Responding to Short Answer Questions Effectively

Short answer questions are an important part of the external fellowship application, therefore, you should put a significant amount of effort into crafting your answers. While presenting a thoughtful and concise response, be sure to demonstrate experiences that support your understanding of and commitment to the goals of the program.

  1. Answer the exact question being asked using simple, direct language: Strive to present in a direct manner, especially if there is a word or character limit to each short answer question and avoid redundancy.
  2. Create a compelling case for you and your project:  Persuade the reviewers that your project is important and you are the best person to do the job. Organize the information provided for each question in a clear, logical manner.
  3. Provide specific and concrete statements:  Work to avoid generalized statements, instead use concrete details when appropriate. When discussing key activities, go beyond just describing the experience, instead demonstrate your motivations and drive behind said activities and how they relate to your interests.
  4. Select appropriate words:  As you review and revise your answers, strive for clarity by removing vague words. Avoid disciplinary specific jargon. Choose strong, affirmative words to demonstrate your passion and drive.
  5. Know your audience:  It is important to understand the type of applicant that the reviewers will be looking for.  Be sure to spend enough time studying the fellowship’s missions and goals as well as learning about past recipients when possible.
  6. Proof read and obtain feedback: Have multiple people read your application essays prior to submission.  Ask them to proofread and determine if what you have written makes sense to both specialists and non-specialists.

Begin drafting your answers to short answer questions early on. Your short answers will enable you to make the case for why you should receive the award. It also helps reviewers learn about you and your project. Carefully crafting your answers will ensure that they represent your best work.

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