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National Head Start Fellowship Program FAQs

These FAQs answer questions about the National Head Start Fellowship Program (NHSFP), including the application process and program administration details.

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 these type of 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

Are there criteria for choosing your references to submit recommendations?

You may request recommendations from your professional networks, current and previous supervisors, colleagues, mentors, and anyone who can speak to your professional strengths, contributions, and readiness for the Fellowship. Recommendations are uploaded to the online application platform.

Do candidates need to be of the same political party as the current administration?

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. Some exclusion examples include regional training and 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?

Generally, Fellows work at their placement location from Monday to Thursday during regular business hours, while Fridays are dedicated to professional development and networking opportunities. Fellows are expected to fully engage in their work placements, which is central to the NHSFP. The professional development program augments and enhances the work experiences Fellows fully participate in.

What typically happens with a Fellow’s current employment? I work with a Head Start grantee and a year is a long amount of leave.

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 for you.

Are Fellows given compensation and benefits during the Fellowship year?

Yes. Fellows are given a $95,000 salary based in accordance with the Federal Office of Personnel Management’s General Salary Schedule, grade 12, plus the locality adjustment for the DC 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 own housing arrangements in the Washington, DC 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 in identifying child care options that suit each family’s needs.

How are previously scheduled commitments, such as vacation, handled during the program year?

The NHSFP is a highly sought-after opportunity that requires full-time commitment, with 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, extensive vacation, or any conflict that would not allow their full participation. Each Fellow and the entire class are most effective and successful with full participation and engagement.

Will the 2023 dates and application timeline be similar in the future?

No, the application timeline will be adjusted in 2024. However, each new class will start in October and conclude in September.

Will employment be offered at the Office of Head Start (OHS) after the fellowship?

No, employment is not offered by OHS at the end of the Fellowship program. However, the yearlong Fellowship experience leaves Fellows more experienced in program planning, decision-making, and federal policy. Fellows can use these 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 a letter of recommendation.

Will the time spent in the Fellowship qualify toward 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?

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