5 steps to getting a Fulbright

IMG_1223The prospect of applying for and getting a Fulbright scholarship can be very scary and daunting. Yet it’s one of the most perfect ways to go abroad again and make a real difference. So here are five steps to make that process a little easier.


The Fulbright program has many different types of grants – from study, research, and teaching, to public policy and the new National Geographic Digital Storytelling grant. Each opportunity will have varying language requirements and timeframes. Choose the grant type and country that fits your strengths, needs, and talents the best. Be aware that deadlines for the majority of Fulbright grants are in mid-October, although most campus deadlines occur earlier. Familiarize yourself with the country you are applying to – how will the local culture or language influence your project or experience? How can you facilitate cultural exchange while being respectful of local traditions?


The Fulbright website contains extremely helpful country and program specific details and what information you need to include in your written application. Keep in mind you will also need three letters of recommendation. Did you have an influential professor while you were abroad or at your local university? Talk with them! Also, contact the Fulbright Advisor at your school, seek out a Fulbright alum, or talk to an individual who has connections to the country you are applying to.


The best piece of advice I was given when applying was to never apologize for something you haven’t done. So you’ve never taught in a classroom before, but want to apply for an English Teaching Assistantship? Emphasize the experiences you have had that display leadership, communication, or problem solving skills. Have you been a camp counselor? Tutor? Group leader? What characteristics do you have that will also be useful in a classroom setting or when implementing your own research project? This is also a great way to tie in your previous experiences abroad and don’t be afraid to be personal.


If you are applying through your university you will most likely have an interview, if you apply at-large you will not. This leaves you with only 2 – 3 pages of words (your statement of grant purpose/proposal and personal statement) to convince the Institute of International Education (IIE) and your Fulbright Commission that you deserve a Fulbright – utilize them! Selection committees are usually linear thinkers so you should be concise and get to the point right away – not two or three paragraphs in. Develop a strong reasoning for how your skills, knowledge, and interests fit with what the Fulbright program is looking for in a grantee and express it clearly.


The hardest part can be waiting. After you submit your application to IIE in October (for most grants), you will have to wait until late January to hear about recommendation status. If you are recommended by IIE, your application will go to the host country commission for final review. Final award notification can occur anywhere from February to June; the exact date differs year to year and country by country. At this point, you should be confident in the excellent application you have already put together and hope for the best. Good luck!






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