Applying for the Fulbright: The Fulbright Application Experience
I learned about the Fulbright years ago from the West Wing television series. One of the characters, Josh, was said to be a Fulbright scholar, and somehow this was taken to be highly prestigious. As with everything in my precocious past self, I decided that I would one day have to apply for such a thing. So let me guide you through everything I know about the Fulbright application experience!
This post is meant to be an encouragement for people to apply to scholarships like the Fulbright.
So what is the Fulbright?
There are several versions of it, all intended to encourage cultural exchange between Americans and other countries.
- You can get a scholarship to attend a masters/doctoral program abroad with a living stipend.
- You can pursue a project, particularly within the Fine Arts and writing.
- Or, you can do what I’m hoping to do, going to teach English abroad. You’re given a living stipend and you live with a host family.
I’ve applied to South Korea, which is convenient not just because of my interest in South Korea, but because South Korea and several of the East Asian countries have a high number of placements. Compared to European countries, which only have 1-3 placements, South Korea has dozens. If you’re looking to get a Fulbright and don’t care where you go, one of these countries is the best to apply to.
The first college I attended in Florida seemed to feel it was a given that many students would apply for the Fulbright, and the school had the most Fulbright scholars per capita of any other college. Hence, I kindof had it in my head that I would apply no matter what. But by coming to Wichita, I realized that it’s not so common for schools to support this. There’s hardly any mention of it, and there are no specific advisors for national scholarships. This is, in my opinion, a huge oversight as it can raise a school’s reputation.
What do you need?
- I’ve talked about grades before and what I said still holds true. Having a reasonably good GPA (around 3.5+) is not that difficult for the average person to achieve at the average school.
- 3 Recommendation letters, this was harder to come by as I had transferred and therefore wasn’t able to develop the same relationships with professors over the course of four years. However, you are allowed to have one of them be a non-professor, so I chose an employer who had seen my tutoring ability.
- Personal Statement/Statement of Grant purpose: These are awful to write, and I say this as a writer. If you don’t have any advisor or anyone who can help you, try going to your writing center (most schools have them even if they’re hidden).
Overall, some general advice: Start early, but give it a shot. It’s worth it to at least try, and they’re not as picky as you might first suspect. I was previously chosen as a semi-finalist but due to some family issues I was unable to pursue it further as I had to stay in school longer (I’m hoping this won’t hurt me in this application season). The main thing is to give your personal statement a couple months to write a dozen different drafts until you hit upon it. You can find example personal statements for the Fulbright online and I’d recommend reading them.
It’s also important to demonstrate that you have a real interest in the country. For example, Kpop is not a great reason to want to go to Korea just as is. However, if you can phrase it as learning about Korean culture through music your were inspired to learn the language/find something else interesting, then you have a stronger statement.
They also like to see if you’ve studied abroad, this way they know halfway through you’re not going to get homesick and quit. If you have any other experience teaching people (If you’re applying to the ETA Fulbright) that’s also important to talk about, even if it was volunteering or leading orientation for something. So if you have that experience, talk about it!
There’s really not much else to it, so I hope you will apply to! If you’ve already applied I’d love to hear about your experiences 🙂 The Fulbright application experience was very informative for me.
I’ll keep you all updated if I’m chosen as a Semi-Finalist in January. EDIT: I was!
This is part of a series!
I’m taking you through all the different ways I’m trying to get to South Korea!