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Fulbright US Student Program

The Fulbright US Student Program is the largest US international exchange program providing opportunities for students to undertake year-long post-graduate advanced research, graduate degrees, arts projects, or teaching in one of more than 140 countries around the world. More than 360,000 Fulbrighters from the United States and other countries have participated in the program since its inception in 1946. Each of the past two years, 10+ UT students have been selected for a Fulbright. Read about UT’s 10 Fulbright selections from 2017!

Wednesday, April 18 at 3:00PM — Hodges Library, Room 213
2018 Fulbright Student Program Kick-Off Event
UT has had 10+ students selected for a Fulbright the past two years. Attend this event to learn more about the Fulbright (the opportunities possible, how to start the process, complete the Campus Pre-Application, and develop a competitive application, etc.) from ONSF and recent successful UT applicants!

After reading through the information found on this page—including the “Quick Start Guide”, “Campus Timeline”, and FAQs below—to begin the Fulbright application process, you must first complete an ONSF Pre-Application found here, by May 14, 2018.


Grant Types

The two main types of Fulbright awards are Study/Research grants (which include arts projects) and English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grants. An applicant may only apply for one type of grant in one country per application cycle.

Study/Research Grants

Students applying for Study/Research grants design their own projects and typically work with advisers at foreign universities. Specific program requirements will vary by country. Projects typically involve independent research, formal (i.e. classroom) study, or some combination thereof. Students may also apply for grants to support projects in the creative and performing arts under this awards category.

English Teaching Assistantships (ETAs)

Students who receive an ETA grant are placed in a classroom and assist teachers of English to non-native English speakers. ETA recipients also serve as cultural ambassadors and typically take on a supplemental project in their host community. Specific requirements of ETA grants also vary by country.

Fulbright Eligibility Criteria

  • Have a baccalaureate degree by the start of the grant, be a current graduate student or professional degree student (without a PhD), or be an alumni who holds at least a bachelor’s degree but does not have a PhD
  • A US citizen at the time of application
  • Possess language skills for proposed project (certainly this varies widely)

Application Components

Students must submit a complete application through the Fulbright’s Embark system by the UT campus deadline. Fulbright applications are submitted entirely online.  A complete application will consist of the following:

  • Biographical Data (basic resume information)
  • Statement of Grant Purpose (1 to 2-page grant proposal)
  • Personal Statement (1-page personal narrative essay)
  • Reference Letters for the Study/Research Grant (3); Reference Forms for the ETA (3).
  • Transcripts for all undergraduate and graduate institutions from which you received degrees, as well as any significant coursework that is not reflected on your degree transcripts.

Depending on the type of grant and the requirements of the host country, applicants may also need to submit the following:

  • Affiliation Letter (for Study/Research Grants — this is proof of agreement from host institution/advisor)
  • Foreign Language Evaluation(s)
  • Supplementary Materials (for students in the creative and performing arts)

All UT undergraduate students, graduate students, and alumni interested in applying for a Fulbright must work with ONSF throughout the application process — from the Pre-Application to the Campus Deadline and Interview. You may contact us at any time throughout the process! https://onsf.utk.edu/first-steps/

FAQs

Roughly 20% of applicants are selected for a Fulbright, though this rate varies by country and award type. (See national Fulbright stats HERE.) UT’s selection rate in recent years has been a little better than the national rate. For example, last year 10 of our 44 applicants were selected for a Fulbright.

Although the ONSF Pre-Application and First Drafts are submitted through the ONSF website, official Fulbright applications are ultimately submitted entirely online through the Fulbright’s Embark online system.
Plenty! ONSF is here to support and guide you throughout the application process; however, we are not your sole source of support. Check out at least one Fulbright webinar, which is a great way to hear straight from the Fulbright about what makes a competitive application. Refer over and over to the Application Components & Application Tips on the Fulbright website. MANY of your questions will be answered there! You might also visit UT’s Writing Center. Finally, work with faculty in your discipline—especially your recommenders—on your Statement of Grant Purpose.
Students who have a focused interest in the host country that could be pursued through study or research—often that builds on what you’re doing at UT—should consider a Study/Research grant. (Note: Fulbright is unlikely to provide you with your first-ever research experience.)
For ETAs, it is not necessary to have a long-term professional aspiration to teach, although that’s certainly OK. But ask yourself: 1) Do you have some teaching/tutoring/mentoring experience (even if it’s not ESL) that has been meaningful to you? 2) Do you have a sincere desire to attend to the needs of English-language learners in the host country? If so, an ETA might be a good fit! ONSF is happy to weigh in on your decision, too.
You might begin by perusing the country pages of potential host countries. This will provide basic understanding of what different host countries are looking for in Fulbrighters (and, perhaps as importantly, what they’re not looking for). See what draws your attention. And don’t overlook some of the niche opportunities the Fulbright provides (e.g., Austria’s “Community-Based Combined Award” or a Partner award for a graduate degree in the Netherlands … there are others!); sometimes these receive relatively few applications but are terrific opportunities.

Relatedly, you might also consult the Fulbright’s application statistics, but don’t go overboard. This should be only one of your data points in selecting a country and award. Think first about those especially meaningful experiences you’ve had—studying a foreign language, doing research, working/interning, studying abroad, leading an initiative, doing service—and how you might build on them in a post-graduate year abroad. ONSF is here to help you think through your options and offer feedback. It is your decision to make, but we are happy to weigh in.

Study/Research projects should be tightly connected to the host country (i.e., Why do you need to do this research, on the ground, in country X?), while ETA applicants should offer a compelling reason for their interest in the host country. In addition, applicants should demonstrate some understanding of the host country’s culture and possess requisite language skills (see individual country pages for language requirements, which vary by country). Note that a “strong desire” to visit the country or a “passion” for the culture or commitment to “broadening your horizons” is great but, unto itself, insufficient; you’ll need to dig deeper than that—into your interests, story/background, trajectory, motivations—to get reviewers’ attention. This is where the Personal Statement comes into play!

The Application Components and Application Tips on the Fulbright website are crucial. This is where you’ll find the nuts-and-bolts explanation of what goes into a Fulbright application, from content to formatting and so forth.

Details/stories/examples are key to the success of your application—rely on nouns and verbs more than adjectives and adverbs—as is conveying first what this experience would mean for YOU, not humanity. Be careful with sweeping commentary and save-the-world rhetoric. They don’t impress readers; authenticity, perspective, and humility do. For more on personal statements, CLICK HERE.

For the Statement of Grant Purpose:
ETA: Focus on your strategies for engaging your language learners, which you’ll want to back up with relevant examples (needn’t strictly be classroom teaching) of past experiences. Your “Supplementary Project”, meanwhile, should receive less attention and needn’t be grandiose— taking courses, for example, can be an excellent side project for an ETA.

Study/Research: This is a grant statement, not an academic paper. Let readers know from the outset what you plan to do. Your first paragraph should NOT be a slow-burning introduction in which you provide copious background on your study; rather, it should quickly “hook” your readers (who will spend ~10 mins on your app) with compelling details about what you plan to do and why it’s important. The purpose and location of your proposed grant should be clear within the first couple sentences. Then dive into the more fine-grained detail of methods and timeline, while keeping in mind that you’ll want to also address how you’ll engage with your host community—the Fulbright doesn’t want you stuck in a lab all day and night for a year!

Although it varies by country, most students pursuing Study/Research Grants will need a letter of affiliation … or are at least strongly recommended to get one. (ETAs do not need these letters.) Most Fulbrighters undertaking Study/Research grants will affiliate with universities, although in some countries it is possible to affiliate with other types of organizations such as research institutes or NGOs. Some students will even have multiple affiliations. The Letter of Affiliation should come from the individual in the host country with whom the applicant is proposing to work. The nature of an affiliation can vary considerably from project to project and from country to country; consequently, the letters can, too. Be sure you are referring to your country page to see what is expected of an affiliate and who can and cannot serve as an affiliation.

In general, here are the things you can share with your contact(s) as you work on getting a host country letter of affiliation, which should be:
• printed on institutional letterhead, addressed to The Fulbright Commission, signed by the author;
• indicate who your host is, what they do, and where;
• indicate at least basic knowledge of your project and its aims;
• explain the nature of the connection between you and the host—that is, the support being offered (e.g., access to facilities and/or courses at the institution, consulting/advising on research methods, supervision and/or mentorship, help with networking);
Note: These are some common examples, but this is negotiable with your host.
• comment on the feasibility of the project (e.g., in terms of resources, your and/or their relevant technical expertise, project timeline, and, if relevant, local political/cultural sensitivities); and
• show enthusiasm for your project and its value, and for the proposed working relationship.

These letters needn’t be lengthy and don’t often exceed a page. Scanned versions of the original hardcopy letters with hand-written signatures will be uploaded by you into Embark; a printed out e-mail will not suffice. Affiliation letters written in a foreign language must be translated into English; both the original letter and the translation must be uploaded into the application.

Don’t be afraid to initially cast a wide net in trying to secure an affiliation; you might be surprised how far a friendly, succinct introductory e-mail will get you—the Fulbright is well-known throughout the world. One primary way to find an affiliation is to ask the faculty/advisors whom you know right here on campus, as many of them have contacts and collaborators overseas.

In addition, you might try the following:
• Reach out to past Fulbrighters in your country; use the Grantee Directory to help facilitate this.
• Scour the references list of research papers you are reading in your field; it would make for a compelling application if you were affiliating with someone who’s writing what you’re reading!
• Discuss with ONSF. This is not as difficult as it might seem; it just requires some planning.

All letters and forms must be uploaded directly into the Embark application system. Once you enter your recommenders’ details in Embark, an automated e-mail will be generated for your recommenders with instructions on submitting their recommendations. Please advise your writers to submit by the UT Campus Deadline (August 27), if possible. ONSF Guidance on Fulbright recommendations is found here.
For programs where language skills are “Required” or “Strongly Recommended,” you must submit a Language Self-Evaluation and an FLE, which is completed by a professional language teacher, ideally from UT. Submission of both forms is mandatory, even if you have advanced skills or native-speaker ability. For programs where language skills are “Recommended” or “Not Required,” if you possess some ability in said language, you should submit a Language Self-Evaluation and an FLE. Ultimately, it will be advantageous to have your language ability (even Novice) documented, even though it is not required. In some instances, you might want to have FLEs completed for more than one language. Please discuss with ONSF.
UT campus interviews are organized by ONSF and conducted by teams of 3 – 4 UT faculty/staff. The purposes of the interviews are two-fold. The first purpose is to provide constructive feedback to the applicant. Interviews are designed to elicit conversation about your application and ideas; we are not trying to stump you or decide whether or not to nominate you. Applicants cannot be rejected; we will submit all applications that come through ONSF’s process. This is about supporting you as best as we can. The second purpose is to gather information to complete our evaluation that accompanies your final application.

Absolutely. Students may continue to revise applications until the final UT Deadline in October. In fact, we strongly encourage students to incorporate feedback from the campus interview into the final draft.

The Fulbright’s selection process occurs in two stages. First, national screening committees—typically faculty with host country / regional expertise—review and select applicants they will “recommend” to the host countries as semi-finalists. Semi-finalist announcements are made all at once, typically in mid-to-late January. Semi-finalist applications are then forwarded to host countries for final review. Grant offers are then made—the bulk of these in March/April, with different countries notifying at different times.

1. The Fulbright’s mission is to promote cultural understanding through educational exchange; don’t lose sight of that. Your views on cultural exchange should be evident in your application.
2. Do NOT leave the Biographical Data portion of the Embark application (which includes some short answer questions) to the last second. It will be the first thing readers see; leave yourself time for this important task.
3. Language proficiency requirements vary by country: some require it, some prefer it, and some have no pre-reqs at all (though it’s advantageous for community engagement purposes to have some proficiency in the host country language). If you have little/no background in the language, please consider working language study into your proposal and start learning the language now. Basic self-study or a campus language partner will help and demonstrate commitment.
4. Enjoy the process. Annual surveys of our candidates suggest that it’s a highly valued and meaningful experience unto itself. We genuinely admire what you’re doing in pursuing this competitive award and look forward to working with you!

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