Horizon Fellowship Applicant FAQs

This page answers some of the most common questions that we have received from prospective applicants for the Horizon Fellowship, covering eligibility, our application process and selection criteria, and program goals and structure.

If you have questions that are not answered here, please contact us.

We will update this page as we receive additional questions.

Can I apply if I am not a US citizen or green card holder?

We are unfortunately not able to sponsor visas for fellows; applicants must have pre-existing work authorization not dependent on employer sponsorship to be eligible for the program. Individuals that meet the program qualifications and are citizens of Australia, Canada, Mexico, and Singapore are encouraged to apply. Your application will be evaluated on a case by case basis based on your visa requirements.

Permanent residents (green card holders) are eligible for the fellowship, but may not be able to work in the executive branch due to citizenship and/or security clearance requirements. 

We may be able to support individuals on F-1 visas during their first year of post-graduation OPT (think tank placements only). We can’t support individuals on a STEM OPT extension. 

If you have further questions, please contact us at admin@horizonpublicservice.org.

Do I need to be eligible for getting a security clearance to participate in the program?

No. Security clearances may be required for some executive branch placements, but will generally not be necessary for Congressional or think tank placements. 

Only US citizens are eligible to receive a US security clearance, with some rare exceptions for citizens of close US allies. For more information on security clearances, see this primer. You can also look through SF-86, the form used for security clearances.

If you are selected for the fellowship and require a security clearance for your position, we will provide you with access to a specialist attorney to help you navigate the process. 

Is work experience required?

Work experience is not required for the think tank junior fellow track. You may apply while you are still finishing college. For example, for the applications that were due in fall 2023, we welcomed applications from spring 2024 graduates as long as they were available to start their fellowship placement in summer 2024. 

All other tracks require multiple years of work experience or graduate-level academic training (e.g. PhD, JD, MD). We care more about attitude and aptitudes than formal credentials, so if you are unsure whether you are eligible, we strongly encourage you to apply.

What counts as a “credential” related to AI or biosecurity?

For the purposes of this program, relevant subject-matter expertise can be demonstrated through a wide variety of activities, including academic or professional accomplishments such as a relevant degree, publications or self-study projects, short-term fellowships, or work experience. Due to the lack of people with technical training or on-the-ground experience related to emerging technology in the policy world, even relatively modest familiarity can be of significant value. For junior fellows, for example, we are happy to consider candidates with a relevant undergraduate minor or internship. 

We believe a wide range of backgrounds are relevant to emerging technology policy. For example, relevant areas for AI include not just machine learning but also other computing fields and applied data science or product experience, and relevant areas for biosecurity include biotechnology as well as public health and many other STEM fields. We also welcome applicants — and have historically accepted several fellows — with non-technical backgrounds such as lawyers and journalists, as long as they have developed some level of subject-matter expertise. 

We care more about attitude and aptitudes than about formal credentials, so if you are in doubt about whether you have sufficient credentials, we encourage you to apply. about whether you have sufficient credentials, we encourage you to apply.

Do I need pre-existing policy experience to apply?

No. This program is designed to accommodate people without prior experience in policy, though people with policy experience are welcome to apply. 

We are especially likely to support people who would use this fellowship to broaden their areas of expertise. For example, we’re likely to be more excited to support someone who is an expert in another policy area to pivot to working on AI than to support someone who has already worked in AI policy and who wants to continue doing so. 

However, we will evaluate each case individually, so we encourage all interested persons to apply.

What if I am interested in a field besides AI or biosecurity? What if I am interested in both AI and biosecurity?

We have two main internal tracks (AI and biosecurity) and we expect most fellows to be literate in one of the two. However, the program is not restricted to these two fields alone; when considering applications and placement options, we can account for other interests that align with Horizon’s priorities, which could include other technologies and scientific fields. Please elaborate on these in your application. Because most policy problems are complex and cross-cutting, many of our fellows work not only on AI/biosecurity but also on other technology and policy areas during their placements.

If you have relevant experience and/or interest in both AI and biotechnology, please feel free to indicate this in your application. We will likely ask you to select one of these as your primary track during the interview process, for the purpose of a subject-matter interview, but it is often possible to work on both areas simultaneously during fellowship placements.

Can the fellowship be done remotely (from outside of DC)?

No, the fellowship is full-time in the Washington, DC area. Individuals must be available to be full-time in the DC area by August of their placement year to be eligible (e.g. by August 2024 for individuals applying in summer 2023). 

Application process and selection criteria
What qualities do you look for in a fellow?

The main fellowship page lists characteristics that make strong applicants for each of our tracks, for example research and writing experience for think tank fellows. While some details vary by track, common themes include: subject-matter expertise and interest, interpersonal skills, communication and writing skills, ability to think through difficult policy trade-offs created by current and emerging technological capabilities, willingness to learn about broad sets of issues, and public service motivation.

What kinds of preparation should I do for the application? Are there specific things you would suggest I read or study?

We’d encourage you to do some research and reflect on which fellowship track you’re interested in (i.e. think tank, Congress, executive branch), and to start reading about potential host organization(s) of interest. You may want to familiarize yourself with current emerging technology policy debates or key issues related to your area of focus. During the application process, we will screen for prospective fit for policy work, so familiarizing yourself with policy documents, debates, and institutions may be most helpful.

Technical reading is also welcome, especially if you have limited pre-existing technical background in your application area, but we expect fellows to be able to acquire most necessary technical knowledge or advice during the fellowship. Our application process will focus primarily (though not exclusively) on policy knowledge.

What are the stages in your application process? When do you make fellowship offers?

The following answer refers to our Fall 2023 application cycle. We expect this answer to be representative of future application cycles, though details may change.

We plan to make most offers by the end of November 2023. Below is a rough timeline of our process. Additional steps may be added to the process to allow us to best evaluate applicants.

Stage 1
(Early Sept - Late Sept)
Stage 2
(Mid Sept - Mid Oct)
Stage 3
(Late Sept - Late Oct)
Stage 4
(Early - Mid Nov)
Offers Made
(Mid - Late Nov)
Decision on application First Interview
(20 minutes)
Work Sample
(up to 6 hours)*

Second Interview
(45 minutes)

* work samples are paid
Third Interview
(25 minutes)

Reference checks
Potential fellows are requested
to respond within 1 week

To reduce any bias in the process we blind-graded work samples, contract with subject matter experts for technical interviews, and have an external specialist, who is also involved in selection for several other tech policy fellowships, participate in our final round interviews.

Are applications processed on a rolling basis prior to the application deadline?

Applications may be reviewed on a staggered, rolling basis. We encourage you to submit your application as soon as you are ready. The selection process will include work sample tasks, so the earlier you apply, the more flexibility you will have in completing those steps. 

Waiting to submit your application until the due date will not harm your chances of moving on to the next stage.

Is there an advantage or disadvantage to applying for a single or multiple fellowship tracks?

Applicants are allowed to indicate interest in multiple tracks (executive branch, Congress, and think tank). There is no advantage or disadvantage to applying to one or multiple tracks; please apply to whichever fellowship track(s) you are most interested in. If you are potentially interested in multiple, indicate multiple. 

Regardless of whether you apply to one or multiple fellowship tracks, you should briefly explain what type(s) of host organization you’d prefer, and why you think you would be a good fit for them.

For the think tank track, if I have some professional experience but not multiple years of full-time work experience or a PhD, should I apply to be a "junior fellow" or "fellow"?

Most think tank applicants with less than 3 years of full-time work experience or without a PhD will be best suited for the "junior fellow" track, but these determinations are made on a case-by-case basis. If you are open to both the fellow and junior fellow track, you can indicate this in your application.

 What will the second interview cover?

This interview will be focused on the subject area you have selected (AI or biosecurity). This interview will assess your understanding of the subject area and your ability to explain technical concepts to a non-technical audience.

In addition, this interview may ask follow-up questions about your short work test (which will be administered between the first and the second interview) and policy areas of interest.

How many fellows are you planning to select?

We do not have an exact target for the number of fellows, either in general or for specific fellowship tracks. Cohort size will depend on the composition and quality of our applicant pool, on the level of interest of host organizations, and on our fellowship team’s capacity to support specific individuals. You can look at past cohorts' size and composition on our Meet our Fellows page. 

Who will my application materials be shared with?

Application materials will be shared with Horizon program staff and select outside evaluators. In your initial application form, you may choose to give us permission to share relevant information from your application with other organizations in our network. Horizon's mission is to promote public service writ large, and we occasionally refer applicants to related opportunities (fellowships, jobs, etc.) if we think they might be a good fit. 

If selected for the fellowship program, we will not share your application materials with potential host organizations without an opportunity for you to edit any materials shared.

Program goals and structure
What are Horizon’s motivations and goals for the program? How will you measure success for the program?

The fellowship is a talent development program. We hope that fellows will gain skills and experiences through their participation that enable them to contribute to policy in the future. This could be in DC (both inside and outside of government) or elsewhere (e.g. at technology companies). Our main goal is for fellows to continue pursuing public service, broadly defined.

The fellowship program has no specific policy agenda, and immediate policy impact is not a goal; this program is primarily an effort to broaden the pipeline of talent able to work at the intersection of policy and emerging technology, which we hope will, over the long run, improve the quality of decision-making both inside and outside of government.

How is this program similar to or different from other DC fellowship programs?

This program is similar to other fellowships in that it is intended to enable people with technical expertise to quickly acclimate to the policy world. It mainly differs in its focus on people interested in specific technology areas which Horizon considers to be especially high priorities, as well as certain design features, such as being able to switch institutional tracks in the second year of the program. We highly encourage people interested in a Horizon fellowship to also consider other programs such as TechCongress and AAAS STPF

What are fellows’ salaries and benefits? When do I receive the stipend?

The following answer refers to our fall 2023 application cycle. 

The standard fellowship stipend is $105,000 for congressional, think tank, and executive branch fellows and $70,000 for junior fellows. Need-based financial assistance is available by application. Additionally, fellows will receive $15,000 per year to support health care expenses (e.g. to purchase private insurance on the DC Health Exchange), $3,000 for relocation to DC (if needed), and up to $3,000 each year for professional development activities.

Timing of the stipend pay-out varies across fellowship tracks. Congressional fellows are expected to move to DC and be available full-time for their training and matching periods, so they will be compensated from their training period onward. In contrast, executive branch and think tank fellows will have remote and part-time training and matching periods, allowing them to continue working or studying while completing their training and matching. For executive branch and think tank fellows, the stipend will begin only once they start their fellowship placement. See here for an overview of relevant dates.

Technology fields such as AI and biotech are notoriously lacking in diversity. What will you do to support diverse fellows?

We recognize the unique challenges that people from underrepresented backgrounds face in fields such as technology. We strongly encourage individuals from these groups to apply, and we will work hard to ensure that fellows from these groups match with suitable host organizations and receive tailored mentorship and support that will enable them to succeed in their fellowships. We are also committed to using evidence-based best practices in our application and review process to promote diversity within our talent pool, such as blind-grading application materials and compensating applicants for their time spent on work tests.

What activities will the training period involve? How many hours per week will it take?

The Horizon training focuses on (a) practicing policy skills such as writing and communication, (b) developing institutional knowledge relevant to your fellowship track, and (c) tailored one-on-one sessions. Sessions include interactive applied exercises (e.g. in writing and pitching) and conversations with senior policy experts. The training is designed to set fellows up for success in matching with a host organization.

Executive branch and think tank fellows will be expected to spend around 8 hours per week for the duration of their 10-week Horizon training program (January through March). Congressional fellows will have a 3-week full-time training period, starting in either January or June. Congressional fellows who start in June will also be expected to participate in the Horizon training program. 

Can participants start their fellowship earlier or later than planned?

We expect participants to start their fellowship placements in spring or summer, and will make exceptions only under extreme circumstances. In past cohorts, most fellows have started their placements between early June and late August, although earlier placements may be possible.

If selected as a fellow, will I officially be an employee of the host organization or of Horizon?

This depends on the fellowship track and may vary on a case-by-case basis. Executive branch fellows will be hired as employees or contractors by Horizon, in compliance with requirements set by federal agency hiring rules. We expect most Congressional and think tank fellows to be paid via a scholarship grant, in which case they will not be official employees of either the host organization or Horizon.

Can you provide a list of potential host organizations? Will fellows’ work focus mostly on Horizon and the fellows’ interests, or the host organizations’ priorities?

We do not restrict fellows’ options to a limited set of host organizations; we can work with any host organization that is willing and able to host a fellow. Applicants and fellows are encouraged to identify specific host organizations that they would like to work for, and we will work with you to compose a tailored list of organizations where you would likely be a good fit (in terms of interests, skills, etc.). We are in regular contact with many potential host organizations that are active in AI and biosecurity policy. The host organizations of our past fellows illustrate some of the options you would have as a fellow.

Fellows’ work activities will vary depending on their host organization, but we intend all placements to be relevant in some way to AI, biotechnology or other priority technology areas. Fellows’ work will ultimately be directed by their host organization, so we will seek to match fellows with hosts which have meaningful demand for the fellow’s particular skills and interests. Congressional fellows are likely to have broader portfolios that change over time based on political and societal developments, as will some executive branch fellows, whereas think tank fellows can often develop longer-term focused agendas.

The fellowship page mentions that renewals for another term are possible. Are fellows likely to be allowed to renew?

All fellows have the possibility of renewing for another term (6 months for junior fellows, 12 months for everyone else). Renewals will be conditional on interest from both a host organization and the fellow. While we cannot guarantee renewals, we expect to approve renewals for any fellow who performed well during their first term, who contributed positively to our fellowship community, and who remains interested in pursuing a policy career. Thus far, we have granted renewals for 100% of fellows who have requested it. 

Fellows may spend the second term of their fellowship at the same host organization, but they may also switch host organizations or even fellowship tracks (junior think tank fellows may only renew at think tanks). For example, a fellow who did a think tank placement in their first year could do a congressional placement in their second year. Fellows are ultimately responsible for securing a second-year placement. Unlike in the first year, there is no formal matching round for a second-year placement, but Horizon staff will support fellows through introductions and advice.