Eligibility & selection criteria

NEH provides a document with eligibility criteria that you should consult. Let me also repeat the information here:

These projects are designed principally for full-time and part-time classroom teachers and librarians in public, charter, independent, and religiously affiliated schools, as well as home schooling parents. Other K-12 school personnel, including administrators, substitute teachers, and classroom professionals, are also eligible to participate.

Please note: Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are available for current full- time graduate students who intend to pursue careers in K-12 teaching.

Teachers at schools in the United States or its territorial possessions or Americans teaching in foreign schools where at least 50 percent of the students are American nationals are eligible for this program. Applicants must be United States citizens, residents of U.S. jurisdictions, or foreign nationals who have been residing in the United States or its territories for at least the three years immediately preceding the application deadline. Foreign nationals teaching abroad at non-U.S. chartered institutions are not eligible to apply.

Individuals may not apply to study with a director of an NEH Summer Seminar or Institute who is a current colleague or a family member. Individuals must not apply to seminars directed by scholars with whom they have previously studied. Institute selection committees are advised that only under the most compelling and exceptional circumstances may an individual participate in an institute with a director or a lead faculty member who has previously guided that individual’s research or in whose previous institute or seminar he or she has participated.

Applicants must complete the NEH application cover sheet and provide all the information requested on the individual seminar or institute website to be considered eligible.

Selection Criteria

A selection committee reads and evaluates all properly completed applications in order to select the most promising applicants and to identify a number of alternates.  Institute selection committees typically consist of three to five members, usually all drawn from the institute faculty and staff members. While recent participants are eligible to apply, project selection committees are directed to give first consideration to applicants who have not participated in an NEH-supported seminar, institute or Landmarks workshop in the last three years (2011, 2012, 2013).

The most important consideration in the selection of participants is the likelihood that an applicant will benefit professionally and personally.  This is determined by committee members from the conjunction of several factors, each of which should be addressed in the application essay.  These factors include:

  1. effectiveness and commitment as a teacher/educator;
  2. intellectual interests, both generally and as they relate to the work of the project;
  3. special perspectives, skills, or experiences that would contribute to the seminar or institute;
  4. commitment to participate fully in the formal and informal collegial life of the project; and
  5. the likelihood that the experience will enhance the applicant’s teaching.

When choices must be made among equally qualified candidates, several additional factors are considered.  Preference is given to applicants who have not previously participated in an NEH seminar, institute, or Landmarks workshop, or who would significantly contribute to the diversity of the seminar or institute.

For the 2010 institute, we received 227 applications, and we could only choose 30, which meant many highly qualified applicants had to be turned away.  It was an agonizing process in some ways, although we were also thrilled and stimulated by the impressive number of strong applications we were reading.  In 2011, we had 190+ applicants.  People who had to be turned away in 2010 and 2011 may apply again, if they wish.

Many who were not selected have written to ask for any general tips for writing stronger applications.  We looked for people who would particularly connect with our content, whether because of their own diverse backgrounds, because of their students’ diverse backgrounds, or because their students truly lacked access to diversity and would greatly benefit from a more diverse curriculum.  We looked for strong, explicit connections with the content we had assembled, especially as outlined in the syllabus, and clear, relevant, and appealing ideas about potential curricular materials that might grow out of this institute.  Again, all things being equal, we had to favor those who had not had a recent NEH experience.

Several people applied as couples, as parent-offspring pairs, or as siblings.  Some asked whether that might have hurt their eligibility.  The answer is no, not at all.  But the review committee had a point system, where we gave 1 to 5 points for each of the five criteria listed above (from NEH).  We totaled and averaged the points for each file, individually, on its own merits.  Naturally, therefore, joint applicants came out with somewhat varying scores.  We could not raise the scores of the joint applicants to match the higher score of one of the members of a pair or group.  In one case, we admitted one member of a group but had to wait-list the other two.

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