The Fulbright program is a U.S. State Department-sponsored initiative to send American students overseas for up to one year in order to pursue a research project, teach English or obtain a master’s degree from a foreign university.
Fulbrighters get to engage in a completely immersive experience as they work, live and learn in their host country. The programs help people – both Americans and non-Americans – learn more about each other in order create peaceful relations and mutual understanding.
Having received three Fulbright grants for three different projects, Howard Lehman, director of the Fulbright program at the U, has very valuable advice on how to achieve this prestigious award. He has even been part of the selection committee, so he knows exactly what Fulbright is looking for in applicants.
“Fulbright is looking for the right personality,” said Lehman. “They want someone who is out going, excited to meet new people, adaptable to a new cultural environment and who can thrive in that environment.”
The English Teaching Assistant program places recently graduated students in classrooms across the globe to serve as teachers and cultural ambassadors. Applicants can apply to one country only. Research grants are awarded to graduate and doctoral students to complete field research within their area of study. Study grants also allow for students to receive a master’s degree. Fulbright also offers grants to faculty for teaching, research or a combination of the two.
Due to the high expectations of the selection committee, Lehman recommends students start preparing as early as their sophomore year in order to build experience to make their applications stand out. The application process itself can take up to 1.5 years and is quite rigorous, so students should start thinking about it as early as possible.
“Students should begin with a clear idea for why they want a Fulbright. They should have an understanding and appreciation of foreign societies and be prepared to come back to U.S. to share their knowledge with their community.”
Although the application process seems daunting, Lehman doesn’t want students to be discouraged. His office holds workshops, seminars and presentations for anyone interested in creating a competitive application. Lehman is also available to meet with students one-on-one.
Below are Lehman’s best tips for a Fulbright scholarship:
- Get involved in leadership roles
- Keep a good GPA (though there isn’t a GPA minimum)
- Work with people from a different culture and society
- International experience is a plus (Learning Abroad looks great on an application)
- Learn a foreign language. Fluency isn’t necessary, but applicants should have least two years of college courses
- Become a student mentor and tutor if you want to earn a teaching assistant award
- Gain some research experience if you’re applying for a research grant
- Make sure your application doesn’t have any grammatical errors
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