What Is The Fulbright Scholarship? Your Guide

Graduation throwing caps
August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 3/23/23

If you've ever wanted to go abroad to earn your master's degree while experiencing a different culture, consider the Fulbright scholarship. The experience may change your life!

So you've heard of this unique opportunity for students after they earn their bachelor's degree, and now you want to know what the Fulbright scholarship is. Fulbright is more than just a scholarship. It's a cultural exchange program designed to turn the brightest minds into full-fledged worldly scholars that have gone beyond what a simple education would allow.

For any student wanting to go abroad as part of their graduate degree, consider the Fulbright program and what it can do for you. As long as you've met the Fulbright scholarship requirements, figuring out how to get the Fulbright scholarship should be easy! While it may take some luck, most scholarships do, your study abroad experience will be incredible. 

Read along to learn more about the Fulbright scholarship, its impact and how you can get one.

What Is the Fulbright Scholarship?

The Fulbright scholarship program is a cultural exchange program designed to send and receive students from other countries working on any degree. With it, they can choose wherever they wish to study abroad. 

The Fulbright scholarship takes in students from over 140 countries across the globe. What this can do for a student is priceless; they could potentially find a unique class or experience not available at your college. While there, students spread cultural ideas, as the Fulbright program's primary purpose. You will be studying abroad, focusing on your research.  

While abroad as a Fulbright student, expect to engross yourself in the culture of the country you're going to. You will live, work, and learn with students and people from that country the entire time you are there. The length of your stay depends on the type and amount of award you receive. Consider studying abroad for however many semesters you receive.  

The Fulbright program works closely with the United States government to provide the best opportunity possible for you and the other scholarship recipients. Requirements to obtain the Fulbright award may vary depending on your school and degree. As an American student, start by finding the Fulbright Program Advisor on your college campus to learn more.

Fulbright Scholarship Requirements

To obtain the Fulbright scholarship, you must meet a short list of requirements and fulfill them before the allotted period before going abroad. You can earn your Fulbright scholarship ahead of time as an undergraduate student, but you must have earned the degree by the time you graduate and are ready to go abroad for your opportunity.

Below are the requirements you must fulfill to be eligible for Fulbright. If you're interested in getting the Fulbright scholarship, you need to apply for a time slot to go abroad that comes after you have fulfilled all the Fulbright scholarship requirements:

  • Have full US Citizen status
  • Have a full bachelor's degree before you go abroad and include your transcript
  • Know the language of the country you are going to and pass the proficiency test.
  • Include a research grant proposal as part of your Fulbright scholarship application.
  • Include three academic letters of recommendation 
  • Include a personal statement
  • Include an Affiliation Letter (the school that you’re studying at)
  • Three Letters of Recommendation

The importance of having all of these before taking on the scholarship goes back to the purpose of Fulbright. While abroad, you are to be a scholar participating in education in the country of your choice. Your unique perspective as an American adds to your education abroad. Under Fulbright, students should live and work as representatives of the United States. 

If you're already working before you go abroad for the Fulbright, some factors, like working for specific departments of the US government, may make you ineligible. Keep this in mind if you want to work for an agency as an undergrad, as that could cause some red tape. You must also not have a doctoral degree of any kind, as having one falls under a different scholarship.

If you have previously spent time abroad as a scholar from another opportunity, lived abroad, or hold dual citizenship, it may lower the odds of being considered once you apply. Fulbright wants American scholars to go abroad and learn as much as possible from other cultures and spread ideals of American education and interest. Keep this in mind before applying.  

Fulbright Scholarship Application

Once you have determined your eligibility, you'll need to begin the application process. You should apply via your campus Fulbright representative for students working on their undergrad or graduate degree. Contact your alma mater if you're a scholar with a graduate degree. 

You will, at some point, have to pick out your favored Fulbright scholarship type, as they are several. See the section titled "Types of Fulbright Scholarships" for more information. Make sure also to have your host country in mind ahead of time. Use your undergrad time wisely and learn the language you'll need abroad. With that in mind, you're ready to fill out the application. 

Fulbright Scholarship Application Deadlines

One of the more significant Fulbright scholarship requirements on the application you'll need to have thought of ahead of time is your research proposal. This section, the statement of grant purpose, can make or break your proposal. From there, you'll need to show your qualification, satisfy the language requirement, and show your commitment to Fulbright's mission statement.  

Another significant inclusion you’ll need for Fulbright is three academic letters of recommendation. These should be like college letters; however, they should not speak to your merits but reflect on what you have done to prepare for Fulbright. Include everything from education preparation to anything professional. 

You’ll also need another form of approval- a host organization that you’ve made sure know what the Fulbright scholarship is and have accepted your proposal. Your affiliation includes the school you’ll be studying abroad at, so you’ll need to research and communicate ahead of time and have them provide an affiliation letter of approval to the specifications of Fulbright. 

Your personal statement included with your Fulbright application is a major deciding factor when competing for the scholarship. The statement will be where you include where and why you want to go and how you will be helping your affiliated organization. Remember, you’ll want to relate this to the mission of Fulbright. 

Types of Fulbright Scholarships

The Fulbright scholarship comes in several forms for students working on their master's degrees. The most common type comes from the general research abroad scholarship. Fulbright also awards teachers looking to teach English in other countries a Public Health Fellowship and the National Geographic writers fellowship. Read on to find out more!

Open Study/Research

As the standard Fulbright scholarship opportunity, the study abroad program provides students the unique opportunity to travel to their desired country to execute a well-crafted research plan. Please pay attention to the countries that the Fulbright selection committee recommends, as picking one of them may increase your odds in competition for the scholarship.

Fulbright also offers a separate creative and performing arts version of the study abroad program that allows students interested in these fields rather than just academics. Your Fulbright Scholarship requirements change a bit, as you will need to provide proof of your abilities, like a credential or an audition piece that the selection can see via the application.

Fulbright has also partnered with specific countries to create unique programs in specific fields, such as art, business, journalism, public health, and stem fields. If any of these interest you, consider making your application towards them. These field-specific grants already have an affiliated organization, which should save time and research when applying.

English Teaching Assistant Scholarship

One of the significant goals that Fulbright aims to achieve is to spread the ideals and knowledge of American society. Fulbright offers students the opportunity to teach English as part of their mission and ideals. The countries Fulbright looks to send people to for this grant are primarily non-native English speaking. Hot spots include Germany, Brazil, and Indonesia.

Students abroad should expect to teach students of any age group, from kindergarteners to university students. You may only apply to one country at a time, so pick out wherever most interests you culturally or where you think students would need an English education. Remember, this is a teaching assistant opportunity, so you will be learning too!

Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowships In Public Health

Established in 2011, the Fogarty Fellowship began as a way to help poor public health situations in Sub-Saharan countries. Public health has become a priority, considering how poor public health situations in these countries have caused viral outbreaks to spread to other countries and how these could be potentially hazardous for global health. Doctors are a global resource!

To that end, Fulbright now offers research programs for Medical students seeking to better the daily lives of everyday people by fixing dangerous environments and preventing practices that could cause an outbreak in their communities of various diseases. Countries Fulbright currently wants to send medical students to include Jamaica, Vietnam, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Ghana.

Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship

Fulbright has recently partnered with National Geographic again for an upcoming opportunity for journalistic study under NG abroad. Fulbright has offered this fellowship in the past and is redesigning it for the next school year. If you are interested in going abroad to participate in field journalism that also meets the image of Fulbright and National Geographic, consider the offer!

How To Get a Fulbright Scholarship

Now that you have the tools to apply for the Fulbright, you may still wonder how to qualify for the Fulbright scholarship. The Fulbright selection process does pick and choose some extra criteria. To prepare, start by knowing the purpose of the award inside and out. Fulbright applicants are competing against each other, too. Use their mission, without pandering, to stand out to them.

Here are a few more tips for making sure your application stands out. 

  • Make sure your proposal meets the standards and ideals of Fulbright, as the selection will prioritize your abilities and dreams if they align with what they're looking for. 
  • Remember to adhere to the word counts they provide on the application and communicate how your research will be helpful.
  • Pick your affiliated school and your letters of recommendation carefully. Communicate with them ahead of time about what you want them to say and what you want to do. 

Depending on their involvement, your organization and recommenders may even help you brainstorm or provide resources for studying abroad. Remember, Fulbright wants to be impressed by your proposal!

Fulbright Scholarship Acceptance Rate

If we’ve piqued your interest in the award, you may be wondering what the Fulbright scholarship acceptance rate is. According to their website, about 10% of student applicants who apply for the award are successful which increases to 20% among scholar applicants. 

How Important is a Fulbright Scholarship?

The Fulbright scholarship opens up a great opportunity to travel abroad and participate in another culture while adding a unique twist to your education. Fulbright stands apart not just as an academic scholarship, but as a potential research grant for students working on higher education degrees. 

If you're an undergrad student reading this, you may wonder, "why should I want to apply for Fulbright?" To you, it may seem too far off in the future or out of your reach as an undergrad. However, if you know you're planning on earning a master's degree, you should at least consider Fulbright. Try applying during your senior year. Who knows, you may make the cut!

FAQs: Fulbright Scholarship

Below, you can find some of the more common questions by students researching how to become a Fulbright scholar.

1. What Does It Mean to Be a Fulbright Scholar?

To be a Fulbright scholar means that you are a student contributing to global conversations while spreading American ideas and knowledge. By meeting the requirements, you should not only qualify, but meet the expectations that form the backbone of the Fulbright ideals. Your goal is to improve the world in the way only you can.

2. How Competitive Is It to Get a Fulbright Scholarship?

The level of competition changes depending on the award type, your country of choice, and the strength of your proposal. Fulbright only has so many scholarships to give out every year, so picking a school or an idea that seems more noble or ambitious to the selection committee will improve your chances!

3. How Prestigious Is a Fulbright Scholarship?

Earning the Fulbright, among American scholars, marks a student as exceptional in their field with a mind that could potentially change the world in a significant way. Many Fulbright scholars have gone on to earn Nobel Prizes for their work!  

4. What Are the Benefits of Being a Fulbright Scholar?

Fulbright scholars receive funding that could further jump-start their careers. Any scholar or scientist looking to make waves should apply for Fulbright. The prestige generated from earning the scholarship may also work towards opening potential jobs or even recognition as a significant figure in your desired field. Fulbright can make your dreams come true.

5. Why Is Fulbright Not Available to Undergrad?

Fulbright wants students interested in being a scholar abroad. Undergraduate students need a little more time to learn and grow before they move on. Most graduate degrees also require research, and the Fulbright slots into most requirements. Graduate students often need work experience for some degrees, and Fulbright could start a career.

6. Why Should I Apply for Fulbright as an Undergrad? 

You should apply to Fulbright because you have good odds of getting in! As long as you’re considering taking on a master’s degree and are an American student, you will qualify. While it may be competitive, there’s a lot of value in a Fulbright experience. If you’re interested in any of the possibilities of Fulbright, consider applying. The chance is worth it.

7. What Other Countries Offer the Fulbright Scholarship?

Fulbright can only go to students with US citizenship. If you’re looking to become a United States citizen and have plans for Fulbright scholarships, keep in mind that you shouldn’t propose to travel back to your home country via Fulbright. The selection committee prefers your chosen country to be somewhere that you’re not from so that you can learn about the culture.

8. How Much Is a Fulbright Scholarship?

The amount you receive depends on what scholarship you have received. Fulbright will ensure that you are trained and ready when you're abroad, whether doing research, teaching, or providing journalistic services. Importantly. Fulbright does provide a budgeted stipend based on where you are going, so money shouldn't be a constraint. Your research should come first!

9. What Exactly Does Fulbright Cover?

Fulbright should cover whatever amount of tuition you need to stay abroad, health care benefits, and provide a day job while you're abroad. Fulbright works closely with the United States government so that you may work part-time at an agency. Coupled with their stipend, they should cover your expenses abroad, so don't worry.

10. How Long Do Fulbright Scholars Stay Abroad?

Fulbright’s grant usually covers however long the student's research should take. Typically, this would be for an entire school year to just a semester, depending on how long you want to go abroad. Your host school abroad will have communicated with Fulbright about what you want to do. 

11. Does Fulbright Provide for Disabled Students?

While Fulbright offers no specific accommodations, they work with students with disabilities individually to better provide for them. Fulbright should contact you to help establish what you need and how they can help you while abroad should you win the scholarship. They recognize that students from all backgrounds should be able to compete!

12. Is a Fulbright Scholarship Worth It?

Absolutely! Fulbright offers a range of awards and has an acceptance rate of 10-20% depending on your academic history. Fulbright is an excellent opportunity and can set you up for major success. In fact, many Fulbright scholars go on to win Nobel prizes!

13. Who is Eligible for a Fulbright Scholarship?

To be eligible for the Fulbright Scholarship, you must have the following: 

  • Have full US Citizen status
  • Have a full bachelor's degree before you go abroad and include your transcript
  • Know the language of the country you are going to and pass the proficiency test.
  • Include a research grant proposal as part of your Fulbright scholarship application.
  • Include three academic letters of recommendation 
  • Include a personal statement
  • Include an Affiliation Letter (the school that you’re studying at)
  • Three Letters of Recommendation

For more details on eligibility for the Fulbright scholarship, visit their official website or speak to an academic advisor. 

Final Thoughts

Fulbright acts as a great study abroad scholarship for students looking to learn and research outside cultures. If you're going to graduate school and looking for a change of pace, consider applying to Fulbright. The scholarship offers all sorts of programs and opportunities driven by the scholar. Most Fulbright scholars go on to outstanding careers in stem and beyond.

If you're still an undergrad, or even in high school, you may wonder why Fulbright? You have a lot of time to think about what your graduate experience will be like if you even want to go further, right? It's always good to plan ahead! Fulbright also allows you to apply during your senior year as an undergrad. The chance to study abroad is well worth it!

If you apply, ensure you have everything ready by October of the year to meet the deadline. To have the most competitive possible application, follow the Fulbright scholarship requirements closely and communicate well! Fulbright only picks the grant proposals that fit its mission and ideals. 

Good luck with your Fulbright scholarship application!

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