Scholarships aren’t just for paying for college. Some scholarships can help you experience what it’s like to work or study abroad! One of the most popular scholarships of this kind is the Fulbright Scholarship. Established in 1946, the Fulbright Program has awarded 370,000 grants to give winning applicants the opportunity to study or live abroad for up to one year.

But, it’s important to tell you right away: Fulbright scholarships aren’t for undergraduates looking to study abroad for a semester. In most cases, to be eligible, you’ll need to have completed your bachelor’s degree before you can even be eligible. So, if you’re a college senior, graduate student, or working professional, this scholarship could be for you! 

And, in this post, we’re going to give you all the information you need to prepare a competitive application for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. 

Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  • The 4 different types of Fulbright scholarships for U.S. citizens and how to pick the right one for you
  • The Fulbright scholarship eligibility requirements 
  • How much Fulbright scholarships are worth 
  • The 4 main steps to submit a Fulbright application
  • The Fulbright scholarship application timeline 
  • 7 tips to help you increase your chances of winning a Fulbright Scholarship 
  • How the coronavirus pandemic has affected the Fulbright Program

What is a Fulbright Scholarship? 

A Fulbright Scholarship refers to any of the grants offered by the Fulbright Program to students and scholars from the U.S. and abroad. But, in this blog post, we’re focusing on the scholarships and grants offered through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. 

Every year, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards approximately 1,000 scholarships for academic or creative study/research projects and 1,250 scholarships for English teaching assistantships. 

One of the first steps in applying for a Fulbright Scholarship is determining which of those award types best suits your goals. So, let’s take a quick look at each one before moving on to the general eligibility requirements. 

Academic Study/Research Awards

With an Academic Study/Research Award, you can design and complete an independent study or research project, take classes as a non-degree student at a foreign university, or directly enroll in a graduate degree program at a local university. 

When applying for this award, you’ll need to create and share a project or study proposal that demonstrates why your project needs to be carried out in the proposed country. For example, if you want to use the award to conduct research in Mexico, your proposal will need to include information on why Mexico is the ideal location for your project’s focus. Your project must also contribute to the Fulbright program’s goals of fostering mutual understanding and achieving diversity with foreign nations. 

Learn more about the Academic Study/Research Awards by watching this video of a former Fulbright scholar talking about his experience in India.

Creative & Performing Arts Study/Research Awards  

The Creative & Performing Arts Study/Research Awards are similar to the academic awards in that you can design and complete an independent study or research project, take classes as a non-degree student at a foreign university, or directly enroll in a graduate degree program at a local university. 

However, to be eligible for this award, you need to be looking to further improve your craft in one of the creative arts by practicing it in the country. You’ll also need to demonstrate a high level of experience and achievement in your artistic field by submitting an art portfolio. 

When applying for this award, your project or study proposal must also demonstrate why your creative project needs to be carried out in the proposed country. For example, if you wanted to use the award to study African sculpture in Ethiopia, your proposal will need to include information on why you’ve chosen Ethiopia over other African countries.

Learn more about the Fulbright Creative & Performing Arts Study/Research Awards by watching this video of a former recipient talking about her experience with documentary filmmaking while in Kiribati.

English Teaching Assistant Awards 

With an English Teaching Assistant Award, the Fulbright Program places you in a school or education center overseas to help teach English language classes. In addition to your teaching duties, you’ll also be expected to act as a cultural ambassador by doing things like delivering presentations on U.S. culture and engaging in community activities. In some cases, you may also be able to pursue an independent project or do volunteer work. 

Learn more about the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Awards by watching this video of a former recipient talking about her experience in Jordan.

Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship

The Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship is a special research/study award for applicants who want to use digital media and storytelling to enhance cross-cultural connections with one or more host countries. 

With this award, you’ll receive training, support, and mentorship from professional National Geographic Editors. Your work will also be featured on a blog hosted by National Geographic and various other online publications! 

Learn more about the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship by watching this video of a former recipient talking about his experience in Botswana.

How Much is a Fulbright Scholarship Worth? 

Since the cost of living varies across host countries, there is no exact dollar amount for Fulbright Scholarships. 

But, by winning a Fulbright Scholarship, you can expect: 

  • Round-trip transportation to the host country
  • Funding to cover room, board, and incidental costs, based on the cost of living in the host country
  • Accident & sickness health benefits
  • 24/7 support line for urgent and non-urgent situations
  • 12 months of non-competitive eligibility (NCE) hiring status within the federal government

In some countries, your scholarship may also include:

  • Book and research allowances
  • Mid-term enrichment activities
  • Full or partial tuition
  • Language study programs
  • Pre-departure and in-country orientations

Fulbright Scholarship Eligibility Requirements 

To apply for any of the Fulbright Scholarships, you must: 

  • Be a citizen of the United States of America at the time of application. Permanent residents are not eligible. 
  • Have received a bachelor’s degree or equivalent before the start of the grant. If you’re applying as a professional in the creative and performing arts, four years of professional training and/or experience also meets this requirement.
  • Meet the language requirements of the award that you are applying for and demonstrate enough proficiency to complete your project and adjust to life in the host country.

In addition to those basic eligibility requirements, the Fulbright Program also prefers that you: 

  • Have not previously held a Fulbright grant.
  • Pursued higher education primarily at educational institutions in the United States. However, studying abroad during your junior year or other periods of undergraduate study that are part of the normal curricula at U.S. colleges and universities are not considered a disadvantage.
  • Have not resided or studied in the country to which you are applying for more than six months, not counting undergraduate study abroad. Duty abroad in the Armed Forces of the United States is not considered disqualifying within the meaning of this section.
  • If you have served in the Armed Forces of the United States, you will be given preference, provided your qualifications are approximately equivalent to those of other candidates.
  • Have not had extensive, recent previous foreign experience in the host country you apply for. You’re still eligible to apply, but this will be a disadvantage.

If you’re applying as a professional, it’s important to also know: 

  • You may hold a J.D. at the time of application.
  • If you’re a Doctor of Medicine, you may receive grants for advanced academic study, but not for internships or residencies. However, the award does not authorize activity for which a license to practice medicine or nursing is required. The Fulbright Program also cannot authorize proposals for medical research that involves clinical training, patient care or patient contact.

How to Apply for a Fulbright Scholarship

The application requirements for the Fulbright scholarship vary depending on the country and type of award (e.g. academic research/study or English teaching assistant). But here are the general steps you’ll take no matter which award and country you choose to apply for. 

Step 1: Determine whether you’re applying through a U.S. institution or at-large

If you’re a senior year college student or recent college grad, it’s advised that you apply through your college. Why? Because your college will likely have a designated Fulbright Program Adviser who can guide you through the application process, schedule an on-campus interview, and make sure all of your application materials are submitted on time. 

Your college’s Fulbright Program Adviser will also set a campus deadline that’s earlier than the official application deadline. The Fulbright Program lets you search for the Fulbright Program Adviser at your college, so you can contact that person and get the most relevant information. 

If you decide to apply on your own, you’ll be considered an “at-large” candidate. That means you’ll be responsible for submitting a complete application through the Fulbright online application system by the national deadline.

Step 2: Select the award type and gather the required application materials 

If you’re applying for an Academic Study/Research Award, you’ll need the following materials for your application: 

  • Biographical data that includes your contact information, education and career history, list of awards and achievements, and any previous experience abroad
  • An abstract/summary of your proposal that gives an overview of your field of study, a title for your proposed project, a short description of your project, a description of how you plan to engage with the host community, and a description of your career or education plans upon returning to the US
  • A 2-page statement of grant purpose that goes into detail on what, how, and why you plan to study/research as a Fulbright scholar in the host country
  • An affiliation letter from the institution/individual in the host country with whom you are proposing to work or study
  • A 1-page personal statement that focuses on how your personal history and aspirations are related to what you hope to achieve as a Fulbright scholar
  • Foreign language evaluation forms (if required) demonstrating proficiency in the host country’s native language 
  • 3 recommendation letters from people who can speak about your ability to carry out your proposed study/research project 
  • Academic transcripts from any institute of higher education where you’ve received a degree 
  • Documentation validating the ethics of your research project if you plan to run tests on humans or animals and want to later formally publish or use the results 

If you’re applying for a Creative & Performing Arts Study/Research Award, you’ll need the following materials for your application: 

  • Biographical data that includes your contact information, education and career history, list of awards and achievements, and any previous experience abroad
  • An abstract/summary of your proposal that gives an overview of your field of study, a title for your proposed project, a short description of your project, a description of how you plan to engage with the host community, a description of your relevant arts experience, a description of your art portfolio, and a description of your career or education plans upon returning to the US
  • A 2-page statement of grant purpose that goes into detail on what, how, and why you plan to study/research as a Fulbright scholar in the host country
  • An affiliation letter from the institution/individual in the host country with whom you are proposing to work or study
  • A 1-page personal statement that focuses on how your personal history and aspirations are related to what you hope to achieve as a Fulbright scholar
  • Foreign language evaluation forms (if required) demonstrating proficiency in the host country’s native language 
  • 3 recommendation letters from people who can speak about your ability to carry out your proposed study/research project 
  • Academic transcripts from any institute of higher education where you’ve received a degree 
  • Your art portfolio (requirements for the arts portfolio vary depending on your artistic discipline)
  • Documentation validating the ethics of your research project if you plan to run tests on humans or animals and want to later formally publish or use the results 

If you’re applying for an English Teaching Assistant Award, you’ll need the following materials for your application: 

  • Biographical data that includes your contact information, education and career history, list of awards and achievements, and any previous experience abroad
  • An abstract/summary of your proposal that gives an overview of why you hope to teach English in the host country, a description of how you plan to engage with the host community, and a description of your career or education plans upon returning to the US
  • A 2-page statement of grant purpose that goes into detail on what experience and ideas you’d bring to teaching English in the host country 
  • A 1-page personal statement that focuses on how your personal history and aspirations are related to what you hope to achieve as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant
  • Foreign language evaluation forms (if required) demonstrating proficiency in the host country’s native language 
  • 3 recommendation letters from people who can speak about your ability to succeed as an English Teaching Assistant
  • Academic transcripts from any institute of higher education where you’ve received a degree 

If you’re applying for a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, you’ll need the following materials for your application: 

  • Biographical data that includes your contact information, education and career history, list of awards and achievements, and any previous experience abroad
  • An abstract/summary of your proposal that gives an overview of your field of study, a title for your proposed project, a short description of your project, a description of how you plan to engage with the host community, and a description of your career or education plans upon returning to the US
  • A 2-page statement of grant purpose that goes into detail on what, how, and why you plan to study/research as a Fulbright scholar in the host country
  • An affiliation letter from the institution/individual in the host country with whom you are proposing to work or study
  • A 1-page personal statement that focuses on how your personal history and aspirations are related to what you hope to achieve as a Fulbright scholar
  • Foreign language evaluation forms (if required) demonstrating proficiency in the host country’s native language 
  • 3 recommendation letters from people who can speak about your ability to carry out your proposed study/research project 
  • Academic transcripts from any institute of higher education where you’ve received a degree 
  • Documentation validating the ethics of your research project if you plan to run tests on humans or animals and want to later formally publish or use the results 
  • A 1-page storytelling proposal that outlines how you plan to use storytelling techniques to add value to your study/research project 
  • A 1-page storytelling portfolio that links to relevant work samples 

Step 3: Select a country and review additional eligibility requirements 

Currently, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program allows applicants to study, research or teach in 170+ countries!

But certain Fulbright awards are not available in some counties. To give an obvious example, you can apply for a Study/Research Award in New Zealand but not an English Teaching Assistant Award.  

So, before you set your heart on going to one country in particular, make sure it’s a location where you can apply for the type of award you want. Also, check to see if there are any requirements in addition to the ones we listed in the previous section. 

Step 4: Submit your application and prepare for potential follow-up steps 

Once you’ve gathered and completed all of your application materials and selected your proposed host country, you can submit your application! 

If you’re applying as an at-large candidate, there’s nothing left for you to do. But if you’re applying through an academic institution, you’ll need to first submit your application by the campus deadline (usually 4-6 weeks before the official deadline) and prepare for an on-campus interview. 

As we mentioned previously, your campus’s Fulbright Program Adviser will schedule the on-campus interview sometime after receiving your application. Typically, the interview will be conducted by several of the campus’s faculty members who will ask questions and give feedback on the quality of your application. Following the interview, you’ll have the opportunity to revise your application and resubmit it by the official deadline. 

But when is the Fulbright Scholarship official deadline? Let’s take a look in the next section along with all of the other important dates you need to know! 

Fulbright Scholarship Application Timeline

The application cycle for the Fulbright Scholarship spans over a year. And the applicants who applied for an award for 2021 are still being notified as we speak. 

But here’s the latest application timeline for the 2022-23 Fulbright Scholarships so you can begin planning your application today!

February 2021: The Fulbright Scholarship application opens.

August – September: The campus deadline for applicants applying through an academic institution typically occurs during these months. You may also be asked to have an on-campus interview during this period.

September: The 2021 official deadline to submit the Fulbright online application is September 15 at 11:59PM (PST).

October – November: Applications are reviewed to ensure eligibility and completeness. You may be notified to provide additional documentation. Complete applications are then forwarded to peer reviewers. 

November – December: You are notified by email whether or not your application has been recommended for further consideration in the host country.

December – May: Public Affairs Sections of U.S. Embassies or binational Fulbright Commissions overseas review the recommended applications and nominate candidates for selection.

January – June 2022: If your application is nominated, it gets forwarded to the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board for approval. You’ll then be notified whether you have been selected to receive a Fulbright award.

7 Tips to Increase Your Chances of Winning a Fulbright Scholarship 

As we’re sure you can imagine, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program receives thousands of applicants every year. And generally, only around 20% of applicants will win one of the Fulbright awards. 

This may make you hesitate to apply. But as some of the past Fulbright scholars mention in the video below: stop doubting yourself and apply even if you don’t think you’ll have a perfect application!  

By following the 7 tips below, you can also increase your chances of winning a Fulbright Scholarship!

Apply through your college or alma mater 

Unless you never went to college, you’re better off applying through an academic institution rather than by yourself. This is true even if it’s been years since you graduated.

For one, by applying through an academic institution, you’ll get support and guidance on how to submit the best application possible from a Fulbright Program Adviser. And, you also get the opportunity to revise your application based on the feedback you get following the on-campus interview. For a competitive scholarship like this one, these opportunities are too good to pass up! 

Study the host country’s language even if it’s not required for the application

Although you can apply for some Fulbright scholarships without needing to speak a foreign language, your application will be more competitive if you do. 

Remember: one of the primary goals of the Fulbright program is for recipients to engage and connect with the local community. And oftentimes that’s not really possible if you’re not able to speak the local language. 

Learn as much as you can about the host country’s culture and history

When putting together your Fulbright application, you’ll be asked to state why you’ve selected your proposed country. And just picking a country where you’ve always wanted to travel isn’t a strong enough reason. So, do your research!

Look for ways to draw connections between your interests, academic and/or work experience, and plans for the future with the host country’s culture and history. You’ll be happy you did when it comes time to write your proposal, statement of grant purpose, personal statement, and other relevant application materials!

Don’t apply for an award in a country where you have a lot of previous experience 

You may be itching to go back to the country where you were originally born or lived in the past. But applying for a Fulbright scholarship to go there is usually not a good idea! 

The Fulbright Program sees it as a disadvantage if you have extensive experience in the host country. So, you’re better off applying for the scholarship to go somewhere new or, better yet, somewhere that you’ve learned a lot about while in the U.S. 

Choose the people writing your recommendations wisely 

The Fulbright Program will use your recommendation letters as a way to evaluate whether you’ll be able to complete your proposed study/research project or teaching assistantship. Make sure the people you ask to write the recommendation know that. Otherwise, you may end up with letters that are just about how the recommender views your character. And that’s not what the Fulbright Program wants! 

To get the best recommendation letter, the Fulbright Program recommends attaching your statement of grant purpose and personal statement with your recommendation requests. To be safe, it’s also a good idea to give your recommenders 3-4 weeks to write the letter.

And, if you think it’s necessary, you may also want to provide some general guidelines to the recommender on how to write a scholarship recommendation letter

Get feedback on your abstract, proposal, and essays

Have at least one person (e.g. a professor, friend, or advisor) give you feedback on your abstract, proposal, statement of grant purpose, and personal statement. Ideally, this person will be able to tell you if: 

  • You’ve provided enough evidence to show you’re capable of carrying out your study/research project or being an effective English teaching assistant. 
  • Your reason for selecting your proposed country is clear.
  • You’ve shown how you plan to engage with the host community. 
  • You didn’t leave out any important information. 

If you get their feedback early enough, you can go back to revise and make your application materials as strong as possible!

Start preparing your application as early as possible 

No matter which award you apply for, there’s a lot that goes into putting together a Fulbright application! There are certain application materials, such as the affiliate letter for study/research projects or the letters of recommendation, that could take months to get. So, start early so you can put together the best application without rushing to get everything done last minute!

How Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Affected the Fulbright Program

As you’re well aware, COVID-19 has made traveling to certain international destinations nearly impossible. So, you’re right to wonder if getting a Fulbright scholarship to go abroad is still even a thing. It is! But there is some uncertainty you need to be aware of. 

Here’s a bit of the most recent statement from the Fulbright Program:

“The Fulbright Program Team is closely monitoring the progression of COVID-19 (also known as the Coronavirus) in the United States and around the world, and taking all necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of our grantees and staff. We are working closely with partner governments, Fulbright Commissions, U.S. Embassies, Fulbright cooperating agencies, and U.S. and foreign host institutions to provide guidance and information to our exchange participants.

In planning for the resumption of in-person exchanges for U.S. participants, the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Program continue to prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of participants and host communities. Fulbright is a global program and is tailoring its plans on a country-by-country basis to resume in-person exchanges for U.S. participants after January 1, 2021. These plans will take into consideration the varying degrees to which the pandemic is affecting countries and communities around the world.” 

Of course, these things can change quickly! So, for the most up-to-date information, check the Fulbright Program Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Where to Find More Scholarships 

The Fulbright Scholarship is an amazing opportunity to experience what it’s like to study, conduct research or teach English in a foreign country. We hope all the tips and information we’ve shared here will help you put together the strongest application you can! 

And if you’d like to find more scholarships like this one, download Scholly Search, the #1 scholarship app in the world that instantly matches you with hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in scholarships based on your interests, accomplishments, and traits! 

You can also check out the rest of our blog where we share tips on how to win scholarships and other forms of financial aid, pay off your student loans, and much more!