The Fulbright US Student Program provides graduate students and recent graduates with an opportunity to undertake research, studies, or teaching overseas, in over 140 countries. The competition is the largest exchange program of its kind, and is very popular among students from all stages of study.
We have previously published a number of posts on the Fulbright competition on the GradFund blog, all of which offer useful tips and suggestions to help you craft a strong application. In light of the upcoming application period (our on-campus deadline this year is September 1), we have compiled this roundup post series, which will provide you with our best advice on how to put together the most competitive Fulbright application possible.
In this series, you will find an overview of a number of previous posts, nestled under three categories:
1) GradFund’s findings on what makes a successful Fulbright IIE application;
2) GradFund’s advice on preparing a competitive Fulbright IIE application; and
3) Advice from Rutgers graduate students who prepared a Fulbright IIE application.
GradFund’s Findings on What Makes a Successful Fulbright Application
The posts below provide an overview of the results of GradFund’s analysis of over 100 Fulbright IIE applications in order to better understand what makes a competitive Fulbright application. Our findings revealed three recurring variables that contributed to producing successful applications: 1) affiliation depth, 2) literature citations, and 3) the strength and coherence of the applicant’s thesis in the statement of purpose. The posts below provide an overview of the importance of each component.
In this post, Brian draws attention to a significant component of the Fulbright application that may often become an afterthought for the applicants as they devote their energy to conveying the importance of their research project to their reviewers. That component is cultural ambassadorship. Brian states that while academic rigor is certainly important for the Fulbright, applicants should also establish their “affiliation depth,” which is the extent to which an applicant can successfully demonstrate a deep and grounded working relationship with their local host. In order to start working on affiliations, Brian suggests that applicants consult their advisors to ask about contacts, reach out to Fulbright alums for advice on establishing relationships, and contact the Fulbright Commission or representative in the host country.
In this post, Brian underscores the importance of paying attention to putting together a strong literature review that balances breadth with depth. Citations, he argues, provide applicants with the chance to prove the importance of their work by situating it in the relevant and larger intellectual field. In the case of the Fulbright, citations also demonstrate how the applicants’ research will speak to the academic work produced by the research community in their host country. The trick here is to remember that Fulbright’s mission of cultural ambassadorship should be an integral part of how you construct each component of your application, including your literature review.
In this post, Brian demonstrates the importance of having strong thesis statements in crafting competitive applications. According to Brian’s analysis, successful Fulbright applications had thesis statements that appeared early on in the document and were easy to understand (i.e., without jargon). This clarity allowed readers to quickly discern what the proposed project was about and why it was important rather than searching the text for information. Furthermore, Brian argues that strong thesis statements grabbed the attention of the reader and did not demand prior knowledge or specialization in the applicant’s specific field.
This was a review of the posts on GradFund’s analysis of successful Fulbright applications. Stay tuned for the second installment of our series, which will focus on GradFund’s advice on preparing a competitive Fulbright application. In the meantime, if you are planning to apply for the Fulbright IIE this fall, please fill out our form so that we can add you to our email list to contact you with important updates.