NU Public Interest Program

Building a Network of Engaged Citizens to Inspire Change

FAQs – Students

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. How can I make sure my application is competitive?
A. NU Career Services and the Office of Fellowships are both great on-campus resources for developing good applications, resumes, and cover letters. Your resume should be general enough to be applicable to any potential host organization, though you will be given the option to submit organization-specific resumes.

Q. What would my role be as a NUPIP Fellow?
A. NUPIP Fellows contribute to meaningful social change through the work of their host organization.  Fellows also participate in weekly professional development seminars with the other members of their Fellowship class, and meet periodically with their professional mentor.  NUPIP Fellows are expected to become active members of the broader NUPIP community, and are encouraged to stay involved with the program, helping their peers, NUPIP alumni, community partners and NUPIP staff develop a stronger ongoing NUPIP community dedicated to making positive change in the world.

Q. What would my compensation as a Fellow be?
A. Stipend amounts are set by individual organizations, but usually average around $30,000 annually, with a range between $27,500-$37,500. Host organizations are also responsible for providing basic health insurance benefits to their Fellow.

Q. Can I seek student loan deferment or forgiveness as a NUPIP Fellow?
A. Yes, there are often arrangements you can make regarding your student loans, but what your options are and what forms you need to complete to request them can vary, so it’s best to check with your student loan provider about that. While some fellows have opted for deferral, we tend to recommend income-based repayment plans, as they allow you to start to pay your balance down, likely at the lowest rate for which you will ever be eligible, and if you are staying in the public interest field, allow you to count this year toward your eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Also note that if you have Perkins loans, you may be eligible for Perkins Loan Cancellation for each year you work in the public interest field, depending on the type of organization/work. Learn more about loan forgiveness and cancellation. Note that your options may vary based on the types of loans you have, so again, you should contact your student loan provider directly for more information about your options and any required forms.

Q. What are the seminars like?
 Public Interest Program seminars are held three times per month, typically two Wednesday mornings and one Wednesday evening each month. Fellows are expected to attend. Seminars offer a chance to learn about social issues such as health care, education, and environmental policy; to visit other host organizations; to gain practical knowledge in areas such as project management and grant writing; and to reflect and build community with other Fellows from schools like Princeton and University of Chicago. The seminar series runs from September through May.

Q. What is involved in the mentorship component of NUPIP?
 Each Fellow will be matched with a professional mentor (often a Northwestern alum) who will serve as a mentor throughout the year. Mentors can serve as a sounding board on a range of topics: professional development, workplace issues, graduate school plans, post-college transition. Mentors and Fellows meet with one another at least four times throughout the year, and many pairs meet more frequently.

Q. I really like one of the host organizations that NUPIP has worked with in the past. Can I apply for a Fellowship position specifically at this site?
Because organizations are submitting their host proposals at the same time that students are submitting their applications, we cannot be sure that any particular site will be part of our program for an additional term this early on in the process. Students are therefore encouraged to apply to NUPIP with an open mind to a variety of organizations.

Q. I know of a really great organization never before affiliated with NUPIP that I’d love to introduce to the program. Can I apply and secure a placement at this organization?
NUPIP encourages applicants who have had previous experience with public interest minded organizations to forward contact information to NUPIP staff at  We can then start communications with these organizations, tell them about our program, and provide them information on how to apply to be a host organization. As an applicant recommending this site, you are guaranteed an interview with this site upon review of your application and your transition to the second round of our interview process. However, we do not guarantee a Fellowship position at this site. Each site has the freedom to interview and select from all of the candidates we send them in this second round.

Q. I have already received an offer to work at an organization that is unaffiliated with NUPIP. I would love to be part of the program and I think this organization fits the criteria of NUPIP host organizations. Is there any way to merge and become part of the new class of Fellows?
Applicants may do the NUPIP Fellowship year at a site that they find and in a position they secure on their own (with the approval of NUPIP staff). To qualify, the site must be engaged in substantive public interest work. If you are interested in bringing in your own site to NUPIP, please apply to the NUPIP program, indicating that you have your own host site. If you are accepted as an NUPIP Fellow, NUPIP staff will work with you and your host organization to see if they are willing to sign on with NUPIP as an official host site.