Very helpful tips for Fulbright applicants

Here are some wonderfully useful tips from a former Fulbright recipient for those of you putting together a Fulbright application this fall:


by Radha Blackman, 2003-2004, Bulgaria

After carefully researching and planning a relevant, feasible and rewarding Fulbright project, the next important step is producing persuasive and high quality documents for your application. The process of writing and revision is key to not only submitting a great application, but to refining and clarifying your goals and objectives along the way as well.

It is advisable to include as many different people in this process as possible: the most critical person you know (academics and parents are often good for this); the most creative person you know (someone who thinks outside of the box); the most competent and accomplished people you know (both in your field and outside); and the best writer that you know (an English teacher can also be helpful as long as you don’t mind having grammatical minutiae critiqued).

It is also advisable to have at least three sets of eyes look at everything you submit, but not necessarily the same eyes for all documents. All of them can use the following Checklists as a guide:

Statement of Proposed Research or Study Checklist

The Statement should demonstrate that you are able to plan and implement a successful research project or course of study, and it will be your guide to completing it and meeting your objectives. It should be as specific as possible, while also being flexible enough to make the best of the reality you will find once you arrive overseas, which will inevitably be a little different than planned.

Overall, is the Statement persuasive, direct, concise and easy to read? Short (three or four-line) paragraphs are very effective!

*Does it emphasize the relevance and significance of the project from start to finish?

*Does the first paragraph answer who, what, when, where, why and how?

*Do the next paragraphs detail what you propose to do and how you will do it?

*Is the timeline realistic and specific? Does it include any pre- and post-grant plans?

*Are there clearly defined achievable goals, objectives (the activities/steps to reach your goals), concrete outcomes, and measurable results?

*Does the proposal fit within the context of your experience and skills? Save the details for your Personal Statement.

*Are the methodology and activities comprehensive, relevant, appropriate, feasible, and approved/approvable if necessary?

*Does the Statement describe with whom you will work, why, and the support that they have offered to give you in their letter of support/affiliation/invitation?

*Does it demonstrate why the project or study needs to be in the country selected, the resources the country provides, and how it will benefit from your work there?

*Does it highlight what contribution the project will make in promoting cross-cultural interaction and mutual understanding, including how it will impact the U.S?

*Does it demonstrate a commitment to engage with the host country community through volunteer and extra-curricular activities?

*Does it clearly explain your future plans and how your work will help further your academic or professional development?

*Does the closing paragraph re-emphasize what you will achieve and what makes your project exciting, necessary and unique?

Personal Statement

Your Personal Statement (PS) should narrate your personal and intellectual development. It should show how your proposal is the next logical and necessary step in your life, and how you are qualified to carry it out. It is your opportunity to illustrate what a unique and exceptional individual you are!

*Overall, is your PS interesting and easy to read? Does it show, rather than tell, who you are?

*Does your PS demonstrate your motivation and ability to work independently?

*Does it show who you are, and make the reader want to know you better?

*Do you demonstrate your experience and interest in intercultural learning and sharing?

*Do you repeat information included in other parts of your application? Omit them unless they are necessary for further explanation or emphasis.

Reference Letters

Yes, we know that you won’t write your own reference letter. But we also know that references will often request that you at least indicate what you want the letter to say, if not to draft a letter that they can edit, print on their letterhead and sign. At the very least, you should provide a summary of your proposal, qualifications, goals and your relevant experience, especially in terms of work you have done with them.

*Do the details in the letter match facts repeated elsewhere on the application? Dates, titles, etc?

*Does the letter indicate how you are prepared and able to carry out your proposed project?

*Does the letter highlight your best qualities and accomplishments? Don’t be modest!

*Does the letter give examples of how you have taken initiative, managed your time, and worked well cooperatively and/or independently?

*Does the letter speak to your emotional and intellectual maturity and ability to adapt, live and even thrive in a foreign culture?

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