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Fulbright Application Season is Here

27 Jul Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is one of the largest, most prestigious, and best known of all fellowship programs. This program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute of International Education, promotes mutual cultural understanding between the United States and the rest of the world by supporting Americans to take part in research, study, and English language instruction overseas. It is aimed at recent college graduates and graduate students who wish to enrich their education through international experience and represent the United States abroad.

This year, four Mason students are heading overseas on Fulbright grants – maybe next year it will be you!

Applications to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for awards in the 2013-14 academic year will be due at GMU on September 15, 2012. That means it’s time to get started on your application! Here’s how:

1. Study the Fulbright web site, attend an information session or talk to the Director of Graduate Fellowships about your plans.
2. Make a final decision on what country and what type of award you will apply for. You can only apply for one award per year, and application requirements depend on the country and the type of award, so you can’t move forward until you’ve made these two fundamental decisions.
3. Create an account and an application profile in Fulbright’s online application system, EMBARK. Remember: You do not have to complete the application in one sitting, and nobody can see your work until you have submitted it. When registering for the site, don’t forget to indicate your institution as George Mason University. This ensures the timely processing of your application by the Mason Fulbright Committee.
4. Start working on drafts of your essays. Two essays are required. They are not very long, but they are the centerpiece of the application and require a lot of thought and careful revision. Talk to the Director of Graduate Fellowships and your academic advisor and make plans to share early drafts with them.
5. Decide whom to ask for letters of recommendation. Letters are also due by September 15, and many people go on vacation during the month of August – after which comes the start of school, a time when everyone is busy and distracted. Now is the time to start approaching letter writers.

 

What kinds of awards are offered under the Fulbright U.S. Student Program?

There are two basic types of Fulbright grant:

• Research/Study grants support the awardee for one academic year (as defined by the host country’s Fulbright program) of independent overseas research or study. The applicant must propose a project and present a plan for completing it during the tenure of the grant. The project may consist of field research for a master’s or doctoral thesis, but it can also simply be an independent project unconnected to a degree program.
• English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grants support the awardee to spend one academic year (as defined by the host country’s Fulbright program) working as an assistant instructor in at ESL/EFL classroom in the host country. ETA applicants must demonstrate a genuine interest in teaching and/or mentoring youth, and the capacity to serve as a good assistant language instructor and representative of the United States abroad.

In addition to these, some countries offer specialized grants under the Fulbright program that are specific to that country. You can learn about these by reading the country profiles on the Fulbright web site.

Not every country has a Fulbright program (though most do), and not every county offers every type of grant. Calendars and requirements (including language requirements) may also differ from one country to the next.

Keep in mind that:

• You cannot choose the timing of your Fulbright grant. For example, you cannot apply to go for the summer or a single semester. You must adhere to the calendar set by the host country. All Fulbright grants are 8-12 months in length.
• With the ETA grant, you cannot choose where you will be placed in the host country. Placement decisions are made by the local Fulbright program according to the country’s needs. Most ETAs serve in smaller towns and cities outside of major urban centers.

 

Who can apply to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program?

At the most basic level, in order to apply for a Fulbright U.S. student grant you must:

• Be a U.S. citizen at the time of application.
• Have completed a bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree by the time the award will begin. This means you can apply as an undergraduate senior who will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in the next year, OR you may have completed your bachelor’s degree at some point in the past.
• Not have completed a Ph.D. or other terminal degree by the time the award will begin. Terminal degrees include the J.D., M.D., and (in most creative and performing arts fields) M.F.A.

This means that in most fields you can do a Fulbright year as a post-bachelors, master’s, post-master’s, or doctoral student.

The Fulbright program primarily recruits applicants who have NOT had extensive opportunities to live or work overseas, particularly in the country to which they are applying.  Study abroad experiences, prior fellowship awards, military service, or short-term travel don’t count against you, and may even be a positive factor.  However, candidates who have spent many years in the country (for example, they grew up there or worked there for an extended time) are at a disadvantage.  Those who have spent five years or more out of the past six years living overseas are ineligible.  State Department employees (not counting student interns) and their close relatives are also ineligible.

Beyond these basic requirements, individual countries often have specific requirements, restrictions, and/or preferences. Prospective applicants should read country profiles of the destination(s) they are considering to determine if they meet the criteria for that country.

 

What is the Application Timeline?

The application deadline for GMU students is September 15, 2012. Application packages that are complete (including all essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and any other required supporting documents) and submitted via the online application system by this date will be forwarded to a Campus Fulbright Committee for review.

After Campus Committee review, feedback from the review process will be conveyed to the applicant, who will then be given a few days to respond to any feedback and make final revisions to their application. The applicant must finalize all changes and re-submit the application by October 17, 2012.

In mid-January, 2013, applicants will learn whether they have been designated as finalists.

Finalists will be notified about awards decisions (offer, decline, or alternate) on a country-by-country basis between March and June, 2013.

In most cases the grant will begin in early autumn with the new academic year. Some countries follow different calendars, which will be indicated in their profile on the Fulbright web site.

 

Thinking of Applying?

If you plan to apply in Fall 2012, contact the director of Graduate Fellowships today to set up an appointment.

The Tips and Advice section of this web site contains detailed tips sheets for Fulbright applicants. The Fulbright program’s web site also offers a wealth of tips and guidance on various components of the application, as well as opportunities to attend in-person information sessions and webinars where you can ask questions directly to experienced Fulbright program staff in real time.

If Fulbright is something you are considering for the future, do some research about the opportunities available under this program, and plan to consult with the Office of Graduate Fellowships about your plans some time in the spring.

And finally:  Fulbright is not the only prestigious fellowship program that offers opportunities to do research, study, or teaching overseas.  If you are considering applying to the Fulbright program — or if Fulbright is not quite the right fit for your goals and needs — there may be other awards you should consider.  Check out the Fellowship Opportunities section of this web site, search for other awards, or contact the Director of Graduate Fellowships to learn more.

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