residents & fellows

How to Apply for a Fellowship

Find useful tips and learn more about applying for fellowship positions. View a list of fellowship opportunities on the Fellowship Directory.


  • Start Early: Check program websites for vacancies and requirements for the application process. Make contact with programs toward the end of your PGY2 year, and no later than October/November of your PGY3 year. Look on the AAN Fellowships Page, individual program websites, such as FREIDA and other websites. Remember, since fellowship positions and availability are constantly changing, do not rely on information on these sites alone. Always contact the program you are interested in.
  • Think About Your Career Goals: Why a fellowship? What specialty? Is this the right area and/or lifestyle for me? Compare specialties. Speak to people across multiple specialties. Keep your options open. Make time to reflect and decide your priorities.
  • Get Informed: Consider the job market of your specialty, check out geographical areas, talk to other applicants or previous fellows, speak to your mentors (very important!), obtain input from professors. Where is the field going and where will it be when you are done training? In general, the application process varies widely based on the fellowship to which you're applying (e.g., neurocritical care now follows a match system).
  • Draft a Timeline: Create a timeline of when to submit applications and prepare for interviews. The budget for travel. If you are going to need to arrange for time off work or clinical coverage while you are at interviews, do this early.
  • Relax: Don't panic. The vast majority of program graduates have found fellowships that have suited their needs well.
  • Organize: Prepare a list of questions, organize your certificates with all dates, be prepared for the application process in advance, have a portfolio available, use one email address for all applications. (Tip: Use your university address rather than personal email.)
  • Draft Your Personal Statement: Personal statements should be one page or less. Be enthusiastic, communicate through your words. Get help with proofreading (by at least two people), especially if English is not your first language.
  • Recommendation Letters: Obtain strong letters that are well-written. You need to sell yourself and be competitive.
  • Research Experience: Whether publications or presentations, be able to demonstrate the significance of your work, be knowledgeable on your research topic, how your research will make an impact. Get excited about your research and think about how you want to continue research through Fellowship and beyond.
  • Application: List community service projects, write clearly and demonstrate the spectrum of your academic record. List all pertinent accomplishments.
  • Interview/Selection Process: Clinical performance, rotation evaluations, and interpersonal skills are important, as well as the reputation of your program, involvement in research, and medical knowledge (e.g., USMLE). Be prepared for questions (why are you different, why this field, this particular program, your weaknesses, where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?). Be confident. Ask your own questions. Eye contact and professionalism are important. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early, plan your route the day before and allow time for travel delays and mishaps.
  • Keep in Contact: Send thank you notes, maintain follow-up, listen for vacancies or announcements, consistently check and re-check websites.
  • Maintain Perspective: Stressful situations can blur your goals and/or perspective. Strategize early - you may have to make difficult decisions to make when the offers start rolling in!