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. We recruit, train, and place top recent graduates at startups in emerging U.S. cities 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 family. During and after your two years in the program, you’ll also get 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 love VFA:

  1. Network. Your Fellow class will consist of exceptional people who become lifelong partners, advisors, and colleagues. Beyond gaining a great group of friends and colleagues in their cohort, many Fellows become connected to entrepreneurs and investors in their regions. A great network is one of the main reasons people go to business school or seek more well-defined paths. We’re confident that your VFA network will be full of high-character people you can lean on and look up to.
  2. Work experience. Our Fellows get the invaluable chance to apprentice under 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 over 200 mentors, we hope to give the best of business school without the debt.

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

The VFA network provides access to potential co-founders, investors, and mentors – everything you need to build a strong foundation as an entrepreneur. Once the Fellowship is over, Fellows can apply for access to capital through the Seed Fund and Investment Council and access to physical office space and business development support through the VFA Accelerator. 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, though computer computer science and engineering majors do have an advantage.

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 eleven cities: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Providence, San Antonio, and St.Louis. Every year we are expanding, and this year we are excited to add Birmingham, Charlotte, Denver, and Pittsburgh to the list.

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. Individuals who are in the United States under a student, work, or tourist visa are not eligible to join. Similarly, individuals who have refugee status but nothing indicating permanent resident alien status are not eligible to become Venture for America Fellows. Exceptions can be made for those who have independent work authorization through the summer of 2018.

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Do you only look for graduating college seniors?

Nope! Applicants with up to three years of professional experience or advanced schooling are welcome to apply. In fact, nearly 20% of our Fellows do not join immediately after college.

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, so there is no cost to applicants or Fellows. Salaries are paid by your employer, and all training and programming costs are covered, thanks to generous donors and partners.

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Does VFA offer any student loan assistance?

We’re so glad you asked! VFA is pleased to offer the VFA Opportunity Award for Loan Assistance, which is provided thanks to the generosity of the Leon Lowenstein Foundation. Fellows 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. 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, all applicants should 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

Why are there four 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!

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Is there an advantage to applying to an early round?

While there is no advantage to applying early in terms of acceptance rate, 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 before the fellowship officially kicks off. Additionally, Fellows who apply for earlier deadlines might begin interviewing with companies before Fellows from the last deadline have been accepted – but there will be more than enough opportunities to go around.

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When is my application due?

The deadlines for the Class of 2016 are September 14th, October 5th, November 30th, and February 1st. The deadline for Early Admissions for the Class of 2017 is April 11th.

While we don’t envision any of these dates changing, please note they may be subject to change, and we’ll be sure to make an announcement if that’s the case!

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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, a short video, references, and essays, as well as personal and academic information.
  • Selected applicants will have a phone 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! Unofficial transcripts work just fine to give us a sense of how challenging your course load is.

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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?

This year, we’re offering the chance for outstanding college juniors 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 TBD, 2016
  • Offer acceptances/Letters of intent signed: Week of TBD, 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 – imagine having a job offer before you even finish finals?!
  • 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 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’ll 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 Phone 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 2015 fellowship?

We expect to accept 150-170 Fellows for the Class of 2016. That number is just an estimate though; 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.

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The Fellowship

Can I be a Fellow for only one year?

No. We select Fellows through a rigorous process and make a substantial investment in each one throughout the fellowship. In most environments, it takes at least one year for a Fellow to be able to make a significant contribution, and two to begin to impact 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 of how to work at a startup. It will teach you everything from basic coding to email etiquette to marketing, and much more. You’ll participate in trainings, seminars, and group challenges run by industry experts like McKinsey, Ideo, and the Flatiron School, as well as engage in social and team activities. And you’ll 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, you’ll be armed with the skills, knowledge, and mindsets you need to hit the ground running and immediately add value to your company. We hear from Fellows that it’s fun, rigorous, and some say a life-changing five weeks, and we couldn’t agree anymore.

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 high-growth industries. Tech/internet is prevalent, with healthcare, marketing, venture capital, education, consumer apps, 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 trusted 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.

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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.

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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 might 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 your job title, at many startups, team members end up working across a variety of projects and functions, and what you’re working on in the first several months may not be what you’re working on several months later.

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

You can typically expect a starting salary of $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 as they begin to prove themselves and add value to their team.

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

We’ve got your back! In the history of our program, we’ve only seen this happen a handful of times (fewer than 5% of Fellows have had to relocate), but if your startup does close, we’ll help you find another opportunity with a VFA Company Partner you’re excited about.

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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 you where you decide to live. You’ll be responsible for paying your own rent, utilities, and other living expenses.

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