How to Get a Fulbright Scholarship
Grades Are Not the Only Criteria
The Fulbright Scholarship is rumored to be reserved only for the top-achieving students. It’s true that competition is tough, but grades are not the only thing that count.
The most important thing you can do is prepare at least one or two years in advance. If you are currently attending or are an alumnus of a U.S. university with a Fulbright program adviser, then your best bet is to make a appointment to see one.
The majority of American students choose to study abroad in a few regions or countries such as Europe, China, or India. Competition for one of these countries is tough, and unless you are an outstanding student and have a resume full of extracurricular activities as well as an impressive proposal you probably should look elsewhere for funding. Instead of applying to one of the more popular countries, try aiming for a country off the beaten path where competition is much lower. For example, from 2005 to 2006 Fulbright scholarships Australia received 117 applications for only 12 spaces and the U.K. received 598 applications for 20 spaces, while less popular countries like Estonia received only five applications for three spaces and Pakistan received seven applications for five spaces.
Obviously, if you apply for the U.K. your chances of getting accepted are quite low, whereas if you apply to a country like Estonia, you have a very high chance of being accepted if you are qualified. Imagine visiting villages where local culture and traditions are still strong and pure and where you will have the most intense cultural experience possible.
If you were hoping to improve your French skills, but don’t want to spend your time with a colony of Americans, consider countries such as Tunisia, Senegal, or Mauritius. All offer an exciting experience in less-touristy areas. If you want to learn Spanish, you don’t have to go to Spain. Why not try Nicaragua, Uruguay, or Honduras?
If you are living in a developing country, your monthly stipend will sustain you generously. The stipend also allows for extra expenses such as private lessons, book purchases, attending conferences, and more. Some local Fulbright commissions have been known to offer benefits such as airport pickups, free mobile phones for the length of your stay, free dinners, and the chance to borrow anything you may need (such as a printer) if the request is reasonable. Participating in the commission also gives you a chance to make contacts with local scholars in your area of interest.
Fulbright scholarships are not just for studying but also for learning about a new culture. Fulbrighters are seen as ambassadors of American culture and are expected to dive into the culture of their assigned country, meeting locals and learning how to accept other cultures and societies and to respect unique traditions and customs, while attempting to inform people of other nations about the reality of America.
For further information about Fulbright scholarships and the application process visit www.fulbrightonline.org.