FAQs

General Questions

Applying to Venture for America

Early Admissions for Juniors

The Selection Process

The Fellowship

 

 

General Questions

What is Venture for America?

Venture for America is a two-year fellowship program to help you launch your career as an entrepreneur, with the goal of revitalizing cities through entrepreneurship. We recruit, train, and place top recent graduates at startups in . cities with emerging startup ecosystems such as Baltimore, Detroit, and New Orleans, with the goal that our Fellows go on to revitalize those cities, build businesses, and ultimately, create jobs.

Throughout your two years as a Fellow, you’ll be part of a talented group of peers, receive ongoing support regarding your job and side projects, get connected with mentors and the VFA network, and become an integral member of the VFA community. During and after your two years in the program, you’ll have access to capital and resources available exclusively to Fellows and alumni to help turn your side projects and business ideas into real companies.

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What are the biggest advantages to becoming a VFA Fellow?

Below are just a few reasons we’ve heard our Fellows appreciate VFA:

  1. The Community. Your Fellow class will consist of exceptional people who become lifelong partners, confidantes, and colleagues. Beyond gaining a great group of friends and colleagues in your cohort,you’ll also have the opportunity to connect with  community leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors in your region. We’re confident that your VFA network will be full of high-character people you can lean on and draw upon for years to come.
  2. Work experience. Our Fellows get the invaluable chance to work with more experienced entrepreneurs and see first-hand the ups and downs that come with building a business. No matter their title, our Fellows push themselves to develop skills, solve problems, and grow as people and professionals.
  3. Training and Mentorship. Beginning with Training Camp, we prepare our Fellows for startup life by exposing them to a mix of real-life challenges, skill-building activities, guest speakers, and valuable advice from entrepreneurs who have ‘been there, done that’. And by plugging them into our network of mentors, we hope to connect our community members with people invested in their success.

You can learn more about the VFA experience here.
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How will VFA help me start my own company?

Starting a company is always difficult – you and your co-founders will be the single most important element of getting a company off the ground.  The VFA network provides access to potential co-founders and in many cases investors and mentors. Companies in their earliest stages can begin raising money through the Innovation Fund, our annual crowdfunding competition. Once the Fellowship is over, Fellows can apply for access to capital through the Seed Fund and access to physical office space and business development support through the VFA Accelerator. More developed Fellow-founded companies are invited to pitch VFA Angels, our dedicated group of angel investors. Of course, don’t discount the two previous years you will have spent in the trenches at a startup – what better way to learn than through hands-on experience?

 

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What does VFA look for in a Fellow?

We look for self-starters, builders, creators, and people who have a history of excelling in a wide range of disciplines. All backgrounds, skill sets, and experiences are considered. Since we know we’ll need a wide range of superstars to round out our class, depending on your background/profile, we adjust the weight we assign to different components of your application. For example, if you’re an engineer who wants to use your technical abilities at work, we will prioritize skills and experience over writing abilities and academic performance.

We recommend you check out “What we look for” for more info and  “Application & Selection” for our prerequisites for applying to VFA.

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In what cities do VFA Fellows currently work and live?

We currently have Fellows living and working full-time in fifteen cities:

Baltimore, Birmingham, Charlotte,  Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, San Antonio, and St.Louis.

Learn more about our cities here.

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How does VFA choose its cities?

VFA chooses cities with nascent but well-networked startup communities that could benefit from an influx of talent. Supportive institutions in the city, interest from quality companies, and cost of living are key factors.

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Can international students apply for the Fellowship?

Unfortunately, due to the hiring restrictions of many of our Company Partners, Venture for America may only accept U.S. citizens, nationals, or legal permanent residents for admission into the Fellowship.

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Do you only look for graduating college seniors?

Nope! In fact, nearly 20% of our Fellows do not join immediately after college. Applicants with up to three years of professional experience or advanced schooling are welcome to apply, though almost all opportunities with our Company Partners are considered “entry level” , regardless of previous work experience.

College juniors who are set on joining VFA after they graduate are also encouraged to apply to VFA through our Early Admissions program. Check out the Early Admissions page or the FAQ below for more info.

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Does it cost anything to become a VFA Fellow?

We are a nonprofit supported by donors and partners, so there is no cost to applicants or Fellows for training or programming. Fellow salaries are paid by employers, and Fellows are  responsible for budgeting for their own living expenses.

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Does VFA offer any student loan assistance?

Right now, we offer moderate loan assistance for a limited number of applicants. It’s not as much as we’d like, and increasing the amount of assistance we can offer is a major priority for us.

Thanks to the generosity of the Leon Lowenstein Foundation, VFA is pleased to offer the VFA Opportunity Award. Candidates are selected for the award on the basis of financial need and other criteria in an effort to make VFA an attractive opportunity for candidates of all backgrounds. The application to apply becomes available at the beginning of the Fellowship, prior to Training Camp in June. This will make it easier for at least a few people.

For more information about the VFA Opportunity Award, you can check out the guidelines here: VFA Opportunity Award Guidelines.

VFA also refers Fellows to available programs that may help with loan payments. Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is a way to make your monthly federal student loan payments more manageable. IBR is available to federal student loan borrowers in both the Direct and Guaranteed (or FFEL) loan programs, and covers most types of federal loans made to students. To qualify for IBR, you must have a “partial financial hardship.” You have a partial financial hardship if the monthly amount you would be required to pay on your IBR-eligible loans under a Standard Repayment Plan with a 10-year repayment period is higher than the monthly amount you would be required to repay under IBR.

Student Startup Plan via IBR:
http://www.sba.gov/startupamerica/student-startup-plan

To see if you qualify, visit the IBR calculator:
http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/IBRCalc.jsp

IBR Q&A:
http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/siteresources/IBRQ&A_template_123109_FINAL.pdf

Helpful links on how to apply for IBR with your lender:
http://www.ibrinfo.org/how.vp.html

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What else should I know before applying?

We’re looking for individuals who embody our organization’’s values and standards. Before submitting the application, you’ll be asked to read and agree to the following statements:

  1. I see my professional pursuits and my career as a moral choice that indicates my values.
  2. I appreciate those who assume personal risks in order to build a company or pursue a common good.
  3. I believe that actions are the proper measure of one’s accomplishments.
  4. I believe that creating opportunities for myself and others is an important aspect of professional success.
  5. I believe that one’s professional conduct is a reflection of personal character, and will always strive to act accordingly.

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Applying to Venture for America

When is my application due?

Our regular application for the Class of 2016 is now closed. The deadline for Early Admissions for the Class of 2017 is April 11th.

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Is there an advantage to applying to an early round?

Our criteria remain the same for every deadline,  but we suggest applying to the earliest deadline that suits your schedule; those Fellows who join early on will get the chance to begin interacting with other Fellows and the VFA Team right away.

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Why are there multiple application deadlines?

Each deadline is a separate admissions cycle for the same class, so you only need to apply to one of them. For example, if you submit the online application by our September deadline, you will be considered with everyone else in the September group, and move on with the selection process from there. The different deadlines exist because people find out about the program and are ready to apply at different times; we want to accommodate the early birds and the late comers! On average, you will receive an admissions decision within 8 weeks of your respective deadline.

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How does the application process work?

There are a few steps to the VFA application process:

  • Applicants complete an online application where they submit a resume, essays, as well as personal and academic information.
  • Selected applicants will have a Skype interview with a VFA team member or Fellow.
  • We invite the most promising applicants to a full-day, in-person Selection Day which includes problem solving activities, along with individual interviews.

Find out more about applying to VFA here.
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Do I need to submit an official transcript when I apply?

Nope! We do not require transcripts with your application.

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Do you accept letters of recommendation?

No. We ask for contact info for references in our online application, and we’ll get in touch with them if we need more insight into your candidacy.

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Early Admissions for Juniors

What is early admissions?

We offer outstanding college juniors the chance to get a jumpstart on joining VFA an entire year before graduation. College students graduating with their first undergraduate degree between July 2016-June 2017 could have VFA offers for the Class of 2017 in hand before they even head to summer break.

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What is the timeline for early admissions?
  • Application Deadline: April 11th, 2016
  • Final Selection Day: May 13th, 2016
  • Offers extended: Week of May 15th, 2016
  • Offer acceptances/Letters of intent signed: Week of 22, 2016
  • Sign official offer letter: Fall 2016 with first round of accepted applicants

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I’m graduating in summer or winter of 2016. Can I apply?

Yes you can! While most students who fall into the July 2016-June 2017 graduation range will be current juniors, as long as you’ll graduate with your first undergraduate degree during that time, you’re eligible to apply.

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Are the criteria to apply the same for early admissions?

Applicants for our junior deadline will be evaluated on the same standards as regular applicants, along with a few additional criteria:

  • You’ve earned a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, and will maintain through graduation
  • You’ll graduate with your first undergraduate degree between July 2016 and June 2017
  • You’ve solidified a competitive internship or other skill building experience for Summer 2016

You can find out more about what we look for in our applicants here.

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Should I apply for early admissions or wait until the fall?

If you already know you want to launch your career with VFA and you believe your application is strong enough to meet our selection criteria now, we encourage you to apply for this deadline!

When all is said and done, we want you to apply when you’re most confident your skills and experience to date will demonstrate your ability to contribute as a VFA Fellow. Keep in mind that we’ll take your plans for extracurricular involvement and professional development into account, but there may be cases where your application will be stronger in the fall or spring and you might be better suited to apply for our regular 2017 application cycle.

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What are the advantages to applying for early admissions?

If you’re accepted for early admissions, you’ll have the chance to:

  • Receive your VFA offer by May 2016
  • Better prepare yourself for working at a startup or early-stage growth company
  • Develop skills that will make you an even better team member once you land at your company (we can help you figure out what those are!)
  • Join us at VFA events beginning this summer, including a sneak peek into VFA Training Camp
  • Get a head start on connecting with the Team, Fellows, and VFA network

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How will the early admissions application process differ from the regular application process?

The early admissions application process will include the same steps as our regular application process, but we’ll also want to see that you will continue building your skills over the summer through work at a startup, a competitive internship, or a comparable experience.

If you’re given an offer through our early admissions deadline, we’ll have you sign a “letter of intent” that you plan to join the Class of 2017. We’ll get you involved right away, begin inviting you to VFA events, and then you’ll sign your official offer letter in Fall 2016.

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I’ve already completed my undergraduate degree, but will graduate with a Master’s Degree between July 2016-June 2017. Am I eligible for this deadline?

You’re not eligible for early admissions, but as long as you completed your first undergraduate degree in May 2014 or later, you’re still eligible for our regular 2017 deadlines! For now, this deadline is open only to those graduating with their first undergraduate degree between July 2016-June 2017.

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If I’m not admitted for the early deadline, can I reapply for the 2017 Fellowship?

Sure can! If you don’t receive an offer after applying for early admissions, we welcome you to reapply for one of our regular 2017 Fellowship deadlines, as long as you’ve taken the initiative to strengthen your application since we last reviewed your candidacy.

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The Selection Process

Who reviews my application and how long does this process take?

Each online application receives two independent evaluations from our Selection Committee (comprised of VFA team members and Fellows) to ensure our standards for admissions are upheld. As select candidates move forward in the process to the Skype Interview stage and Selection Day, we collectively weigh in on each decision so that your candidacy may be considered from as many angles as possible. The entire process from pressing submit to landing your offer can take up to eight weeks, as we appreciate the time and effort candidates devote to the process and hope to return the favor with careful consideration.

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How many Fellows do you plan to accept for the 2017 Fellowship?

There is no quota for the number of people we accept. With hundreds of companies eager to hire Fellows, the number of offers we extend is only limited by the quantity and caliber of applications we receive.

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What time zone is my interview in?

All interview times are in Eastern Standard Time (EST). Please be aware when scheduling phone interviews and other meetings with us.

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If I’m accepted, can I get an extension or deferral on my decision to join?

Due to the competitive nature of our program, we typically don’t offer extensions or deferrals on decisions.

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If I’’m not accepted in an early round can I apply again?

You may not reapply for later rounds in the same Fellowship year, but you may reapply the following academic year for the next class as long as you’ve taken the initiative to strengthen your application in the interim.

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The Fellowship

Why is VFA a two year fellowship?

We select Fellows through a rigorous process and make a substantial investment in each one.. In most environments, it takes at least one year for young professionals to hit their stride in a new company, and by the end of two years a Fellow should be able to make a significant contribution to  his or her company, Fellow community, and VFA city.

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What is the VFA Training Camp?

The Fellowship kicks off with Training Camp at Brown University from mid-June through mid-July, with the goal of training Fellows in the hard and soft skills necessary to contribute  at a startup. Training Camp gives Fellows an opportunity to learn everything  from basic coding to email etiquette to marketing, and much more. Fellows  participate in trainings, seminars, and group challenges run by industry experts like McKinsey, IDEO, and the Flatiron School, and also  engage in social and team-building activities. Fellows  also have the chance to meet startup founders, seasoned entrepreneurs, and VFA board members. (Time to start building that network we keep talking about!)

The goal is that come August, Fellows are armed with the skills, knowledge, and mindsets they need to hit the ground running and add value to their companies. We hear from Fellows that it’s fun, rigorous, and (some say) a life-changing five weeks.

For more information, be sure to check out our Training Camp page.

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What kind of company will I work for?

Typically, Fellows work for early-stage companies in a wide range of industries. Tech/internet is prevalent, with healthcare, marketing, venture capital, education, consumer products, energy, and many more present among our Company Partners. Our companies are typically fewer than 10 years old, with fewer than 50 full-time employees, but are evaluated most heavily on culture and opportunities available for Fellows.

Make sure to peruse our Company Partners here.

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How does VFA choose its Company Partners?

Our dedicated Company Partnerships team develops relationships with each company, usually through on-site visits and referrals from local partners. We rely on these relationships and partners to help identify which companies would be good fits for a Fellow based on leadership, relative financial stability, and a high-potential working and learning environment. That said, these are startups, and things change quickly.

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How much say do I have in which company and city I’m placed in?

Once you’re accepted to VFA, you’ll have the chance to browse all available opportunities. As long as you’re a good fit for the role based on your background, skills, and experience, you’ll be able to pitch yourself for the ones that look the most appealing. You’re ultimately responsible for driving your own interview process, so to the extent that you can make yourself a compelling candidate, any opportunity could be yours. You should enter the process with a flexible approach to accommodate a wide range of options.

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What kind of role will I have in my company?

Fellows fill entry-level startup roles. The actual jobs, responsibilities, and skills of an entry-level employee can often evolve based on the company’’s changing needs and direction. Roles include account management, content production, marketing, web development, engineering, data analysis, social media, sales and business development, operations, or some combination of these. No matter the  job title, at many startups, team members end up working across a variety of projects and functions, and what Fellows work on in the first several months may not be what they’re working on several months later. When you’re interviewing for different roles, we’ll encourage you to ask the right questions to figure out what your job will be and opportunities for growth.

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What type of salary can I expect as a VFA Fellow?

Fellows can typically expect a starting salary of at least $38,000 per year, with some companies offering equity/options. Most Fellows will receive their first paycheck between late August and late September depending on the payroll practices of their startup. From there, many Fellows experience raises once they prove themselves and add real value to their team – provided they’re kicking butt, and the company is growing.

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What happens if the company I’’m working for closes?

These are startups, and things happen. It’s always difficult to recover from the loss of your company and the transition is never easy. Most Fellows in this situation have been able to find another job in a number of weeks with some hustle, networking and a little help from VFA—mostly hustle. But it’s never quick or painless. If it happens to you, get ready to put your hard hat on and think to yourself, “At least I’m getting this experience while I’m young.” Our founder Andrew’s company failed and he swears it was one of the best, and most miserable, experiences of his life.

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Are Fellows responsible for their own housing?

VFA does not provide housing, but we’ll help connect new Fellows to current Fellows and other contacts in our cities. In many cases, Fellows end up living together, but it’s up to them. Fellows are  responsible for paying their own rent, utilities, and other living expenses.

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