NAIS Fellowship for Aspiring School Heads

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2017-18 cohort.

Gain the credentials you need to become a head of school.

Since 2004, the NAIS Fellowship for Aspiring School Heads has helped more than 580 women and men define and embark on their path to leadership. More than one-third of the NAIS fellows have already secured their first headship. As current school heads begin to retire in record numbers, we invite you to be part of the group of independent school professionals who are prepared and ready to lead.

From learning about leadership styles to getting a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a head of school, hear what last year’s faculty and attendees have to say about the fellowship.

We’ve recently refined and improved our fellowship program to provide you with not only the practical knowledge needed in applying for, accepting, and being effective in your first headship, but with professional and personal support that will last your entire career. Through this irreplaceable network of mentors and colleagues, the fellowship cultivates connections that you’ll turn to again and again for advice, encouragement, and celebration.

During the one-year fellowship (while you are still working at your current school), you will:

  • Be mentored by an esteemed sitting head of school.
  • Get feedback on your resume and philosophy of education.
  • Receive one-on-one career counseling.
  • Attend a summer institute where you’ll be led by a faculty of sitting heads ranging from new heads to established heads who will give you a comprehensive overview of headship.
  • Participate in special programming at two NAIS Annual Conferences.
  • Take part in a group action research project that will be presented at the NAIS Annual Conference.
  • Develop and refine your own leadership style using the DiSC assessment;
  • Learn about key issues that heads of school face.
  • Cultivate an invaluable network of peers.
  • Learn how to navigate the head search and distinguish yourself for future head of school searches.

As a NAIS fellow, you will be paired with a mentor who is a current sitting head of school and serves as a faculty member for the program. As a result of this relationship, the role of head will be demystified through candid conversations, real-life problem solving, and regular meetings and reading assignments. NAIS makes every effort to match fellows to a mentor who will be able to best advise them on issues specific to their leadership journey, for example, giving special guidance to people of color and women.

Who Can Apply?

To be eligible for consideration as an NAIS fellow, you must:

  • work at an NAIS member school, and have worked as an administrator in independent schools for three or more full years;
  • have a master's degree or other advanced degree, or be in the process of obtaining one;
  • commit to completing all the components of the program in the fellowship year; and
  • secure the backing of your school head (including financial support).
2017 - 18 NAIS Fellowship Costs: $5,100
  • Includes two NAIS Annual Conference registrations (not including travel), one weeklong summer institute (not including travel) and the yearlong mentorship and cohort program.
All participants at NAIS member schools are welcome to participate in the fellowship program. NAIS has an institutional commitment to the principles of diversity. In that spirit, NAIS does not discriminate in violation of the law on the basis of race, religion, creed, color, sexual orientation, age, physical challenge, nation of origin, gender, or any other characteristic. 

Links for Current and Past Fellows

Fellowship alumni: Are you at a new school or in a new position? Please email your new school or position information to

Double-click an item below for more details.



Resources and Contacts

  • Edward E. Ford Foundation: Founding sponsor of the NAIS/E.E. Ford Fellowship for Aspiring School Heads.
  • Educational Directions, Incorporated: The home of the Blue and Green Sheets for independent school administrators.
  • The Klingenstein Center, Columbia University:  Offers full-year and two-summers intensive master's degree programs and two week fellowships for heads of schools and early career teachers in independent schools.
  • Visit our full listing of executive and leadership placement services.

Contact Us

For more information please contact Jay Rapp at (202) 973-9752 or