Frequently Asked Questions
July 12, 2013

Key Sections:
General Questions and Requests| Questions About How to Apply| Inquiries About the Status of Your Application
1. General Questions and Requests
How many fellowships are there?
Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) offers three fellowships to begin in September 2014:

  • Alan R. and Barbara D. Finberg Fellowship – a one-year fellowship open to any candidate, from any institution, domestic or foreign, who meets the eligibility criteria described below.
  • The Leonard H. Sandler Fellowship – a one-year fellowship open only to recent J.D. graduates of Columbia Law School.
  • The NYU School of Law Fellowship at HRW – a one-year fellowship open only to 2014 J.D. graduates of New York University School of Law.

Please note that the Bernstein Fellowship is directly administered by Yale Law School. For information on applying for this fellowship, click here.
Is there an application form?
No. Just e-mail all six pieces of your application (cover letter, resume, two letters of recommendation, an unedited writing sample, and an official transcript). Please send all materials under single cover (in one email) and preferably as one PDF file (or, at a minimum, as separate PDF files).
Do you accept non-U.S. nationals?
Yes. The fellowships are open to everyone who meets the other criteria (see next query), regardless of nationality or immigration status. Human Rights Watch will assist prospective fellows in obtaining the necessary work authorization; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply.
What degree is required to be eligible for the fellowships?
For the Sandler Fellowship, prospective fellows must be recent law graduates. (LL.M.s are not eligible.)
For the NYU Fellowship, prospective fellows must be 2014 law graduates (LL.M.s arenot eligible). 
For the Finberg Fellowship, applicants must be graduates of law, journalism, international relations or other relevant studies at the Master's level. LL.M.s are also eligible. Graduates with LL.B. degrees or advanced degrees in other relevant disciplines may also be considered.
What does "recent graduate" mean? Is there a length of time after which one may not apply for a fellowship?
The fellowships are intended for human rights activists in the early stages of their careers. As a general rule of thumb, the committee considers those who have received their graduate degrees within the past three years to be recent graduates.
For this cycle, we will consider Finberg Fellowship applicants with degrees received after January 2011 and before August 2014 as “recent graduates.”
For the Sandler Fellowship, preference will be given to 2014 graduates and recent graduates who are completing a judicial clerkship.
If I have an LL.M. degree, which fellowships am I eligible to apply for?
The Sandler Fellowship and the NYU School of Law Fellowship are restricted to J.D. graduates; LL.M.s are unfortunately not eligible.
However, LL.M.s are encouraged to apply for the Finberg (unrestricted) Fellowship, if they meet the eligibility requirements.
What other qualifications are you looking for?
Applicants must demonstrate a strong background in international human rights and be committed to building a career in human rights. Research experience, including experience conducting interviews, ideally in the context of human rights research, is required. Field experience in human rights work is strongly desirable.
Applicants must have exceptional analytic skills and excellent oral and written communications skills in English. Proficiency in one language in addition to English is strongly desired as is familiarity with countries or regions where serious human rights violations occur.
Applicants should be highly motivated and well-organized; able to work quickly and well under pressure, both independently and as a member of a team; able to juggle multiple tasks; and able to meet tight deadlines. The fellowship year will require creativity, initiative, perseverance, and flexibility while maintaining HRW's high methodological standards.
What do you mean when you say fellowship applicants must have experience conducting interviews?
The strongest applicants for the Human Rights Watch fellowships have direct experience interviewing victims of human rights abuses. All applicants must be able to demonstrate some kind of interviewing experience. Interviewing experience may take different forms, including: interviewing victims of human rights abuses for human rights reporting; interviewing for news articles; interviewing clients through legal aid clinics or similar settings; conducting interviews as part of refugee status determination; conducting interview-based academic research or other research, etc.
What if I get invited for an interview but I can't afford to travel to New York?
In the event that you are offered an interview, Human Rights Watch will make the necessary arrangements to interview you; this is not something you need to concern yourself with at this stage of the process.
If I get a fellowship, where will I be working?
Most fellows are based in the New York office of Human Rights Watch. However, when applying for a fellowship, an applicant should be prepared to live in New York City, Washington, D.C., or another location. Placement depends on which Human Rights Watch division or program a fellow is assigned to.
If I receive a fellowship, will Human Rights Watch pay for relocation and work authorization costs?
Yes. Human Rights Watch will assist with and pay for obtaining work authorization. If an employee is asked to relocate by the organization, Human Rights Watch may pay certain relocation expenses in particular cases, upon prior approval of the Human Resources Director, such as:

  • Economy travel (including meals and lodging) to the new location
  • The cost of shipping personal belongings and business files to the new location
  • Temporary, short-term living expenses at the new location

Can I speak to someone from the committee?
The Fellowship Committee is unable to respond to individual requests for information.  Applicants should not call Human Rights Watch under any circumstances with questions concerning their application. 
To whom should I address my cover letter?
Applicants may address their cover letter to the Human Rights Watch Fellowships Committee.
What are the chances of getting a fellowship?
The Human Rights Watch fellowships are highly competitive. Last year, we received over 1,000 applications. Out of these, we were able to interview only 18 candidates, for four fellowship positions. We expect a similar number of applicants and interviewees this year.
When the year is over and one has completed the fellowship program, are there possibilities of full-time employment at Human Rights Watch?
Some fellows do go on to long-term employment with HRW. If there is an employment opportunity that opens up for which the fellow is qualified, fellows are encouraged to apply. However, there is no guarantee of future employment with HRW.  Fellows often find employment with other human rights organizations, international organizations, or academic institutions, depending on their qualifications.
What if I have a question that is not answered on this FAQ?
You can send inquiries by email for the Finberg, Sandler, and NYU Fellowships to  Applicants should not call Human Rights Watch under any circumstances with questions concerning their application. 
2. Questions About How to Apply
When is the deadline?
All applications for the Finberg, Sandler, and NYU, fellowships must be received by October 16, 2013. Incomplete applications or applications received after the deadline will not be considered.  
May I apply for more than one fellowship?
You may apply for more than one Human Rights Watch fellowship in any given fellowship year. You should submit separate, complete applications for each fellowship for which you intend to apply (the application materials may be identical).
If you apply for more than one fellowship, you must indicate on each application which other Human Rights Watch fellowships you have also applied for. This allows us to more easily process your applications.  
I'd like more information on the different parts of the application.
Please see our Fellowship Application Checklist for more information on specific expectations and suggestions on the different parts of the application.
Should I propose a specific project/area of interest in my application?
Your application should describe your areas of experience, expertise, interest, and your qualifications for the fellowship. Human Rights Watch will assign you to a regional or thematic division based on institutional needs and the strengths of your application.
Can recommendations/applications be sent by fax?
No. The entire application, including recommendations and transcripts, should be submitted by e-mail. If there are truly extenuating circumstances, an application may be sent by fax, but you must discuss this with us beforehand. Without prior written approval, Human Rights Watch will not accept application materials sent in this manner.
Do all the pieces of my application have to arrive together?
Yes. Please send all materials under single cover (in one email) and preferably as one PDF file (or, at a minimum, as separate PDF files).  Because of the volume of applications received, it is not possible for us to process incomplete applications. If your files are too large to attach to a single e-mail message, please consider compressing the files before sending them.
We strongly prefer to receive letters of recommendation in one email with the rest of the application; however, if necessary, letters of recommendation may be emailed under separate cover to  Please be sure to specify the names of recommenders in your application. You are responsible for ensuring that all elements of the application, including the letters of recommendation, are received by the October 16, 2013 deadline.
Incomplete applications or applications received after the deadline will not be considered. 
What is an "unpublished writing sample"? Does a master's thesis count as "unpublished"?
By "unpublished," we simply mean that no one other than you may have edited your writing sample. You may submit any document which has been edited only by you. If you wish to submit a document which has been published, for example in a law review or magazine, you must submit your original version, i.e. the article as it was before anyone else edited it. A master's thesis is acceptable, as long as it was not edited by your professor or anyone else.
Are there any guidelines on the content or form of the writing sample?
Applicants should submit one writing sample only. The writing samples should be no longer than 10 pages. The writing sample may be an excerpt from a longer work. You should submit a piece of writing which you feel reflects your commitment and experience in the field of human rights. Whether or not it contains citations, footnotes, etc., is up to you. Please do not submit a legal brief as a writing sample.
Should my recommendations come from professors, or from people who know me from outside my classes?
This is up to you. Your recommendations should come from any individual who can testify as to your qualifications for the fellowships.
Does my transcript need to be translated into English?
Yes. If the transcript is not in English, the Fellowship Committee may not be able to read it. Proficiency in English is required for the fellowships, so candidates should be able to do this translation themselves. If the transcript is translated by anyone other than the school that issued it, however, the original must be included with your application.

Should I send in my undergraduate transcript as well as my graduate or law school transcript?
Undergraduate transcripts are not required, unless you fall in the categories listed in the Transcript section of our Fellowship Application Checklist:
3. Inquiries About the Status of Your Application

How will I know whether my application was received?
Due to the high volume of applications, we are regrettably unable to respond to email or phone requests about the status of an individual application.   Applicants should not call Human Rights Watch under any circumstances with questions concerning their application. 
When will I hear the results of my application?
Interviews will be held in late November to mid-December for the Finberg,  Sandler, and NYU Fellowships, and final decisions will be announced in early 2014.
Please note that short-listed candidates will be contacted directly by phone or e-mail.
Are applications accepted after the deadline?
No. Incomplete applications or applications received after the October 16, 2013 deadline will not be considered.
Can you check to see if my recommendations/transcript/etc. have arrived?
Applications, including recommendations and transcripts, should be sent under a single cover, and not in separate emails. Due to the large volume of applications received we are unable to check individual files.