TED Fellows FAQ

You may not have found everything you're looking for about TED Fellows. If you still have questions, hopefully they've been answered below.

About the program

Why should I apply to be a Fellow and what are the program benefits?
The TED Fellowship program has the ability to slingshot your career forward. As a Fellow, you will be introduced into a powerful network of innovators that can be future collaborators. By attending and speaking at the TED Conference, you not only have the ability to spread your message far and wide, but you will also meet people who may be able to help your career. Aside from the conference, Fellows have access to personal mentorship opportunities and speaker coaching following conference participation.

The TED Fellows program is looking for people who have "demonstrated remarkable accomplishment." What do you mean?
We're looking for makers and doers, not talkers. Wow us with the organizations you’ve started, causes you’ve fought for, research you’ve done, art you’ve created. Actions speak louder than words.

How long does the Fellowship last?
Technically, the Fellowship is a one-year commitment that is centered around a TED Conference. However, we like to say “once a Fellow, always a Fellow” so as long as you are willing to be a part of our community you can be!

What is the Senior Fellows program? How do I become a Senior Fellow?
The word "senior" has nothing to do with age. The Senior Fellows program is an extended two-year Fellowship program. Fellows who have completed the terms of their fellowship may apply to be a TED Senior Fellow. Every year, all the TED Fellows from all the previous years who have applied for the Senior Fellows program will be pooled; 10 from among all of these will be selected to be Senior Fellows. Benefits include: participation in four additional Senior Fellows-focused pre-conferences, attendance to four additional TED events, and potentially the opportunity to deliver a TED Talk on the Fellows stage, TED University or main TED stage.

What do Fellows actually do once they get to the TED Conference?
Fellows will have worked with the team in the months leading up to the conference on a four-minute talk. Once they arrive at the pre­conference, they will meet the other Fellows, participate in skill-building workshops, and attend talk rehearsals. When the main conference begins, they will deliver their talk on stage and it will be filmed and considered for TED.com. After the talks, Fellows will participate in the conference as a regular attendee. They can watch all other talk sessions, speak with other TED attendees, and meet new collaborators and friends.

Selection process

What is the selection timeline?
Once you apply to be a Fellow, the team rigorously reviews your application. We read every application and therefore the review process takes time. From each applicant pool, we accept 20 Fellows to attend each conference. Therefore, the wait time between when you submitted your application and when you hear back about the results can be a few months. All applicants are notified whether or not they have been chosen for the TED Fellows program.

Do you offer application deadline extensions?
No, we do not. If we accepted one late application, we would have to accept all of them which means the applications would never stop! We are very firm about this deadline. Please make sure you carefully check the time difference if you are not in the U.T.C time zone.

How do I choose my references?
Choose people who know you well and can speak to your passion, dedication and drive. Big names or famous people will not make your application stronger as our goal is to get to know you and your work better, not to speak to a celebrity. We strongly encourage you to avoid using family members as references, unless you run a business together.

Make sure that you check with your references before listing them on your application, as well as provide us with correct contact information. We reserve the right to contact them at any point during the application process, and their failure to respond may weaken your application.

If I have applied in the past but didn’t receive a Fellowship, can I apply again?
Absolutely! We encourage you to persevere. There are many reasons you may not have been selected in the past but could be a great fit for the next class.

I don’t think I have the slightest chance, should I still apply?
If you are interested in being a TED Fellow – apply! In fact, many of our past Fellows never would have imagined receiving a Fellowship in their wildest dreams. Let us be the judge!

Application requirements

Do applicants need to be a certain age?
We are targeting applicants of ages 21-40. However, anyone over age 18 is welcome to apply. Our age range is simply a guideline.

The reason we say 40 as the upper limit is that usually people over 40 are already established and successful in their fields and do not need the help of the Fellowship program. We're looking for people who are on the brink of something incredible but just need that extra push to make it happen.

This of course isn't to say that someone over 40 doesn't need our help! They absolutely could and should apply and then let us decide. The age guidelines simply were put in place after a few years of experience reviewing these applications.

If selected, what is the required time commitment as a Fellow?
Once selected as a Fellow, you must be available to speak with the TED Fellows team via videoconference for approximately five hours (over the course of approximately three months) prior to the TED conference.

The central requirement of the Fellowship is that you are available to attend the TED conference in person, for the entire time. In addition to the main five days of the TED conference, all Fellows participate in a three-day pre­conference directly preceding the main conference. This means you will be required to block off a total of eight consecutive days in your schedule. In the case of TED2017 this means you must be available from April 21 - 28, 2017 in order to be a TED Fellow.

Is English proficiency a requirement?
Because the TED Conferences are conducted in English, English proficiency is a requirement. This is to ensure every Fellow gets the most out of their experience. However, we do not require applicants to be native English speakers. Many do, in fact, have other native languages.

Do I have to cover any costs if I become a TED Fellow?
No! Once you are selected as a TED Fellow we will cover your flights (or equivalent) to and from the TED conference, any visa you may need, room, board + food while at the conference, and a conference pass.

Will TED provide Fellows with their visas?
Applicants selected to be TED Fellows are responsible for getting their own visas. However, we do provide a formal letter of invitation that should be sufficient for most countries' visa applications. While we do our best to help each Fellow, we cannot be responsible if a visa is denied. The formal letter of invitation can also be used to document the trip if you are a student studying in another country. We do cover visa application fees.

Technical help

The application form won’t show up when I click the banner or the button, what do I do?
Try using a different browser. We prefer Chrome but you should be able to access the application on FireFox, Safari, and Internet Explorer as well.

I tried all four of those browsers and it still isn’t working, now what?
It could be an issue with our website. Walk away for a few minutes, come back, refresh the page, and try again. If it is still not working you can email contact@ted.com for help.

I have filled out all of the required questions on the application form but it still is not letting me submit the application. What do I do?
Please be sure you are following the character limit guidelines. As a reminder, these are character limits (spaces count as characters!), not word limits. For your reference, 1,500 characters is approximately 260 words with spaces and 2,250 characters is approximately 380 words with spaces.

Please note: we highly recommend that you write down your answers in a separate document that can be saved offline before you submit your application. Doing this will ensure that if there is a glitch when applying (on your side or on ours) you will not have to completely start over.

I submitted my application too soon and I forgot to add one thing. Can I still add it?
If you email the missing portion of your application to fellows@ted.com before the application deadline we can manually import the missing information for you. Please note: do not use this as an excuse to add characters to your answers! We will not import information that causes you to exceed the character limit of a question. We will let you know when we’ve updated your application with the additions you’ve sent us.

More questions? Please email fellows@ted.com.