Feeling stuck on that fellowship application? Let me help with some Fulbright Scholarship tips.
When I began applying to the Fulbright Program in 2015, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Previously, I had studied abroad in Spain. Then I itched to return to work, learn more Spanish, and of course travel. I knew Fulbright was one of many international fellowships with an opportunity in Spain. So, I eagerly jumped at the chance to apply and won an English Teaching Assistantship to Logroño, Spain!
But when I talk to other applicants interested in overseas fellowships, and specifically about the Fulbright Program, I hear:
“Oh that’s the most prestigious one! I can’t apply.”
“I don’t go to an Ivy League school, I won’t get it.”
“Black and Brown people don’t ever win those. I’m not gonna even apply.”
To those statements I say: aht, aht! Fear will not win. Not today. Even though nerves and apprehension that get the best of us, overseas fellowships like Fulbright are nothing to be scared of. Plus, there are people like me who offer Fulbright application tips, and want people to pursue more international fellowships.
Now a Fulbright alumna who didn’t know Fulbright’s level of prestige, attended a mid-sized liberal arts university in Illinois, and is a proud Black woman – I applied anyway. I defied the odds of winning, worked with my advisor, and had few online tips to refer to on my journey. To help other applicants to apply with more confidence, I want to share key Fulbright Scholarship tips and takeaways.
How to become a Fulbright Scholar
Don’t let the prestige fool you – you are capable!
For my first of seven Fulbright scholarship tips, out the gate I want to emphasize that you can do this. Feeling nervous about applying is 100% understandable as the Fulbright Program is highly competitive. Then, between all the application requirements, interviews, and other websites offering Fulbright application tips, the process can be overwhelming and intimidating all at once.
However, being a Fulbright applicant who is caught up in the hype and elitism that is often associated with the program will not help you win. Stay focused on the personal and/or career goals that led you to the program in the first place. Let that focus guide you. Do not let the prestige, the opinions of others questioning your abilities, or you falsely questioning yourself, deter your ambition.
Being a Black or Brown applicant is your superpower, use it
Most Fulbright tips forget the importance and value of social identities and how they impact feelings of self-worth and belonging. Based on a 2016-2017 report, 10% of Fulbright grantees identified as Asian or Pacific Islander, and 6% as Black/African American (non-Hispanic). Additionally, 9% identified as Hispanic, and 12% as other or unknown. Compared to 63% of grantees identifying as White (non-Hispanic), the representation of Black and Brown people is significantly low.
As a Black woman what do I say to those stats? We’ve overcome tougher odds so power on. Keep working, revising, and writing. No matter what those stats may show, your voice, and your story belong in the program.
If you are looking for inspiration, check out platforms such as Fulbright Noir, Fulbright HBCU, and Fulbright Latinx. Curated by former Fulbrighters in those identities, you can learn more about the Black and Brown grantees who’ve won! Always remember this could be you.
You don’t need to attend an Ivy League or “Fulbright Top Producer” to win
Contributing to Fulbright’s previously mentioned prestige, there is this perception that only students from Ivy Leagues win. Also, every year, Fulbright puts out a list of top producing institutions that honors which colleges and universities were awarded the most grants. Perceptions and stats like these can cloud the minds of applicants, yet many Fulbright application tips never mention this is not actually a deciding factor.
My response? HA! Not all of us fit this mold. I’m here to remind you that your school does not determine your worth. After submitting my own application, these similar fears of self-doubt got to me as well. I realized my university didn’t fit these perceptions and was not on the coveted list – I won anyway.
You are a whole, talented, person worthy of a Fulbright Fellowship; no matter the college or university you attend. Never forget that the program picks people and their experiences, not just what school is on their resume. Keep pushing.
Find your “why” beyond traveling
Not to be a travel killjoy, but applying for a Fulbright grant is way more than traveling. While the option to visit new places is a unique selling point for the program, it is not the focus. In fact, during my own Fulbright year, we were told we can only leave the host country for a maximum of 21 days.
Now, was this rule followed by most? Of course not. However, my Fulbright tips would not be complete if I didn’t mention it. The purpose of the program is for cross-cultural exchange in your host country, your possible side project, and at your placement. Honor that and ask yourself why you want to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship, or any overseas fellowships, in the first place.
You are the author of your own story – read it aloud
Sometimes hearing how badass you are makes you believe it even more! Reading your application aloud is one of the best Fulbright tips I can offer. Our stories can be similar to others, but very rarely are two stories exactly the same.
There is only one you. Do not be scared to be vulnerable, share your story, and read it aloud to remind yourself how amazing you are. When you read aloud, you can also catch any grammar or sentence structure errors.
Furthermore, one of the most impactful Fulbright scholarship tips I received was to write down every life experience I can remember. From that list, decide which ones are most impactful to your life story and to the Fulbright grant you are pursuing. Those are the experiences you write about to tell the selection committee your story. This is probably one of my favorite Fulbright tips and it will help get you one step closer to finishing those essays.
Networking is key and LinkedIn is your BFF
Many Fulbright application tips focus so much energy on just the application. However, winners of international fellowships understand that networking is valuable. Reach out to former Fulbright alum from your institution, or through a quick LinkedIn search, to get insight on their process. Learning about the experience of alum can aid you in developing a stronger application with knowledge “from the inside.” Gaining Fulbright application tips can also be in the form of questions. Here are a few ideas to ask alum:
– What questions did they ask in your interview?
– How did you decide which experiences to reference in your essays?
– Why did you decide to pursue a Fulbright scholarship?
– What are the best Fulbright scholarship tips you received when applying?
Most alum are friendly and open to chatting with prospective applicants. It’s no surprise they would also have the most invaluable Fulbright tips! Don’t be afraid to reach out, including to me. Send me a DM on Instagram.
Do not underestimate yourself
Similar to the first point of knowing you are capable, the last of my Fulbright tips is to believe in yourself. I get it, there can be a lot at stake and you don’t want all your hard work to go to waste. The truth is – it won’t. Whether you win a Fulbright Scholarship or not, the process alone will prepare you for other overseas fellowships. Fulbright is great, but it is not the end all be all. There are more opportunities and overseas fellowships just waiting for you to apply!
Now, what do you do with these Fulbright tips? APPLY
You are ready. There are tons of blogs and articles on Fulbright scholarship tips. That is to say, I hope my post reminds you that you are worth every opportunity you seek. Remember, each experience of people who participate in international fellowships, such as Fulbright, can vary. But you won’t know that until you find out for yourself. Refer back to this blog post as inspiration. Good luck!
To learn more about how to apply for Fulbright Fellowships, click here.
Disclaimer: This is not an official Department of State website or blog, and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program of the U.S. Department of State or any of its organizations and affiliates.
(This post was originally published on November 8, 2020 and updated on June 29, 2022)