NU Public Interest Program

Building a Network of Engaged Citizens to Inspire Change

FAQs – Students

Q. Who is eligible for the program? Is NUPIP open to international students? Masters degree students? Recent alums? Non-Northwestern students?
A. NUPIP is open to any Northwestern graduate who will have completed at least a Bachelors degree by the time they start the Fellowship. Candidates must be eligible to work in the U.S. for at least the year following graduation. While most Fellows apply as seniors and participate in the year following graduation, the program is also open to Masters degree students and recent alums. Some Fellows participate after completing a year of service or another fellowship program, taking time off, or making a career transition. Unfortunately, NUPIP is not open to graduates of other universities.

Q. How can I learn more about the program? How can I make sure my application is competitive?
A. Interested candidates are encouraged to attend an information session during Fall or Winter Quarter to learn more about the program and application process. Candidates preparing applications are encouraged to visit NU Career Advancement or the Office of Fellowships for support and feedback on developing resumes and cover letters, and for interview practice and coaching.

Q. Am I required to attend an information session?
A. No. While information session attendance is recommended, it is not required. Most information presented can be found on our website. You can also contact us with any specific questions, or to view video or slides from a specific presentation.

Q. Why are there two deadlines? Why would I choose one over the other?
A. Candidates who are considering the program early in the recruitment season are encouraged to apply by the Priority Deadline. Early applicants receive priority consideration in the selection process and an earlier decision on their status as finalists, maximize the time they have to develop materials and prepare for interviews with host organizations, and most importantly, maximize their number of prospective matches by participating in an additional early round of matching. Note that some NUPIP host organizations complete their hiring early in the season, and may only consider candidates who apply by the Priority Deadline. Candidates who learn about the program later in the recruitment season, need more time to prepare their application materials, or are awaiting word about preferred opportunities they are considering are encouraged to apply by the Final Deadline.

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 may work in a range of issues areas and types of positions. In addition to their placements, Fellows participate in regular professional development seminars and meet periodically with a professional mentor. NUPIP Fellows are expected to be active members of the NUPIP community, and are encouraged to stay involved with the program, helping their peers, NUPIP alumni, community partners and NUPIP staff develop a strong ongoing NUPIP community dedicated to making positive change in the world.

Q. What are the professional development seminars like?
Seminars offer an introduction to the public interest sector, as well as skill development, career development, and opportunities for reflection and community building, and are an important component of the NUPIP program. Seminars are typically two-hour sessions held 2–3 times per month from September through June, commonly on two weekday mornings and one weekday evening. Seminars are held at public interest organizations throughout Chicago, typically featuring nonprofit executives or other community leaders, and sometimes in collaboration with Public Interest Programs at Princeton and the University of Chicago. Fellows are expected to attend all seminars.

Q. What is involved in the mentorship component of NUPIP?
 Each Fellow will be matched with a professional mentor (often a Northwestern alum), outside their host organization but in line with their long-term career interests. Mentors can serve as a sounding board on a range of topics: career development, workplace issues, graduate school plans, the post-college transition, and more. Mentors and Fellows meet with one another at least quarterly, and many pairs meet more frequently and/or stay in touch beyond the Fellowship term.

Q. What would my compensation be as a Fellow?
A. Stipend amounts are set by individual organizations, and generally range between $40,000 and $50,000+ annually. Host organizations are also responsible for providing basic health insurance coverage (or an additional stipend to purchase health insurance if needed), and may offer other benefits, such as dental and vision insurance, paid time off, disability and life insurance, retirement savings, transit benefits, tuition benefits, and more.

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. 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.