Fulbright Grant FAQ
Prepared by Jeannine M. Lessmann
What is the Fulbright grant? How can it be used?
Fulbright is a research grant administered by the Institute of International Education. A Fulbright grant may be used for study or research abroad, including scholarly research, study leading to a degree, thesis, or dissertation, or for performance study. It is NOT for people looking for ways to pay for a short-term study abroad program.
Begin on Fulbright Grant proposal only if you are willing to work very hard on it. Fulbright Grants are competitive! But ‘regular’ people do get them!
What is the application and proposal?
For the application, you will need:
1. Your proposal
2. One letter of invitation from your host
3. 3 letters of reference
4. Personal statement (curriculum vitae on the application)
5. Transcripts (all schools)
- Applications are due in October.
- You should make your contacts and develop your proposal over the summer after your junior year (or earlier if you can). In August and early September you will refine and complete the application. The Fulbright advisors are available to you by phone and email while you are off campus.
- You will need a letter of support from a relevant person in your host country.
- Devise a project that is feasible and that builds upon your demonstrated abilities, education, and language skills.
- Work closely with one or two professors in your field to develop your ideas for a project. The Fulbright advisors can help you make contact with appropriate professors.
- Complete a great resume now! This will be invaluable to preparing your application.
- Excellent letters of reference are required; begin giving serious thought whom you will ask.
- As part of the application process, a faculty committee on campus will interview you and will provide a recommendation.
- The central question of the application process is, "Why do you have to do THIS project in THIS location?" That is, why can't you do it here in St. Petersburg, or in Mozambique, just as well?
- Also, why would someone abroad be interested in having you work with him or her? You must “sell yourself” to them. This is easier than you may think.
- Please use the Fulbright’s website to your greatest advantage. Become familiar with the information they provide at www.fulbrightonline.org/us/home.html and us.fulbrightonline.org/howtoapply.html
Who is eligible to apply for a Fulbright?
Applicants should have at least a 3.0 GPA (do you have a 3.5?) and an undergraduate degree. Therefore, students make application in the fall of their senior year. The process is very competitive. Students must usually be fluent in the language of the country where they want to go, when applicable. Not all countries require previous language skills.
Who should apply through EckerdCollege ? What is the benefit of doing so?
Any current EckerdCollege student who wishes to apply for a Fulbright Grant must do so through the Fulbright Program Advisors (FPA). The FPA is responsible for assisting and advising applicants, and for arranging for proposal review and evaluation by a campus committee. The committee can make suggestions to strengthen your proposal.
What are the biggest mistakes made by potential applicants?
- Waiting too long to make the initial contact abroad.
- Not following up in a timely manner with contacts.
- Every year, people put off meeting with the FPA because their drafts aren't perfect . . . and they wait too long! The drafts required prior to the meeting are just that, drafts. Get something down on paper and we will work with you from there.
- Not working closely with one or two professors in your field to develop your ideas for a project (or waiting too long to begin working with them).
How hard is it to get a Fulbright Grant?
Very hard. Last year there were 4,014 applicants for 960 Fulbright grants. That is, about 24 percent of applicants were successful. But "odds" vary greatly from country to country. Ireland and the United Kingdom are very tough -- 33 applicants for each grant to Ireland; over 23 applicants for each grant to the UK. France less so -- 4.2 to 1. Chances for Germany are better than 2.2 to 1. Odds are excellent for Paraguay (2 applications for 1 grant) and the Slovak Republic (4 applicants for 3 grants). Competition for Latin American and sub-Saharan African countries is continental rather than country specific. The odds last year: about 5.5 to 1 for both continents. These kinds of statistics for specific countries are in the back of the Fulbright Student Program information booklet available from the FPA. But what these odds don't tell you is that you can greatly improve your chances by carefully devising and skillfully proposing a Fulbright project.
Getting Your Fulbright Fellowship Application Underway!
How do I make that contact abroad?
Start the same way you would when looking for job or graduate schools. Certainly search engines are useful (put in the name of a country and a term of interest in your field).
Faculty often have contacts abroad, so talk with faculty who are likely to know a relevant person in your host country who may be able to support your project.
Get a working list of about TEN potential contacts. Email all of them, stating your interest and making clear the time frame under which you are working. Half will likely not reply at all. The other half may take weeks or months, if you don’t follow up. And, you will have to follow up with all of them. An example letter is provided near the end of this document. Don’t keep it a secret that you are contacting multiple places in this inquiry stage. You can certainly let them know that you are emailing several institutions or organizations, as you are seeking options and interested hosts.
That first letter (usually by email) will be just like a cover letter. You will send (attach) a resume so they can see your qualifications (how else will they know they are interested?) and outline in the letter:
- what the Fulbright is
- how you came to be interested in them (and what you already know of their work)
- what will be expected of you and of them as your host
- Close by asking them what opportunities are available (what might you be able to do) with them. This gives you an instant idea of proposal possibilities.
They will probably be most interested in knowing that the Fulbright pays your stipend and the host won’t be responsible for your living expenses. However, the host usually is responsible for the financial support of your project (supplies, space, computers, expertise, etc.).
Remember, every communication should be fruitful. Accomplish as much as possible with each exchange. They are busy, and you have deadlines baring down. Keep in mind any language difficulties that there may be in composing your letter. Please see the example letter attached.
What are the guiding points in my preparation?
Throughout the whole application process, you will have to make contact (with resume and cover letter), solicit letters of reference, prepare a proposal, receive a letter of invitation, and write a personal statement There are a number of major points to address in all of these documents, as is appropriate (and most are appropriate in all). These points are to ultimately inspire in the Fulbright reviewers’ confidence that you are the best candidate.
This is most important; please pay attention to these points. Here is what should be said. You should even share these points with those writing you letters of reference.
1. Your project has value within the chosen field, it is not busy work.
2. Your project is of benefit to you and your host.
3. Your project is within the expertise of your host
4. The host will provide resources as needed to complete the project (i.e., office, computer, supplies, analytical equipment, musical instruments, etc.). This is likely best addressed in the letter of invitation.
5. It is expected that the proposed project can indeed be completed within the proposed schedule.
6. What is the expected outcome of your work (i.e., publication, recital, etc.)?
7. Why you need to do the work there rather than in the U.S.?
8. Your credentials/experience are such that you are an excellent candidate to conduct the research and can be expected to complete the project successfully.
9. Evidence you are adaptable in a new culture and with a new group of professionals.
10. Address language skills, as appropriate.
Curriculum Vitae/Personal Statement
The personal statement on the Fulbright application is a question similar to: “What experiences have made you who you are today; paint a picture of yourself (one page).” Yes, that's really the essay you have to write. This is traditionally a very hard thing for students to write. What do you say about yourself? What will be worthwhile to highlight? What do they want to read?
There are no specific guidelines given by the Fulbright program, and the successful applications show a wide variety of topics and essays. Ultimately, show great writing, development and organization, and really show a picture of yourself. Try brainstorming about yourself, significant events in your life, home, jobs, travel, education, influential people, family members, etc. Brainstorm away and write lots of stuff down, related or not. If stuck, get a friend or roommate to “interview” you and take notes on what comes up. Then take a look at it for a common thread to paint a picture of yourself. When the reviewer finishes they should have a feel for who you are.
Are there past proposals available as a guide?
I recommend doing a basic search online for "Fulbright proposal examples" and see what you get. There are things out there that can be useful.