The Most Important Thing You Need to do to Win a Fulbright: Apply for a Fulbright

When I applied to the Fulbright for the first time, I didn’t know if I was qualified. I just received the lowest grade in my undergraduate history in one of my most important classes (curse you, advanced Bio Psychology!) and I hardly knew the difference between an application for a research award and an ETA. I also applied to research suicide, a topic that was rarely studied among recipients.

I felt that I was too different, not good enough, and almost like an impostor.

With that said, if someone would’ve told my senior year-me that my willingness to apply had something in common with Maya Angelou, George Armitage Miller, and Ed Bishop, well, I would’ve laughed in their face.

My guest blogger, however, would beg to differ.

If you have ever felt like me: confused, stumped, and wondering if you should even apply to such a thing, then I encourage you to read Adriana Valencia’s post for some motivation:

The Fulbright US Student Program funds more than 1800 US citizens a year for projects in more than 160 countries. Some of those recipients have just finished undergrad. Others are nearly done with a PhD. Some of the recipients come from undergraduate institutions with fewer than a thousand students and from which they’re the only applicant; others come from major research universities with tens of thousands of students and more than a hundred applicants annually from their institution alone.

The range of projects and possibilities is nearly endless. It’s possible to study spider silk nanostructures at a biomaterials lab in Germany, theater as a vehicle for social empowerment in Jamaica, and typography in India, producing a typeface as a project. Hundreds of English Teaching Assistantships are available annually, with appointments ranging from assisting an elementary-level art class in Spain to being the primary instructor of a university-level English-language course in Morocco. It’s also possible to get a Fulbright for a Master’s program.

There’s only one thing that every single Fulbrighter has in common: they applied for a Fulbright.

The application itself is straightforward but requires planning, time, and attention. It requires communicating with people in your network (your current or former professors, advisors, your campus’ Fulbright Program Advisor.) In many cases, it also requires communicating beyond your network to identify a welcoming institutional affiliation that would host you. You also need to present a complete picture of your academic background, and getting transcripts from every single institution in which you’ve done course work for credit can take time if you transferred or studied abroad.

There’s no minimum GPA. Language requirements vary depending on host country and proposed project. The most important thing is to define a project that you’re passionate about, capable of doing, and find a host country that’s an excellent fit for that project. Regardless of whether you’re applying for an ETA or a Study/Research grant, you should both have and demonstrate a genuine interest in the people and culture/s of your proposed host country.

Adriana Valencia is a 2-time Fulbrighter to Egypt from 1997-1998, and a Fulbright-Hays recipient to Morocco, France, and Spain from 2005-2006. She also serves on a selection committee for another internationally competitive scholarship. She co-runs a course on getting applicants prepared to make their Fulbright application the best it can be.

For more information regarding practical advice to applying to the Fulbright, check out my next post “Advice I wish I received when applying to the Fulbright”.


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