Applying to a Fulbright U.S. Student Award for Study/Research or a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award can be a long, tedious process, much like applying to graduate school. Once you get over the first hurdle of selecting the right award and country, you should create a timeline of activities to keep you on track.
If you are an enrolled undergraduate or graduate student, you will need to apply for the Fulbright award through your university. The first step is contacting your university’s Fulbright Program Advisor to let them know your intentions (here’s how to find them). The first thing you will need to know is your university’s internal deadline for Fulbright applications, which are typically in September but may be as early as August. The FPA can also give you details on any assistance, workshops, webinars or events the university provides for Fulbright applicants.
If you are not an enrolled student, you can still see if you can apply through your university as an alumnus and access invaluable university resources, or you can apply At-Large. If you apply At-Large, the deadline for submitting your application to Fulbright is October 6, 2017.
It’s May – don’t wait to begin your application later in the summer. You’ll need as much time as possible to thoughtfully prepare your application, essays and project proposal. Often applicants procrastinate or underestimate the amount of time it will take to prepare a strong application. No need to be that person if you’ve got a plan.
The Fulbright award for Study/Research and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) awards requires the following components:
- a completed Biographical Data form
- a 2-page Statement of Grant Purpose
- a 1-page Personal Statement
- an Affiliation Letter – e.g., a letter of support from an institution that will host you during the fellowship (for study/research grants only)
- Foreign Language competency forms
- 3 recommendations
- a Critical Language Enhancement Award statement (optional – for select countries only)
- examples of artistic work (for creative and performing arts projects only)
Below is a suggested timeline of activities for creating a Fulbright application plan.
- Read the application requirements carefully and determine what documents you’ll need to provide. Start working on the easiest ones first:
- Request transcripts from your university
- Complete the Biographical Data form
- Complete the Foreign Language Forms
- Identify your university’s internal deadlines for application materials (if applicable) and put them on your personal calendar with reminders a few weeks ahead. Give yourself a final deadline of one week before the official deadline and stick to it to be safe.
- Brainstorm some general, overarching ideas for your fellowship project proposal. Start thinking creatively about how you can tie those ideas to something in the news, and something time-specific (more details on this in my article Project Proposal Ideas).
- Reach out to former Fulbright fellows that have done similar projects or have a similar background to yours. They can give you project ideas, tips on the application process and can often introduce you directly to potential host institutions.
- Update your resume.
- As you work on your application, make sure all of the documents are backed up in a cloud service such as Dropbox or Google drive. You can even email yourself the documents. Don’t depend on your computer hard drive or USBs.
- Secure a host institution and ask the host to provide you a Letter of Affiliation.
- Share your Personal Statement and Statement of Grant Purpose drafts with people who can provide good feedback (e.g., your Fulbright Program Advisor, professors, Fulbright alumni)
- Request reference letters from 3 people and provide them your draft Statement of Grant Purpose.
- Send friendly reminders to your referees to return or submit their letters.
- Complete final versions of your Personal Statement and Statement of Grant Purpose.
- Ask at least two people to read all your final application components for grammatical and formatting issues. It’s hard to see typos and grammatical mistakes when you’ve read them a million times.
Early September – October
- Relax, you’re doing well on time!
- Submit the application on time to your university or directly to Fulbright – ideally, no later than one week in advance of the deadline to avoid any technological glitches. Most fellowship organizations, including Fulbright, are extremely strict about application deadlines and will not accept any excuse for late materials.
- Make sure to receive a confirmation that your application and reference letters have been received, ideally before the deadline.
- Thank your referees and be sure to follow-up with them in the Spring when you know the status of your application.
Now if you are that person who found out about Fulbright awards just weeks before the application is due, don’t despair. If you are highly organized, it’s possible to cram these tasks into a small window of time. With organizational skills and optimism, anything is possible!
Read more Fulbright application tips:
Tips for Fulbright Applicants: How to Choose the Right Grant
Tapping Your University’s Resources: Zoë Gioja on the Fulbright Application Process
5 Powerful Personal Statement Openings of Fellowship Winners
Tips for Polishing Your Fulbright ETA Application
© Victoria Johnson 2017, all rights reserved.
For those thinking about applying for a Fulbright grant in the fall, just a reminder about deadlines and things to be thinking about. Please read carefully as I attempt to address below some common questions I get from applicants and issues I see in reviewing materials.
August 15 “Intend to Apply” Deadline: Send a copy of your Fulbright application materials (pdf or .doc for essays) in its current state in Embark to email@example.com for me to review. You can “print to pdf” to make a copy of the application. Essays you can send as word documents labeled with your last name and the whether it’s the SGP (statement of grant purpose) or personal statement if these are separate documents. Format according to the Fulbright specifications. I realize this will not be a polished application. Recommendations, transcripts, affiliation letters, etc. are not needed at this time (but if you have an affiliation lined up, include a copy of that). I will review your materials, send comments as needed, and you can continue working on your application. We will order transcripts (no charge) for those who have an active application in the Fulbright Embark online system only and send requested materials by August 15. If you do not send me your materials by Aug 15, you can still apply! You will simply need to take care of securing and uploading your transcript (see Transcript note below) yourself. I also may be less able to provide you with substantive comments on your essays depending on when you send me materials to review. If you discontinue your application after this point, that is ok–just let us know as soon as you determine that. See go.middlebury.edu/fulbright for complete application instructions.
September 13 at noon (Wed): This is a hard deadline!Submit your complete and polished Fulbright application in the Embark online system. All components of your application should be done at this point. Essays must be polished with no grammatical or spelling errors. Revisions after this date only happen when the campus committee review process notes issues that require your attention. If you have late recommendations or problems with an affiliation letter, please still submit your application by the deadline and be in touch with fellowships about the issue. Note: by submitting the application, you are sending it to the fellowships office at this point, not to Fulbright. We will take care of submission to Fulbright in October.
Late September: You have a brief interview with a campus committee about your application. You will receive a sign-up sheet for this after you submit on Sept 13. This interview is required for us to evaluate your strength as a candidate and we share that evaluation with Fulbright. Interviews are conducted in person, by Skype and by phone if needed.
October 6: I will send your application to Fulbright before the national deadline on October 6.
A few important notes–please review carefully:
Transcripts: Fulbright will accept unofficial transcripts as well as official ones at this stage. We prefer official transcripts because the formatting is concise. However, unofficial transcripts are acceptable. Just make sure that they are concise, in chronological order, and contain the necessary elements on an official transcript (courses, grades by semester, overall GPA, major, etc.). If you are a transfer student or have grades from other schools you would like represented, you will need to obtain a transcript from those previous institutions and upload. We will send pdf copies of the Middlebury transcript to you in time to upload for the internal deadline below. The goal here is to provide a complete and easily readable transcript for your readers.
Affiliation Letters: The affiliation letter should come from the institution/individual in the host country with whom you are proposing to work. It should be written in or translated to English, printed on official letterhead and should be signed by the author. If an English translation is provided, both the original letter and the translation should be uploaded. Letters should include the author’s position title, indicate the author’s willingness to work with you on the intended project, should speak to the feasibility and validity and merits of what is being proposed. The letter should also indicate any additional resources or contacts that the adviser can provide to support the work. Letters will vary, but the strongest letters will address these points noted.
Recommendations and language evaluations: It’s courteous to give at least three-weeks notice for these. You can certainly schedule the language evaluation to take place when you return to campus, but the evaluation needs to be submitted by the Sept 13 noon deadline. If you have the same person complete both a recommendation and language evaluation, please use two separate email addresses to register them. You want to choose recommenders who know you and are best suited to comment on your proposed research or ETA grant application.
Statement of Grant Purpose (SGP): Before you submit your drafts to me, take the time to do a few basic checks on your own.
- Have you reviewed carefully any special application notes for your country? A few require specific statement formats, additional pieces of information, translations of proposal, etc. If there are special requirements, make sure you’ve attended to those.
- Do you cover the needed components? For research proposals, typically this would be: what you want to do and where; why it’s important; how you will do it (specific research activities, methods, general sense of timeframe); how your affiliation will be of help to you, how you are prepared to undertake this work successfully; what your proposed community engagement is; and how this research project will contribute to your broader professional objectives. These proposals should be clear, provide appropriate context and detail, and be relatively jargon-free. Remember, your readers may not be experts in your field, so write to a well-educated audience outside of your field—and that means, you many need to explain a few things.
- For the ETA, this would be: why do you want to teach English in this country? What relevant experience do you bring to this position? What ideas do you have for your classroom? What is your supplementary project (if required)? What is your proposed community engagement? How this research project will contribute to your broader professional objectives? Definitely pay attention to your motivation for teaching in a particular country—this often gets overlooked.
SGP tone should be professional, clear and direct. You have an opportunity to share more of your personal voice and experiences in the personal statement. But this is a grant proposal, and your job here is to explain why this project in this place and why you are well-suited to undertake this.
Personal statement: This really is an open space for you to share additional aspects of you or experiences that you feel are important for selection committees to know about you. This last part is key—you will be judicious in determining what that is. But many candidates discuss aspects of their own background, cross-cultural experiences, etc. It can also be a place to include necessary items (e.g. professional aspirations, community service plans) if you really weren’t able to fit them into the SGP or to expand on something important and relevant that you touched upon in the SGP. But do not repeat information that’s already in the SGP. Use your space wisely because you’ve got a limited amount and probably a lot you want to say.
Checking your essays: Some editing tips for you:
- Look at each paragraph and write down the main points of the paragraph. Are you covering all the points you need to? Do they flow logically? Are there sentences in there that don’t advance your points? If so, cut!
- It’s important to have the right balance between general assertions and specific details or examples that illustrate the general statement. Beware too many general statements or vague descriptors—it’s just not helpful in learning more about you, your project, your motivation.
- Beware overuse of adjectives and adverbs. For these essays, too many just get in the way of your meaning.
- Proof! Ask someone else to proof too! Make sure the spelling is correct, watch out for homophones (spell check will miss those), awkward phrasing, sentence fragments, or repetitions of certain words.
- Be assertive and direct in your phrasing. Imagine yourself in this role. Say “I will”, “I am,” as opposed to “I hope to” or “I think/feel I am.”
- Be mindful of colloquial expressions. I steer candidates away from “I love,” for example, as a way of conveying enthusiasm. What may be fine and typical in informal speech may not be the most effective way of conveying what you want in these statements.
Short Answer Questions: Don’t forget these! These too should be clear, concise, to-the-point and content consistent with what you discuss in the essays.
Listing of Activities: You have strict space constraints. So again, include what is most relevant and important for this application. And describe what the activity/organization is in a way that it is understandable to an outside reader. This may mean altering the name slightly so that a reader understand what this organization/position is/does.
You have little space with which to work, so you want to use it to your best advantage.
And again, Fulbright has a great Application Tips section on the website. Do read this. Do follow the advice there. Do check your own work to make sure you are addressing the necessary points and reviewing for grammar and tone BEFORE sharing with me or with other readers for feedback.
Appointment or application questions: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
For alumni applicants: if you are not currently enrolled as a graduate student at another institution, you can choose to apply through Middlebury College or At-Large. The primary difference is that if you apply through Middlebury, you will adhere to our internal deadline and will have a campus interview (via Skype or phone). The campus evaluation will be added to your application. You will also be counted as a Middlebury grantee, which we like! But statistically, Fulbright states that there is not advantage to either method of application.
Fulbright webinars and tutorials: are ongoing this summer. Check out http://us.fulbrightonline.org/about/videos-tutorialsand http://us.fulbrightonline.org/applicants/information-sessions (click on webinars to see schedule).
Fulbright online application: Start your online application through this section http://us.fulbrightonline.org/applicants .