fellows an idea of who you are and what you would bring to the program. In the past, some prospective fellows have addressed some of these topics in their essays:

– a challenge they have faced in the past that might make them a better Philly Fellow
– when and why they first became interested in service
– their favorite thing about Philadelphia
– what they hope to do once their fellowship ends (and how the program fits into those plans)

The main portion of our application, including the essays, is an online form. However, applicants must mail their transcripts. Recommendations should come directly from your references either through a separate online form or by mail; instructions can be found here.

Recommendations should be from people who can accurately and articulately describe your character and qualifications. Philly Fellows does not have any specific requirements about whether letters should come from professors, employers, or one of each, but we do ask that your recommendations offer a comprehensive and well-rounded picture of your candidacy, so ask the people who are in the best position to describe the qualities that would make you a good fellow.

Our application form will be available online in early January (when we post our placements for the upcoming fellowship year).  While you’re more than welcome to submit an application before the deadline, all applications will be considered at the same time.

Candidates who receive a fellowship offer must accept or decline it without knowing exactly which host agency they will be assigned to. Once they do accept, fellows will have the opportunity to interview with their top three or four host agencies to determine the best match.  We can not guarantee that anyone will be matched with their top choice, but we will do our best to create a match that is satisfactory both to the fellow and the host agency.  We take written feedback from both groups, and our goal is to create the most optimal set of matches possible for the entire cohort.  Keeping this in mind, please select three to four positions on your Application for Fellowship that you would be willing and excited to work at for a year.

Your applications will be reviewed by our Selection Committee, which consists of Philly Fellows’ Executive Director, our Selection Associate, and a group of 2-4 volunteer members from our alumni network.

Fellows will receive a living stipend every two weeks from VISTA which amounts to $1,025 a month.  Remember that rent is covered by Philly Fellows, making it much easier to live comfortably on this income.  Upon completion of the year of service, fellows receive an education award, which is worth up to $5,815.

Each Philly Fellow will also be enrolled as an AmeriCorps VISTA member.  VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) “provides full-time members to nonprofit, faith-based and other community organizations, and public agencies to create and expand programs that ultimately bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty.”  Philly Fellows acts as an umbrella organization which places the fellows at the non-profit host agencies. Many of the benefits that fellows receive, including their living stipend, education award, health insurance, and student loan deferment come through the VISTA program.

In addition to VISTA benefits, fellows receive free housing and furnishings, a transportation stipend, and leadership development programming through Philly Fellows. Philly Fellows has a much more competitive application process than most VISTA positions – both for the students and the agencies who apply.

These funds can be used to pay education costs at qualified institutions of higher education, for educational training, or to repay qualified student loans (i.e. federally-backed student loans in your name). You can access the award in full or in part, and you can take up to seven years after your term of service has ended to claim the award.  The awards are not paid directly to the former VISTA member, but rather to the educational institution or lender that member designates.  If you won’t be using the award for the above educational purposes, you may claim an end-of-service cash stipend of $1,500.   The awards are subject to available education trust allocations to
AmeriCorps*VISTA.  Find more information on the education award and other
benefits associated with VISTA

Our living stipend is set by AmeriCorps*VISTA as being 105% of the poverty level for an individual.  It’s true that it’s not a lot of money, but with housing covered by the program (and student loans in forbearance – see below), it’s manageable for our fellows to have a comfortable lifestyle.  Many of them even report that they’re able to put money away in savings during the course of the year.

As a VISTA member, your federally backed student loans can be placed in forbearance.  This means you won’t have to make payments during the term of service, and the federal government pays any interest that accrues during this time.

Health coverage is provided by the federal government through the VISTA program.  Please be aware that pre-existing conditions are not covered by this plan.  From the Corporation for National and Community Service: “The medical benefits plan covers all injuries and/or illnesses suffered during service and most pharmacy needs. The plan does not cover medical care for pre-existing medical illnesses and/or injuries.”  For more comprehensive information on the plan, visit www.americorpsvista.imglobal.com.

Currently, we have one six-bedroom house in West Philadelphia, one five-bedroom house in Graduate Hospital, and one four-bedroom house on the southern edge of Center City.  These houses are subject to change for the upcoming fellowship year.

Yes.  Each fellow will have their own bedroom, though sizes will vary.  Fellows will share all other living space in their house.  Remember, you’ll be in a community living situation.


Yes.  Each bedroom comes furnished with a full or queen sized bed, nightstand, and chest of drawers.  The common space includes couches, chairs, a dining room table, and a fully equipped kitchen.

Yes.  The program covers gas (heat), electric, water, and internet for the houses.

Fellows will share kitchen space, and as with all living space in the house, fellows must keep it clean and livable.  Fellows will be responsible for cooking for themselves, but because fellows will be living in a community, we encourage them to make time for shared meals whenever possible.

Yes.  We place a strong emphasis on the community aspect of Philly Fellows; therefore, all fellows are required to live in program housing.

That’s ridiculous. Next question.

All fellowship positions have been rigorously pre-screened by Philly Fellows staff. Before beginning a fellowship, fellows will have the opportunity to examine detailed job descriptions and interview with three to four agencies. Any problems that arise during the fellowship year will be dealt with on a case-by- case basis by Philly Fellows staff.  Keep in mind that we do ask our selected applicants to commit to the fellowships before the host agency matching process begins, so applicants should be prepared to be matched with any of their top three choices.

No; we ask that in accepting a fellowship slot, fellows commit to the entire year of the program.

Philly Fellows was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1768 as a means to staff the libraries, fire companies, and numerous other public institutions he had already founded.  Legend has it that Franklin was inspired by Philly Fellows’ distinctive kite logo to attempt his famous experiment with lightning.  Prominent fellows of the time included Robert Fulton who later invented the steamboat and Richard Rush, who went on to serve as Secretary of the Treasury in the John Quincy Adams Administration.  Philly Fellows went into dormancy during the War of 1812 and was revived 192 years later by Co-Directors Matt Joyce and Tim Ifill.