Five Things You Probably Did Not Know About Fulbright

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The Fulbright program is a great scholarship opportunity for U.S. citizens who would like to study abroad. In this article you will learn all details about the complicated list of eligibility, application, and proposal requirements that will give you a better idea of whether the Fulbright is right for you.

Editor's note: Don't worry if you are not eligible! Every year there are various other opportunities and thousands of scholarship opportunities available worldwide! Check them out on ScholarshipPortal.

What is a Fulbright?

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), the Fulbright program began in 1946 with the aim to increase the mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries. Currently operating in more than 155 countries worldwide, the program awards 1,700 grants per year that sponsor various kinds of research and teaching opportunities abroad.

1.) 155 Different Fulbright Programs

The Fulbright application, the process, and program depend entirely on the country. Fulbrighters often say that there are effectively 155 different Fulbright programs because the variation between them all is so great. This means that you must carefully consider which country you are going to choose, your reasoning for this choice, and then you must thoroughly examine the procedure for that specific country before you apply.

2.) Four Different Types

Most people dont realize that Fulbrights actually fall into four different categories (three of which function similarly). The way I divide them below is slightly different from the manner in which theyre organized on the Fulbright website, but if you're curious about their layout, click here{target="_blank"}.

  1. Study/Research Grant: The broadest of all, the study/research grant provides funds for academic research abroad in any discipline and is open to both students and professionals of any age. What sets the study/research option apart from other programs is the lack of a determined final requirement. Basically, you will not be expected to produce a paper or make a presentation at the end. This is not to say that those at IIE and the Fulbright program, specific to your country of choice, have no expectations. You will be asked to complete a mid-term and final report, and you will be held to a very high standard of community engagement throughout your stay. Although the Fulbright program prides itself on the flexibility that it gives to its scholars providing the space and resources for them to go where the experience takes them without a rigid itinerary it also emphasizes the fact that this scholarship is not about the individual, it is about the individuals interactions with his/her surroundings.
  2. Creative and Performing Arts Grant: If you are less of a scholar and more of a performer, the Fulbright can still be a means for you to live abroad while studying the art you love. Within the general category of Creative/Performing Arts, you can propose a project that focuses on music (mtvU), dance, photography, creative writing, filmmaking, or whatever your area of study may be.
  3. Specialized Grant: There are a number of specialized grants. Theyre unique both in terms of subject and country. For example, you can apply for a specialized grant in journalism, business, or the sciences; for example you can apply to study the Irish language in Ireland instead of proposing a research topic of your own creation.
  4. English Teaching Assistantship: While the first three kinds of grants are all similar in that they necessitate independent research, the English Teaching Assistantship does not. Instead, the focus is education. The I.I.E. highly stresses the difference between the three grants listed above and the ETA Fulbright, where your focus will be on the classroom. It is important to note that: (a) Your role will be that of a teachers assistant. (b) The ETA still places a lot of importance on community engagement and expects you to independently participate in academic or community service projects.

3.) The Affiliation

If you apply for a study/research grant, it is vital that you find an educational institution or another sponsoring entity to be your affiliation, even if you are planning mainly independent research and travel. One of the most challenging parts of the Fulbright application may be finding someone to sponsor you. What exactly constitutes an affiliation? How do you even begin looking for one? For answers to these questions and advice on the affiliation in general, check out my second article.

If you apply for an English Teaching Assistantship, on the other hand, you dont need to worry about finding an affiliation. This may sound nice in the context of the application process (one less box on that checklist), but be sure to think about what it will mean for your time abroad. The Fulbright program of your country will set you up with your affiliation, meaning you will have less control over who/what your affiliation is, and therefore where youll be living/traveling/etc. There are pros and cons to either type of Fulbright (research oriented or teacher oriented), but if you choose an ETA, be prepared to be flexible when it comes to the affiliation.

4.) When is it Best to Apply?

Your age may affect the application process in several ways depending on your level of education and work experience you will be eligible for different kinds of grants.

But for those of you who are preparing to finish, or who recently finished your undergraduate degree, the most important factor to think about is the Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA). The FPA is an on-campus adviser associated with your school and, according to IIE, a huge resource. Is it better to apply for a Fulbright during your final year of undergraduate school, so you can utilize the FPA for all s/he is worth? Fulbright alumni and representatives alike told me that, in general, FPAs are always willing to help even after you have graduated. The extent to which you can use the FPA back on campus after you have graduated depends on your school and your relationship to your FPA.

And dont worry about applying before you graduate just because you think it will up your chances. Whether you apply through your school, or after you graduate under the at-large category, will not affect your chances of acceptance.

5.) Eligibility Requirements

In order to apply for a Fulbright, you must first meet a few eligibility requirements:

  • U.S. Citizenship (If youre not American, check out the Fulbright for Foreign Students or the Fulbright for Non-U.S. Scholars Program)
  • Hold at least a B.A.
  • Possess proficient language skills relevant to your country of choice.
  • You are not eligible if you have completed your P.H.D. research, but you may apply if you are in the midst of a P.H.D. program.
  • With more specific or specialized Fulbrights, there are specialized requirements.

Make sure, that you also check your other scholarships options. It's always better to have the choice between some alternatives. You can do that right here on!

A Few Fulbright Stats

  • Western Europe is the most popular region in which to apply to
  • The U.K. is the most competitive country to apply to within W.E.
  • The ETA grants in Andorra/Spain are the most competitive in all of Europe
  • Scandinavian countries do not require the grantee to speak the local language
  • Germany offers the most grants each year with 80 full Fulbright grants and 140 ETA grants
  • Russia is the most competitive country with the toughest language requirements
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