Application FAQs

Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, affiliated with but not funded by Princeton University. 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 who take up full-year 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.

Although founded by Princeton University alumni, and overseen by a board of directors made up primarily of Princeton alums, PiLA is entirely supported by private donations (including former fellows committed to “paying it forward”), application and administrative fees, and the resources of our partner organizations.

Application is open to graduating seniors and young alumni of North American universities who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. You do not need to be a graduate of Princeton University. PiLA rarely considers applicants who are more than five years past the bachelor degree. Individuals with graduate or professional degrees or postgraduate work experience are welcome to apply.

There are too many variables in the application process to be able to answer that question. However, see the FAQ: https://www.pila-princeton.org/faqs/what-basic-applicant-profile

For nearly all posts, working knowledge of the target language (Spanish, Portuguese or French) is generally necessary. Those who have not studied the target languages formally in some time must still request a language evaluation from a professional or academic recommender. Applicants who speak more than one of the target languages have the option of requesting more than one language proficiency recommendation by asking the recommender to send an email directly to pila@princeton.edu

While prospective applicants with limited language competency express an intention to improve their language skills before beginning a post, it is unlikely that applicants without basic professional competency in the language will advance to the interview stage. Part of the interview is conducted in the target language, and partners will interview candidates in the native language as well, so a solid command of the language is essential.

Interested individuals who recognize their limitations in the target language are encouraged to improve their competency via academic courses, intensive language study (e.g. Middlebury Language Schools), or a volunteer or paid working position where they will be required to use the language regularly. These experiences would help a prospective applicant become more competitive for the following year.

As a native speaker, ask the relevant language department at your institution if someone there can do a quick assessment, and then designate that person as your recommender when you are logged into the application system. Alternately, if you have used the language in the workplace, or as a volunteer, or if you have taken courses taught in the language, ask your supervisor or instructor to serve as a language evaluator. While the online application has space for the language recommender to submit a letter of recommendation, that is optional. However, they must complete the questionnaire that is part of the language assessment.

The array of opportunities is continually evolving in such fields as education, health, environmental conservation, communications, microfinance, human services and human rights. Finalists will be asked to identify up to three partner organizations according to the best fit with their qualifications, skills, experience and professional interests, but the partner organizations make the final decision as to whether to offer a placement to finalists.

No, the technology and volume of applications prevent that. All application materials are evaluated online by PiLA reviewers logging in remotely from around the globe. As a courtesy to those writing on your behalf, give your recommenders plenty of notice so that they too are able to meet the deadline. Make sure they understand that their recommendations must be submitted via the online process. PiLA is unable to process printed materials, including recommendation forms and letters. No incomplete or late applications can be processed.

Only one recommendation is required in each category.Submitting extra recommendations will not enhance an applicant’s prospects. In rare instances, circumstances may be such that a second recommendation would make sense; for example, applicants who speak two target languages may need two language recommendations. Please email pila@princeton.edu should you need to request a second recommendation, since the online application system only allows for one recommendation request.

Do not request two or more recommendations just because you are able to do so.

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

Generally only at the subsistence level, to cover housing, utilities, food, local work-related transport, and personal essentials. Fellows should expect to live modestly in local terms. All stakeholders (the fellow, the partner organization, and PiLA) invest in the cost of the fellowship. Fellows generally cover or find outside help to cover airfare and mandatory overseas insurance.

PiLA fellowships are not money-making posts, but they afford a unique opportunity to launch an international public-sector career. Some PiLA fellows are hired by our partners after completing their year of service, and PiLA alumni have gone on to a variety of graduate and career pursuits (masters and doctoral programs, law, medicine, business), often internationally oriented. PiLA board members and former PiLA fellows (the Fellows Advisory Council) are also important advisory resources.

Application ($100 payable online), fellowships placement ($500, payable upon acceptance of placement offer), medical and emergency evacuation insurance ($275–$550, depending on coverage), visa application fees (variable), and international round-trip airfare. If you choose to attend interviews in Princeton from late November to mid-January, that would represent an additional cost (in-person interviews are not required, and confer no special advantage). We may arrange interviews via Skype, and sometimes with alumni representatives in other U.S. cities.

Applicants who currently are Pell Grant recipients may submit a copy of their current award letter to be evaluated for a reduced application fee. Please email a copy of your award letter directly to PiLA with your request to be considered for a fee reduction. Finalists who are Pell Grant recipients also are eligible for a placement fee reduction; insurance coverage is mandatory and cannot be discounted.

Yes. Applicants who are Pell Grant recipients should contact PiLA directly via email regarding their eligibility for reduced fees, providing a copy of the current Pell Grant award letter. Applicants also should also be thinking about how they will fund their international air travel and the mandatory accident, medical and emergency evacuation insurance, as PiLA has very limited resources to help fellows with those types of expenses.

PiLA is happy to write a letter of support for any fellow’s loan deferment request, but fellows must initiate the process through the financial aid office of their home academic institution, which is charged with determining whether a loan deferment can be granted under federal guidelines.

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 entailed in a PiLA placement. 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;
  • Amounts are given to non-degree candidates, such as post docs and fellows. Hence, your PiLA stipend is taxable, and you are responsible for reporting it as part of your income on your annual federal tax return.

Taxes will not be withheld from PiLA fellowship payments made to U.S. citizens or individuals classified as resident aliens for U.S. tax purposes. Although PiLA will provide a letter to each recipient of a taxable fellowship, PiLA is not required to report fellowship income to the IRS. It is important to keep records and save the information you will need in order to prepare your personal annual tax return. Consult your personal tax adviser to discuss making estimated tax payments for the taxable portion of your fellowship income. PiLA fellows who are resident aliens must provide PiLA with the appropriate documentation in order not to have federal taxes withheld from their stipend payments.

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, Jesuit Volunteers, AmeriCorps, Teach for America).

PiLA is always interested in the possibility of new partnerships, and our fellows are integral to identifying such possibilities. However, given the extensive vetting process that PiLA conducts to evaluate new potential partners (and to ensure the quality of the fellowship experience), it can take up to a year for a new partnership to be established. Therefore, it is not possible to apply in a given cycle and expect there to be a placement with an organization that is not already a PiLA partner.

Such a scenario is highly unlikely, because PiLA’s partners make the final offers, and they do so based on their personnel needs, not on the basis of personal relationships between fellows.

Yes, but no financial or other allowances are made for such circumstances; therefore, you would be responsible for all related additional expenses.

The initial application process is online (hard-copy materials cannot be accepted or processed). Applications open the second Monday of September, with a deadline of 11:59 pm (Eastern Time) on the first Monday of November. No late applications are accepted.

A review committee surveys the entire applicant pool and selects the most qualified candidates for interviews that take place from late November to early January. Only semifinalists will be contacted and invited to interview. Because of the volume of applications, PiLA cannot respond to individual inquiries regarding the status of an application or feedback on why the application was unsuccessful. Hence, please do not contact PiLA regarding application status. All applicants will be notified via email by early February regarding application outcomes.

Finalists emerge through the interview process, and based on their interests, experience and skills, they are invited to select up to three preferred partner organizations, where their dossiers are forwarded. Then interviews ensue between finalists and the partner organizations, which make final selections and offers, based on their needs for the coming year. It is important to understand that being named a PiLA finalist does not guarantee placement, as final offers are made by PiLA’s partner organizations.

Placements may be finalized any time between February and late April, depending on the partner organization’s timeline. Patience is essential to the placement process. When finalists receive an offer, they have five (5) business days to accept or decline; they reserve their placement by submitting a non-refundable placement fee. If an offer is declined, PiLA maintains a waitlist and uses it to fill every available placement. PiLA fellows begin their field placements any time from graduation through September, as negotiated with the placement organization at the time of the offer.

PiLA ensures that most fellowship placement costs will be covered so the opportunity is available to all qualified aspirants regardless of financial status. Some of PiLA’s overseas partners are in a position to cover the bulk of fellowship costs, but other small NGOs doing important work depend on PiLA and its fellows. PiLA relies considerably on contributions from individual donors, large and small, to sponsor its fellows and meet general operating costs (administration and program travel, communications and outreach, managing the fellow selection process, and providing ongoing support to fellows). PiLA accomplishes all of this with a small paid staff and an all-volunteer board of directors.

If you are aware of an NGO anywhere in the region that might be interested in partnering with PiLA, please let us know via email.

If you identify with PiLA’s mission, make our mission your own with a tax-deductible gift via PiLA’s donation page. All gifts, large or small, will be gratefully accepted to help advance PiLA’s 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.

The vast majority of PiLA placements are for 12 months (in a few cases, 10 months). PiLA's partners need to be able to plan ahead for their personnel needs, and they do not want to invest financial and human resources in training someone who will not be present long enough to make a meaningful contribution. Think of the fellowship as a fulltime job to which you are committing for the full contracted period. This is not a situation where a fellow can come and go as they please; holidays, vacation terms, and sick day policy are comparable to any other paid position, and failure to comply with those conditions constitutes grounds for dismissal by the partner.

If there is any chance at all that you would not be able to serve for the full fellowship term, you should not accept a PiLA placement. Hence, it is unacceptable to leave a placement early (except in cases of emergency evacuation due to serious illness or injury, major natural disaster, or massive political upheaval).

PiLA expects full transparency of its applicants regarding other options they may be pursuing, and this should be noted in the initial application. For instance, a common question arises regarding Fulbright, which Latin American programs typically begin in March. Hence, it is nearly impossible to accept a full-term PiLA fellowship and then immediately start a Fulbright in March. PiLA fellowship offers typically come before a finalist has heard from Fulbright, so it is imperative to be very clear about one's priorities. One may apply for both, of course, but opting for one will necessitate declining the other.

There is no problem if one declines a PiLA fellowship in order to accept a Fulbright or any other opportunity. One can simply reapply to PiLA the following year, as a stronger candidate by virtue of the additional professional experience they have accumulated.