The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to study, conduct research, develop as an artist and teach in roughly 160 countries around the globe. Fulbright encourages students and recent alumnae from all backgrounds and academic disciplines to consider applying. This is an opportunity to tell your story, think about your career path, and bring your research, teaching, or artistic practice to the next level.
It’s Never Too Early To Start
Graduating seniors and alums submit their final applications to Fulbright in early October. However, preparing your application should begin at least six months in advance and can begin as early as your first year. Students are encouraged to start early because a competitive Fulbright application requires the development of certain skill sets and experiences.
For applicants proposing to do research or study for a degree, Fulbright selection committees want to see that you have developed a level of junior expertise in the field of study you are choosing to engage in abroad either as a project or course of study. Likewise, for many Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships, country programs are looking for candidates who have teaching experience and have a demonstrated commitment to education.
Additionally, the majority of countries participating in Fulbright require that you have at least a solid grounding in the local language. For many countries, a competitive application requires the equivalent of two years of college-level language instruction.
Overview of the Fulbright Program
Are you interested in spending a year abroad pursuing an opportunity in the arts, teaching, and research internationally? Do you have a story to tell, a research question that needs to be answered in a foreign country, or a desire to teach English abroad? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Fulbright might be just the program for you. Take a look over these Fulbright award benefits and consider the possibilities.
To get started, you need to do a little research on the Fulbright Program. First, determine whether you are eligible to apply by reading over Fulbright’s eligibility requirements.
Next, watch this Overview of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. In 10 quick minutes, this tutorial will get you started in comprehending the Fulbright program’s overall purpose, eligibility requirements, factors in selection and history. After viewing the video, read this summary of the program condensed into a nutshell. This will help you consolidate your understanding of the program.
After you’ve watched the video. Read this quick one-page summary of the award’s history. Knowing the history of the program will provide you with a better understanding of how Fulbright seeks to promote diplomatic relationships between countries and the kinds of study and research projects are most suitable to Fulbright given the program’s aims.
Once you’ve completed all of the above steps, please click on the next tab on the folder “Eligibility, Factors in Selection, and Award Benefits.”
An essential part of the Fulbright mission is to represent the diversity of the United States abroad. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs encourages students from underrepresented groups to apply and is committed to fairness, equity and inclusion. Diversity in all forms is valued and applicants from all backgrounds are welcome to apply. Please take a moment to read over Fulbright’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Given that Fulbright seeks to strengthen diplomatic ties between the United States and participating countries, the program requires that applicants be U.S. Citizens at the time of application. If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with Fulbright’s eligibility requirements before proceeding further.
Aside from students who can represent the United States in all of its diversity and develop cultural ties with participating nations, what is Fulbright looking for in the candidates who apply? In brief, they are looking for students who put forward high-quality proposals that are feasible—meaning that they can be reasonably completed during the grant period.
Fulbright is also looking to see that a student’s academic and professional record, in combination with their skill set, inspire confidence that the student is the right person to carry out the project or proposed teaching assignment. Please read over Fulbright’s factors-in-selection criteria carefully. This will help you start to strategize about how best to develop yourself as a Fulbright candidate.
The following overview is an idealization of what the process of applying for a Fulbright should look like. Many Smith candidates have taken slightly varied paths by completing the steps below in a different order and were successful in the competition. Nonetheless, the following guidelines provide a rough overview of the Fulbright application from initial conception to final decision.
Keep in mind that throughout this process you should be developing the skills, experiences and expertise required for the award type and host country. Study/Research candidates should develop expertise through conducting, presenting and publishing research. Those applying to teach, should seek out teaching opportunities, especially ones that involve English language instruction. Most candidates will also need to develop foreign language skills to navigate the host country.
1. Familiarize yourself with the Fulbright program and eligibility requirements.
2. Consider your interests, strengths, skills and experience.
3. Get acquainted with the various award types and the opportunities available in specific countries. See Next Steps and Expressing Interest on this page.
4. Express your interest in Fulbright by filling out a Fellowships Interest Form.
5. Andrew Dausch or Margaret Lamb will respond to your inquiry and will direct you to the Smith College Fulbright Moodle Site or to other relevant opportunities.
6. The Fulbright Moodle Site will help guide you through the intricacies of developing your project and securing faculty support. A good bulk of the work involved in applying for a Fulbright will involve reaching out to faculty at both Smith and beyond who have expertise in your field of interest as well as in the country where you wish to do your Fulbright. Andrew and Margaret will support you throughout the process along with a faculty mentor whom you think is best suited to help guide your project.
7. By the end of the spring semester, you should fill out a pre-application form and begin developing drafts of your grant proposal and personal essay. You should share these drafts with faculty members familiar with your proposed research as well as Andrew Dausch and Margaret Lamb.
8. By the second week of August, you should have your letter writers and foreign language evaluators lined up and registered in your online application. Research candidates should secure their host-country affiliate (research adviser) during this same week.
9. At the end of August, you will submit a complete draft of your Fulbright application (including recommendations, evaluations and affiliate letters) for internal review by the Fellowships and Postgraduate Scholarship Program and your faculty mentor.
10. In September, you will be interviewed by a campus committee composed of your mentor, Andrew and/or Margaret, and faculty and/or staff who are able to provide helpful feedback. The point of these campus committee meetings is to help you revise and strengthen your application in advance of the final deadline.
11. The final deadline for submitting your Fulbright application will be the first or second week of October.
12. After your application is submitted, your application will be judged by a panel of scholars who have expertise in the country to which you have applied. Between the end of the fall semester and the beginning of the spring semester, you will be notified if your application has been forwarded to the host country for the next round of the competition. The timing of final decisions runs between late February and the end of April, although some results (and decisions involving alternates) can extend into the summer.
Now that you have familiarized yourself with the Fulbright Award and the process of applying at Smith College, it’s time to start thinking about the specific award type and country(ies) to which you are interested in applying. Please understand that requirements for both Study/Research and English Teaching Awards will vary by country.
If you are interested in a Study/Research award, you should familiarize yourself with what the award entails by reading Fulbright’s overview of the Study/Research award. To do this, read over Fulbright’s explanation of the various application components for Study/Research linked here and watch Video Tutorial 2: The Study/Research Award provided by Fulbright. After reading through the components and watching the video, you will need to give thought to where you want to pursue the award. To do this start, with this Fulbright Country/Region Page which displays a map of the world. Then, click on a highlighted country that interests you to see the award types offered by that country and read over the award descriptions provided to find out the specific qualifications and requirements for each award that interests you.
For Arts awards, follow the same instructions provided above. In addition to what is described above for Study/Research, you should watch Video Tutorial 3: The Arts Study/Research Award and look over the supplementary materials required of arts applicants. These will vary depending on your artistic discipline.
Potential English Teaching Assistant (ETA) applicants should read over the Fulbright’s gloss of the ETA award. Then, review the application components for the ETA Program and watch Video Tutorial 4: The English Teaching Assistant Program. As with the Study/Research award, you will also need to give some thought to the host country program to which you would like to apply. Begin on this Fulbright Country/Region Page containing a map of the world. Then, click on the country(ies) that interests you and read over the ETA award description provided to find out the specific qualifications and requirements.
Much of the success Smith has enjoyed in the Fulbright competition can be attributed to the work of faculty mentors. In a nutshell, faculty mentors provide disciplinary and geographic expertise to students while they are actively engaged in applying for a Fulbright award. Mentors also serve as the faculty point of contact for advising coordination with the Fellowships and Postgraduate Scholarships Program staff. Mentors are selected by Fulbright student applicants either in the spring semester of their junior year or in the summer before their application. Once identified by students, the Fellowships program reaches out to potential mentors with a formal request.
The basic responsibilities of the faculty mentor are as follows:
- Serving as a point of contact for the Fellowships and Postgraduate Scholarship Program. Contact is intended to help support the student and provide coordinated advice on how best to advance and refine their application.
- For faculty mentoring study/research candidates there will be two short (30 minute) meetings with the candidate, Margaret Lamb and Andrew Dausch. The first meeting will be scheduled in the late spring/summer at the beginning of the application process and the second in mid-September a few weeks before the Fulbright deadline.
- ETA candidates require only one short (30 minute) meeting involving the faculty mentor, Margaret Lamb, and Andrew Dausch. This meeting will take place in mid-September.
- Providing specialized advice to students on the basis of disciplinary, cultural, geographic, and linguistic expertise.
- Helping students network with faculty at Smith and beyond who might be able to offer insights on what they are planning to do as well as facilitating outreach to scholars and institutions in the host country, if possible.
- Closely reading and commenting on an initial draft of the student essay due at the end of July as well as a close to final draft due in early September. For study/research projects, faculty mentors constructive feedback on project design and methodology is essential.
The Campus Committee Evaluation (CCE) form reflects a collaborative process. The Fellowships and Postgraduate Scholarships Program staff will use the September meeting to gather your feedback, reach a consensus on the candidate’s strengths, and then draft a written summary. The faculty mentor is asked to read and approve the document before it is submitted to the Fulbright Program. We hope this approach saves faculty time and allows each mentor to serve purely as an adviser while also ensuring faculty mentor input before the CCE is submitted.
For faculty providing recommendations for student Fulbright candidates, there is a critical distinction between the two types of references that Fulbright requires. For Fulbright Study/Research and Arts Awards, faculty are asked to provide a letter of recommendation that highlights the student’s project and their ability to carry out their proposed plan. In contrast, Fulbright English Teaching Awards (ETAs) require faculty to submit a reference form with five specific short answer questions. Here is a sample ETA reference form.
Corresponding to this critical distinction, Fulbright provides a comprehensive set of instructions for both Study/Research recommendation writers as well as for ETA recommendation writers. These instructions provide guidance on both the technical aspects of submitting references as well as what Fulbright would like you to speak to in terms of the candidate’s qualifications and ability to carry out the proposed course of study/research or teaching.
Please make sure to read over these instructions carefully. In a nutshell, both study/research and ETA recommendations need to be submitted through the Fulbright online application system. Once a student registers you as a reference in their online application, you will receive an email from FBstudent@iie.org with the student’s name in the subject line. The email will contain a link that will allow you to access the reference form that you will need to fill out.
For study/research recommendations, you should prepare a letter of recommendation offline that you will upload into the application system. Those of you providing references for ETA candidates should prepare answers to the five 750-word essay questions offline and paste those into the online reference form once you have refined those responses.
One final thing to be aware of is Smith’s internal deadline for references. While Fulbright’s application deadline is generally in the second week of October, Smith has an internal deadline that falls around the beginning of classes. For candidates applying through Smith, all application materials including references, language evaluations, and affiliations must be submitted by this internal deadline in early September. This internal deadline permits us to meet Fulbright’s recommendations for the Campus Committee Evaluation.
By having all materials in place prior to meeting with students and their faculty members in mid-September, the Fellowships and Postgraduate Scholarships Program is better able to advise students on final revisions to their applications as well as spot and communicate any potential problems with supporting documents to faculty.
Fulbright Foreign Language Evaluators are asked to evaluate the student applicant in listening, speaking, reading, and writing using ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The Foreign Language Evaluation is a standardized form provided by Fulbright that consists of four questions for which you choose answers from a drop-down menu, a question asking you to rate the applicant’s ability to carry out the proposed project given their language proficiency (also a drop-down response), and a short-answer question (max. 500 characters) asking you to describe how the evaluation was conducted. Fulbright provides this offline copy of a Foreign Language Evaluation form for you to review.
If the applicant is a current or former student, Fulbright allows you to complete the Foreign Language Evaluation form based on your knowledge of the student’s ability through their performance in your course or courses. You may also interview the student to determine their current level of proficiency. For applicants whom you have not taught, Fulbright advises that you conduct an interview to determine proficiency.
Fulbright provides a comprehensive set of instructions for Foreign Language Evaluations. These instructions provide guidance on both the technical aspects of submitting references as well as how to prepare your Foreign Language Evaluation. Please make sure to read over these instructions carefully.
In a nutshell, the Foreign Language Evaluation form needs to be submitted through the Fulbright online application system. Once a student registers you as a reference in their online application, you will receive an email from FBstudent@iie.org with the student’s name in the subject line. The email will contain a link that will allow you to access the evaluation form that you will need to submit online.
Like Fulbright Recommendation Forms and Letters, a final thing to be aware of is Smith’s internal deadline for the Foreign Language Evaluation Form. While Fulbright’s application deadline is generally in the second week of October, Smith has an internal deadline that falls around the beginning of classes the first week in September. For candidates applying through Smith, all application materials including references, language evaluations, and affiliations must be submitted by this internal deadline in early September. This internal deadline permits us to meet Fulbright’s recommendations for the Campus Committee Evaluation.
By having all materials in place prior to meeting with students and their faculty members in mid-September, the Fellowships and Postgraduate Scholarships program is better able to advise students on final revisions to their applications as well as spot and communicate any potential problems with supporting documents to faculty.
Fulbright requires that all students applying through an institution participate in a campus interview process. At Smith, these meetings are scheduled for mid-September after the applicant has submitted a complete draft of their application including supporting documents from references and overseas affiliates. The meetings are informal interviews that take the form of conversations including the student, faculty mentor, and Fellowships and Postgraduate Scholarships Program staff. They may occur virtually on Zoom or in person depending on the preferences and availability of faculty and applicants for an on campus meeting. Occasional modification of the committee structure may be required depending on the nature of the project and/or scheduling conflicts.
The CCE Meeting is intended to help students hone their application and develop confidence in an interview setting. Since the meetings take place roughly 3-4 weeks before Fulbright’s final application deadline, they are an opportunity for committee members to spot and articulate any potential problems that the applicant might address prior to submission.
Since a number of countries participating in the Fulbright program interview applicants, the campus committee also provides a valuable forum in which to further their interview skills in a supportive setting.
In the committee meetings, applicants will be asked variations on basic questions such as: what they are planning to do, why their proposed work is important, how they plan to do it, what motivated their choice of host country, and why this makes sense for them to do at this stage in their academic and/or career path. Faculty participation in these meetings is crucial because faculty members often have insights into the applicant’s project, character, knowledge base, and skill set that extend beyond what the applicant articulates in the application and interview. These insights are critical to helping the student improve the application as well as providing Margaret Lamb and Andrew Dausch with additional material to include in the Campus Committee Evaluation (CCE) form which serves as an endorsement letter for the Fulbright award.
Ready? Express Your Interest
Once you have familiarized yourself with the award types and given some thought to the country awards that interest you, you are ready to take the next step on your Fulbright journey. Express your interest by filling out this Fellowships Interest Form.
Sakina Ali ’21
“I was really scared of applications and the application process before this experience. ... But this application ... helped me realize that I just need to start—it all falls into place as you go.”
Lydia Quevedo ’21
“Writing my application helped me reframe my career goals around who I want to be in the future.”
Iver Warburton ’21
“[From the application process] I learned to dive into the total unknown with confidence.”