As more students stop by the Fellowships Office asking for feedback on their third, fourth, or fifth Fulbright application draft, more students are getting feedback that says something like, “Clean it up and you’re good to go.” There’s good news and bad news when you get that comment: The good news is you’re only one (maybe two) drafts away from the end of the drafting process! (Although, should you advance beyond the campus round, get ready for a whole new round of refining your work). The bad news is that it’s time to take a magnifying glass to your application; examine your work structurally, examine it grammatically and examine it punctuationally.*
Here’s three steps to ensure you have a clean application:
1. Copy edit: This is quite different from “spell check.” Your word processor doesn’t know if your Fulbright proposal is “do” or “due” on September 18, and it won’t know when you should use there, their or they’re. Read through everything you’ve written carefully. Then read through it again. Then have a friend read through it. Then maybe one more friend should glance at it. The more people that read your application, the better your chances are that one person will catch that errant typo.
2. Read your proposals and personal statements out loud: Oftentimes you read through your proposal too quickly when you’re copy editing. Having to read your proposal out loud does two things: 1) It forces you to slow down the speed at which you are reading so your lips can keep up, and 2) Listening to how your application sounds adds another sense to a process that will help you pick up on missing words or punctuation. It will also help you to listen to how your writing flows (or doesn’t flow) so you can make any sort of structural changes necessary.
3. Make sure you’ve connected the dots: You should always be thinking about how you are answering these three** things for the Fulbright Committee: What you want to do, how you want to do it, why you are qualified to do it, and how it will play into your life post-Fulbright. If you feel like you’re not addressing one of those points clearly, concisely and effectively then see how you can rework your writing to hit on these points.
3a. If you do end up changing things around, repeat steps one and two.
Your entire application is due September 18. That means: Five days, two essays, no mercy. And no spelling or grammatical errors!
*See “examine your work grammatically”
**Also remember: If you’re saying that you’re listing three points, make sure you are, in fact, listing three points.