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National Head Start Fellowship Program FAQs

These FAQs answer questions about the National Head Start Fellowship Program (NHSFP). Here, you’ll find information on the application process, program administration details, and more.

Application Information

Can you apply if you do not work directly with children and families?

Yes. If your role involves supporting early childhood and family services, you are eligible to apply even if you do not work directly with children and families. Here are a few examples of such roles:

  • Health specialist serving children and families
  • Fiscal specialist working in a program serving children and families
  • Professional in early childhood care and education at the state level

What are the criteria for choosing a reference to submit recommendation?

Submit a recommendation from your current supervisor or organization leader who can speak to your professional strengths, contributions, and readiness for the Fellowship. Upload the recommendation directly in the online application platform.

Do candidates need to be part of the current administration’s political party?

No, the NHSFP remains a strictly bipartisan tradition.

Are Head Start fellows required to undergo a background check?

Yes, applicants chosen as fellows are required to successfully complete a federal background check to participate in the program.

Will there be opportunities to apply again if I can’t commit this year or if I am not selected?

Yes. Each year through 2027, a new application will be available, and a new class of fellows will be selected.

Are federal employees and federal contractors eligible to apply?

No. According to the Head Start Act, federal employees and contractors are ineligible to apply, except for career military. Examples of exclusion include regional training and technical assistance network, National Center, logistical, technology, and monitoring contract staff.

Administration of the NHSFP

What are the professional and personal expectations during the Fellowship year?

Fellows work at their placement location from Monday through Thursday during regular business hours. Fridays are dedicated to professional and leadership development and networking opportunities. Fellows are expected to fully engage in their work placements, which are central to the NHSFP. The professional and leadership development component enhances the work experiences that fellows fully participate in.

What typically happens if a fellow is currently employed, including with a Head Start grant recipient?

If you are considering applying, you should discuss with your current employer what leave of absence options are available if you are selected. Based on the options available, each applicant would need to consider the pros and cons and what is the best decision.

Are fellows given compensation and benefits during the Fellowship year?

Yes. Fellows are given a $95,000 salary in accordance with the Federal Office of Personnel Management’s General Salary Schedule,  plus a locality adjustment for the Washington, D.C. metro area. After 30 days, fellows are eligible for benefits including health, vision, and dental insurance programs; short- and long-term disability insurance; and a 4% 401K match. Fellows receive biweekly pay and 10 days of vacation leave, 10 days of sick leave, and 11 paid federal holidays.

Is housing offered during the Fellowship year?

No. Each fellow is responsible for their housing arrangements in the Washington, D.C. area. Relocation expenses are not covered. However, fellows will receive information and participate in a housing search to tour potential neighborhoods, child care and school options, as well as options for transportation.

Does the Fellowship offer support for child care?

No, the NHSFP does not offer child care. Fellows receive information on identifying child care options that suit each family’s needs.

How are previously scheduled commitments (e.g., continuing education, part-time work, vacation) handled during the program year?

The NHSFP is a highly sought-after opportunity that requires full-time hours and commitment to work placement, professional development, and other Fellowship responsibilities. We strongly encourage applicants to consider the timing of their application if they anticipate significant personal commitments, continuing education coursework, extended vacation, or any conflict that would not allow full participation. Each fellow and the entire class are most effective and successful with full participation and engagement.

Will future application timelines be similar to the 2024 dates?

No, the application timeline will be adjusted in 2025. However, each new class will start in October and conclude in September.

Will the Office of Head Start (OHS) make an employment offer at the end of the Fellowship?

No, OHS does not offer employment at the end of the Fellowship program. The yearlong Fellowship experience leaves fellows more experienced in program planning, decision-making, and federal policy. Fellows can use these professional and leadership competencies to provide comprehensive support to children and families with the greatest need.

Do fellows receive a recommendation at the end of the program?

No, recommendations are not a formal part of the NHSFP. However, each fellow may ask those they have worked with for letters of recommendation.

Will the time spent in the Fellowship qualify for student loan forgiveness?

No, student loan forgiveness is not available through the NHSFP.

Will there be an option to continue for a second year of Fellowship?

In some circumstances, the Head Start Act allows for an additional year of the Fellowship. However, with only five fellows each year and the competitive nature of the Fellowship, it is unlikely a second year would be granted.