Application FAQs

General PiLA and Fellowship

Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, affiliated with but independent from Princeton University. It was founded by Princeton University alumni and is overseen by a board of directors made up largely thereof. PiLA has partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community, government, and multilateral organizations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean that seek highly qualified recent college graduates to take up yearlong service fellowships in development work. PiLA Fellowships offer formative field experience to those interested in working with community-oriented organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean and those who are eager to pursue careers in international development.

PiLA Fellows gain valuable and unique international professional experience while making important contributions to sustainable, equitable development efforts throughout the hemisphere. To learn more about PiLA Fellows’ impact on the communities where they work and the PiLA Fellowship’s impact on the lives of its fellows, please visit our blog and Alumni Association newsletter. We also invite you to like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

Some PiLA Fellows serve with their partner placements for the second year as Senior Fellows or are hired by our partners after completing their year of service. PiLA Alumni have gone on to a range of graduate and career pursuits (masters and doctoral programs, law, medicine, business), often internationally oriented. PiLA Alumni also are invited to participate in Alumni Association and Fellows Advisory Committee activities and are an important advisory and financial resource for the organization.

PiLA is a non-profit affiliate of Princeton University with donated office space on campus. Our operating budget is funded entirely by donations from private individuals as well as the minimal application and administrative fees collected from applicants, fellows, and partners.

PiLA is funded almost entirely by private donations and relies on contributions from individual donors to meet general operating costs (e.g. administration and program travel, communications and outreach, fellow and partner selection processes, and ongoing support to fellows and partners) and provide limited financial support to fellows with demonstrated need.

If you identify with PiLA’s mission, make it your own with a tax-deductible gift via PiLA’s donation page. All gifts, large or small, are gratefully accepted to help advance our work. You may also consider making a gift of securities or a legacy gift. PiLA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, EIN 22–3658504.

If you would like to support PiLA’s work in some other way, please browse our website for opportunities and reach out with any questions.

Read these FAQs, browse our website, and join our mailing list. We also invite you to like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

To apply for the PiLA Fellowship, visit the application portal.

Application Guidelines and Timeline

The application is open to all seniors and recent graduates of North American and Canadian universities. Individuals who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents are welcome to apply but should be aware that some partner placements will be unavailable to them. If this is your situation, feel free to contact PiLA.

No. PiLA selects a diverse pool of fellows on the basis of academic achievement, demonstrated commitment to service and to PiLA’s mission, relevant language skills, knowledge of and experience in the region, interpersonal and intercultural sensitivity, leadership potential, adaptability and resilience, a sense of humor, and humility. Please see our Fellows page to learn more about this growing cohort of talented and committed young professionals.

Individuals with graduate or professional degrees or postgraduate work experience are welcome to apply. While there is no explicit age limit, PiLA rarely considers applicants who are more than five years past the bachelor's degree.

PiLA placements are full-time commitments. Our partners hire our fellows with the understanding that they will be present in the country and on the job for the duration of their commitment, with the exception of agreed-upon travel and vacation time. It will not be possible to take additional time away to return to the U.S. for tests such as the MCAT or LSAT or for admissions interviews. Therefore, PiLA strongly discourages placement as a PiLA Fellow for those applicants intending to apply to medical, dental, veterinary or law school during the placement year.

PiLA Fellows are screened and placed through an annual process, according to the following schedule. Note that if you are offered a placement as a fellow, you may need to move quickly in order to secure the appropriate visa for the living and working abroad for a year as a stipended volunteer before your agreed upon departure date. Spearheading this process is the responsibility of the fellow, to be carried out with advice and support from the partner. PiLA can provide a letter verifying the fellow’s status in support of this process but has limited ability to advise or provide additional support to fellows in visa-related matters.

September through January

The PiLA application officially opens in early September and closes in early November. Late applications are not accepted. From November through January, applicants pass through two rounds. Semifinalists are selected through a thorough review of their written materials and are interviewed in person or via Skype. Finalists are selected on the basis of their materials and their interviews. All applicants are notified of their status by late January.

February through early May

PiLA partners receive shortlists of finalists that we provide them beginning in February and begin conducting their own interviews. From February through April, PiLA staff distribute partners’ offers to finalists on a weekly basis. Finalists have one week to consider each offer(s) before accepting or declining a position with a PiLA partner. Once a finalist has accepted an offer, they sign an agreement with the partner and PiLA, and remit a placement fee. We aim to fill all our partners’ staffing requests with PiLA Fellows by early May.

June through August

Mandatory orientation is held on Princeton University campus, usually the second weekend in June. Fellows travel to their posts in the field after that, to begin on the start date they have negotiated with their partner.

There is no set formula. PiLA assesses academic performance; professional recommendations; foreign-language proficiency; domestic and overseas study, service, work and travel experience; evidence of cultural sensitivity and emotional maturity; and an abiding commitment to service. Some fellows have completed a graduate degree or have postgraduate experience in the private, public or nonprofit sectors (e.g., Fulbright, Peace Corps, American Jewish World Service, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, AmeriCorps VISTA, Teach for America).

No. PiLA accepts a finalist pool larger than the number of placements available in anticipation of attrition as some applicants pursue other opportunities, and in order to give our partners the opportunity to interview several candidates for a post, should they wish to do so. We make our very best effort to guarantee interviews for all those finalists who continue in the process, but our partners make the final hiring decisions, and we stand by them in that.

PiLA discourages partners and fellows from relying on tourist visas for the duration of a PiLA fellowship, and encourages partners and fellows to research and pursue other visa options available to them. The primary responsibility for applying for and securing a valid visa in timely fashion necessarily rests on the the fellow. Therefore fellows should begin this research as early as possible, through conversations with their host organizations and with their closest consulate. Note that long-term visa application processes can be lengthy and costly, and in some cases may require consular visits. PiLA partners are committed to assisting fellows with necessary documentation and some but not necessarily all visa-related costs. PiLA can provide a letter verifying the fellow’s status in support of this process but has limited ability to advise or provide additional support to fellows in visa-related matters. Fellows must keep PiLA and partners informed of any visa-related delays or changes in plan.

PiLA offers a highly competitive fellowship and expects applicants to be pursuing various opportunities. PiLA cannot guarantee placements to finalists, although we make our best effort to facilitate interviews with partners for all finalists who continue in the process. Similarly, we expect full transparency from applicants regarding other options they may be pursuing and their evolving plans. We are available to talk over options with finalists at any point, and we support their decisions accept or decline offers, or to leave the process altogether, equally. PiLA’s program works best when all parties enter into their commitments with knowledge and willingness.

When a partner does make an offer to a finalist, the finalist has one week to consider the offer before responding. It is necessary to maintain this predictable rhythm so that all partners can find ideal placements and all finalists can have closure with the process in a timely fashion. PiLA offers and opportunities may come before or after others that you are considering; therefore it is important to be clear about your priorities and to take the time available within the existing parameters to consider your options carefully before making a decision.

We congratulate you, and invite you to reapply in another year, should you desire to do so. Likely your new application will be even stronger by virtue of your additional professional experience.

Recommendations

Only one recommendation is required in each category. Submitting extra recommendations will not enhance an applicant’s prospects. As an exception to this rule, applicants who speak two target languages should request two language recommendations. Please see the relevant FAQ and contact PiLA if this is your case.

Either is fine. Our goal is to assess your critical thinking and problem-solving skills, your overall commitment and fitness for the PiLA program, and ultimately, your ability to thrive in and contribute to the kind of work and living environment in which you’ll find yourself as a PiLA Fellow.

Yes, but it is to your advantage to have two different recommenders, one for each area.

As a courtesy and to ensure timely submission of all materials, we suggest that you give your recommenders plenty of notice. Make sure they understand that their recommendations must be submitted via the online process. PiLA cannot process any hard copy application materials, including recommendation forms and letters. No incomplete or late applications will be processed.

No, our system of evaluation requires that all materials be submitted and stored online.

Complete and submit a recommendation request in your application. This automatically generates a request to your recommender. No further notification is necessary.

Occasionally, automatically generated recommendation requests get filtered out by university systems and spam filters. If you have submitted the request and your recommender has not received it, please ask them to check their spam folders for the request.

Completed applications are due by the stated November deadline, 11:59 pm Eastern Time. Without the required recommendations, an application cannot be considered complete. Please use your best judgment and communicate with your chosen recommenders to ensure the timely submission of your recommendations.

Language Requirements and Recommendations

PiLA is not an immersion program for language study. Our fellows must be able to conduct day-to-day business and life in the local language from the moment they arrive in the country. Therefore, working knowledge of the target language (Spanish or Portuguese) is necessary. We learn about applicants’ language skills through the required foreign language evaluation and through our Skype interviews with semifinalists, which are conducted in whole or in part in the target language(s). All applicants, regardless of formal study, must request a language evaluation from an academic or professional recommender.

We suggest one of these options: 1) Contact the foreign language department at your college or university to arrange a language-proficiency evaluation. The person who evaluates your proficiency will be your language recommender; or 2) Ask a supervisor who has witnessed your use of the language in question in the workplace to be your language proficiency evaluator.

We prefer whenever possible that the language recommendation come from a faculty member experienced in producing this type of evaluation.

Applicants who speak more than one of the target languages have the option of requesting more than one language proficiency recommendation; simply inform PiLA and ask the second language recommender to email their written recommendation directly to PiLA. The system does not all a form for the second recommendation.

PiLA Partners and Placements

You can see the list of current placements here. The array of opportunities is continually evolving in such fields as arts and culture, community development, conservation, education, entrepreneurship, girls’ and women’s empowerment, microfinance, and public health. Finalists will be asked to identify up to three partner organizations with whom they’d most like to work, and will be selected based on the fitness and flexibility of their profile – in other words, their ability to serve with more than one partner. Their materials will be provided on shortlists to multiple partners, who in turn will conduct their own selection processes. Partner organizations make the final decision as to whether to interview or offer a placement to a finalist. Thus, when you apply to PiLA, you apply to be part of a program, cohort, and network, not necessarily to work with a specific partner organization. The final placement process any given year depends upon the current needs of our partners.

We have a whole section on our website for partners and prospective partners! Please visit it, here.

We appreciate referrals that help expand our network. Note however that the partner selection process is ongoing and sometimes lengthy. It doesn’t work on the same cycle as our fellow selection process, and no placements with a prospective partner are possible until that process is complete.

While both you and your partner may make an organization’s shortlist if your qualifications warrant it, PiLA’s partners make the final hiring decisions on the basis of their personnel needs, not of personal requests or relationships between fellows.

This is up to you and the partner. Please be aware that you will be responsible for working full time at your placement while earning a subsistence-level stipend based on the estimated needs of a single person. This may include living in shared housing provided by your host organization. No additional allowances can be made for others who might accompany you; therefore, you would be responsible for all financial, logistical, or other ramifications of such a decision.

No. PiLA placements anticipate a full year commitment, although precise start and end dates are negotiated on an individual basis between fellow and partner. The fellowship is comparable to a fulltime job to which you commit for the full contracted period, and this commitment is made verbally and in writing with PiLA and the partner organization. Holiday, vacation, and sick day policies for fellows are generally identical to those for full-time staff at our partner organizations.

In order to provide meaningful service to our partners and a serious professional development experience to our fellows, and to maintain and strengthen our relationships, we expect fellows to fulfill their full year commitments. Except in emergency circumstances (e.g., evacuation due to serious illness or injury, major natural disaster, or massive political upheaval), it is unacceptable for a fellow to leave a placement early, and loss of fellowship status would result.

Finances

Here are the basic required costs associated with the PiLA process. Note that fees paid to PiLA are non-refundable.

Application fee$100
Fellowship placement fee, payable upon acceptance of a partner’s offer$500
International medical and emergency evacuation insurance$260–$560, depending on the coverage selected
Visa-related costsvariable
Travel to mandatory June orientation (note that room and board during orientation are covered by PiLA)variable
International airfarevariable

We encourage applicants to plan early for the expenses associated with a PiLA Fellowship, reaching out to their own universities and communities to learn about funding opportunities should they be placed with a PiLA partner. PiLA has limited funds to subsidize the cost of fees for fellows with demonstrated financial need. If you feel this applies to you, see the relevant FAQ for more information.

Applicants who are students receiving financial aid may submit a copy of their current award letter via email to PiLA to be evaluated for a possible reduction in all applicable fees. Applicants who are currently volunteers earning subsistence stipends with organizations such as Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, etc, may similarly submit a letter from their supervisor detailing their current position and stipend for consideration. Note that other costs associated with the fellowship cannot be discounted.

PiLA is not currently able to provide further financial support to fellows with exceptional need. However, we encourage such fellows to set up crowdfunding pages, which they can distribute to their networks, and can referring such fellows to some foundations that can offer further limited support.

We encourage applicants to plan early for the expenses associated with a PiLA fellowship, reaching out to their own universities and communities to learn about funding opportunities should they be placed with a PiLA partner.

PiLA Fellows are supported by their host organizations at a subsistence level. Their basic housing, utilities, food, personal essentials, work-related transport, and certain visa-related costs are covered through monthly stipend payments, in-kind, or by a combination of these. In most cases, fellows must cover their own international airfare and mandatory health and emergency insurance costs. Fellows should expect to live modestly in local terms. PiLA Fellowships are not money-making posts, but they afford a unique opportunity to gain valuable experience and launch an international public-sector career, if that is desired.

This will depend on your lender; we suggest that you investigate your options with them before departing for your post. PiLA is happy to write a letter documenting your status and income as a PiLA fellow to provide to your lender in support of a deferment request.

Yes. A fellowship is an amount paid to or for the benefit of an individual to aid in the pursuit of study, research, or service work such as that entailed through a PiLA placement. Per the IRS, scholarship and fellowship amounts are taxable (“nonqualified”) when amounts are used for room, board, travel, equipment, incidental living expenses, stipends, and other expenses not required as part of their education; or funds are given to non-degree candidates, such as postdocs and fellows.

PiLA is not required to withhold taxes or report your earnings to the IRS, but you are responsible for reporting your stipend as fellowship income on your annual federal tax return (see the IRS web site). Upon request, we are happy to provide a letter documenting the fellowship amount.

We recommend that you keep detailed financial records in order to prepare your personal annual tax return. Note that this is not tax advice. We suggest that you consult your tax adviser with further questions and to discuss making estimated tax payments for the taxable portion of your fellowship income.