Fulbright U.S. Student Program
Building a Strong Application

Because each application is unique, you must give yourself plenty of time to prepare. In general, the English Teaching Assistantship Grant application process is less demanding than the process of applying for a Study or Research Grant. In both cases, however, you will want to carefully review information on the Fulbright website, clarify your goals, choose an appropriate country, gather input and letters of support from people on and off campus, and prepare the application essays.

Applicants for Study or Research grants will generally need to choose a university at which they will study, or identify another institution with which they will affiliate. This may involve applying for admission to a university abroad and/or securing letters off support from other institutions.

If you’re an undergraduate who wants to go abroad in the year following graduation, you should begin this process in the spring of your junior year at the very latest. If you know you want to apply to a country in which English is not the language of choice, you will need to begin studying that language earlier.

You might begin by asking: Is there some prepossessing reason why you want to study or spend time in a particular country? If your proposal could as easily be done in the USA, it probably won’t be taken very seriously. Your project also needs to be something you can complete in one year.

You need to demonstrate that you have the knowledge and experience required to carry out the project. For example, if you intend to do field research, have you taken a course in field research methods? If your proposal requires interacting with local residents, does your proposal demonstrate cultural sensitivity and do you have the language skills necessary to communicate with them (or, alternatively, do you have a plan for how you will acquire those language skills)? If you’re proposing an arts project, do you have the background to carry it out and have you identified people or organizations in the host country that are willing to provide facilities or logistical support? And, importantly, how does the experience fit in with your future plans and goals?

So, Where to Start?
First, check out the Fulbright website for the most up-to date information. You might begin with the About section, then explore Countries, and finally read all of the information under Applicants and especially the Application Tips. Fulbright also offers a series of webinars and Q&A sessions where you can learn more about your options.

Once you’ve chosen a country, you need to study that country’s particular interests. To be successful, applications must be a good fit with the stated interests of the host country. Under each country profile, you can find information about grant periods, candidate profiles, accepted degree levels, foreign language proficiency requirements, types of Fulbright proposal accepted (for example, independent study/research or graduate degree enrollment), required affiliations, and tuition support.

You should try to find a faculty member who will be your ‘champion’ and who will help you think through this process (which country to pick, what sort of project to propose) and, most importantly, who will help with your essay and personal statement. In fact, before you hand in your application it should have been read over by as many people as you can get to read it. You have to be sure that your essay describes your proposed research project clearly, accurately, and thoroughly, that it makes clear why you’ve chosen the particular country and university you have, and mentions contacts you’ve made with faculty sponsors there. The campus Fulbright advisor and members of the campus Fulbright committee are also available to help with the essay and personal statement.

Having a high GPA isn’t nearly enough to get a Fulbright. If you want to apply and, more to the point, if you want to win, you’ve got to put in some serious time and write a compelling proposal. Keep in mind that, in reviewing your application, the selection committees will also be looking for the overall completeness of your application and whether you can follow directions.

The national deadline for handing in applications changes by a few days from year to year, but it generally falls in mid-October. The campus Fulbright committee will want to see your completed application in early September in order to provide early feedback and to ensure that the application can be submitted by the national deadline.

A complete application includes:
  • Basic Personal Data
  • Essays (2 pages max for Research/Study Grants, and 1 page max for English Teaching Assistant Grants)
  • Personal Statement (1 page max)
  • Three reference letters
  • Foreign Language Evaluation (if applicable)
  • Transcripts
  • Research/Study Affiliation Letter(s)
  • Supplementary Materials for Arts Applicants

Before your application is submitted for consideration at the national level, you will have an interview with the campus Fulbright committee. At this interview you will be asked, among other things, about your proposal: Is it feasible? Can it be pulled off in a year? Do you have the background to do it? You will also be asked some questions to see how much you know about your host country.

If you are a finalist you will be notified of that fact in January. The Fulbright Commission recommends about twice as many finalists to the host country as will be chosen, and the host country makes final decisions on grant awards by May. If you’re a finalist you have a very good chance of receiving a grant.