About the Fulbright

(For US Citizens only)

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program funds two main types of fellowships in more than 135 countries worldwide. They offer grants in nearly all fields and disciplines, including the sciences, professional fields and creative and performing Arts.

Fulbright offers two main types of programs:

The Academic/Research Grant is for a year of post-graduate study and research abroad. In order to apply for this, you need to have a project/program in mind and find a faculty member or researcher in the appropriate country that will work with you and provide you with a letter of affiliation.

The other grant is called the ETA, or English Teaching Assistantship. As an ETA, you spend about 20 hours a week helping students (of all ages; it depends on the country) improve their language abilities and knowledge of the United States. However, since you are only doing this about 20-30 hours/week, another 10-20 hours each week should be integrating yourself into the local community through a mini-project that you propose.

Fulbright also offers fellowships in the creative and performing arts as well as the mtvU Fulbright (a specialized award centering around international music); more information on these programs can be found on the Fulbright website or you can talk to Prof. Cable.

Applicants may also in some cases apply for a Critical Language Enhancement Award to help get their language ability up to a proficient level.

Selecting Your Fulbright

Choosing a Type of Fulbright

There are several types of Fulbrights

An Academic/Research Award: Depending on the country (they all vary), this type of award will fund either:

  1. A one-year Masters program or the first year of a multi-year Masters program, and occasionally a PhD program. (Alas, you will need to find other funding for the rest of your Masters program. Many schools do offer this type of funding, so don’t panic yet.)

  2. An independent research project supervised by a researcher/professor in the country of your choice. (You are responsible for finding this mentor and obtaining affiliation with their institution. More about this below.) I highly recommend that if you want to apply for this type of award you have substantial research experience already. (Hackman, independent study, etc)

  3. A combination of the above. Some countries want you to have an independent research project and take 1-2 classes each semester.

An ETA (English Teaching Assistantship):

For most countries, an ETA entails you being a teaching assistant rather than the sole teacher. In many cases, your classes would focus on speaking rather than trying to explain esoteric points of grammar. Your classes will also highlight aspects of American culture; depending on the country you choose, you may very well be the first live American your students have ever met. When applying for this award, you should have sort of a mini-project in mind. For example, if you are interested in healthcare, you could propose volunteering in a clinic, with a particular NGO, etc. If you played a sport in high school or college, you could propose working with local children after school and setting up a sports league.

Creative/Performing Arts:

These types of Fulbrights are available in select countries; you’ll need to visit the country page of your preferred country to see if they will accept these types of applications. For this Fulbright award, you may apply to work with an artist or simply live in another country while perfecting your craft. You may not, however, enroll in a formal program (like an MFA or another degree-seeking program) as your application would then fall into the Academic/Research Fulbright category. One important note: there is no annual quota for Creative/Performing Arts Fulbrights, meaning that a country may select as many (or as few) as they like.

So, how to choose one?: Well, that’s up to you.

Typically, students applying for an Academic/Research Fulbright have a GPA of 3.6 or better, but this is not always the case. GPA is definitely not the only important factor in applying for a Fulbright.

If you’re leaning toward the Academic/Research award, consider applying for a country where you can do a Masters degree or at least take some classes while conducting your research. Fulbright is concerned that college seniors may not have enough independent research under their belt to sustain a full-year of it in another country. However, if you already have research experience in that country you may be fine.

The ETA is not just for English majors or people who want to teach. Many ETA positions have you in the classroom for 16-20 hours a week; in these cases, Fulbright wants you to have a side project—pursuing volunteer work, conducting some independent research, coaching a kids soccer club, joining a local folk-dancing group, etc.

Still not sure?

Come talk with me (Prof. Cable). We can discuss the pros and cons of each type of award and find what will work best with your goals and interests.


Choosing a Country

It can be confusing to speak of “the Fulbright Fellowship” or “a Fulbright Fellowship”; really, there are over 200 of them—each country has slightly different rules about who can apply and how the program runs. Therefore, you have to look at each country’s Country Page to see what (and whom) they are looking for. You absolutely positively must meet the country’s minimum requirements. If you are in doubt about your eligibility, you may contact the Fulbright Area Manager assigned to that region (located under the area map of the region in question).

Keep your language skills in mind. If you select a country where they speak a commonly taught language, then you will most likely need to have at least 2 years of college courses in that language. If you pick a country with a less commonly taught language (like Tagalog or Hungarian) then it’s likely there will not be any expectation of fluency. You should, however, indicate in your application essays how you will learn enough of the language before you go so that you can at least ask directions, buy bread, find the bathroom, etc.

Countries with languages like Spanish, French, and German typically expect a fairly high level of fluency. If you aren’t comfortable in the language (not so that you can discuss the economic repercussions of deregulating the Chinese yuan, but rather can chat about the weather), then you may not be a strong candidate for this country. And since you may only apply for one Fulbright type in one country at a time, why set yourself up for failure? Pick another country.

The Application 

The Fulbright Full Grant application is all online  (except for the possibility of the Creative and Performing arts) and consists of:

  • A detailed application form
  • A letter of affiliation from a university or faculty member in the country you are applying to
  • three letters of recommendation ( at least 2 of these letters should be from academics)**
  • a transcript
  • sometimes a language evaluation (depending on the country you are applying to; typically only for commonly-taught languages)
  • a one-page single-spaced Personal Statement
  • a two-paged single-spaced Statement of Grant Purpose.

The ETA application is also online and consists of:

  • a detailed application form
  • three recommendations [these are online forms, NOT letters] (While two of these should probably come from academics, if you have a writer who could speak to your ability to adapt to a foreign culture that would be good)**
  • a transcript
  • sometimes a language evaluation (depending on the country you are applying to; typically only for commonly taught languages)
  • a one-page single-spaced Personal Statement (sort of your intellectual biography)
  • a one-page single-spaced Statement of Grant Purpose.

No matter which type of fellowship you apply for, you should check out the fantastic suggestions made by author Joe Schall in his book “Writing Personal Statements and Scholarship Application Essays.” The book is hard to find in print, but Schall has made it available for free online. Not only does he go through the nuts and bolts of writing all sorts of application essays, but he provides you with examples of successful Fulbright essays! Please, please, please make use of this great resource. 

**STUDENTS: Please give your professors and other recommenders the following document to help them write the best recommendation letter for you!

Timeline and Due Dates 


Ideally, you should start thinking about Fulbright and working with Prof. Cable at least five months before the campus deadline in September. During this time, you will work on drafts of your application and start seeking out recommendations.

August 15

You will be assigned a member of the faculty fellowship committee who will further work with you to develop your application; although, you are welcome to show your application to other faculty members, as well.

September 13th

This is the campus deadline. All of your application materials must be uploaded to the Fulbright application portal (Embark) by 11:59pm and you must hit “Submit.” Don’t worry, your application does NOT go to Fulbright; rather, it goes to Prof. Cable’s side of Embark where she can access it and send it around to Fellowships Committee members.

September 15-30

You will have a 15-minute interview with the Fellowships Committee. The interview serves several purposes--one, we want to make sure that all of your relevant information and experience appears in your application, so we want to get to know you a bit better. Second, our committee needs to provide Fulbright with an evaluation of your application and potential for success.

October 5

After submitting to the interview, you will receive written feedback from the committee and have until October 5th to make any changes to your application. By this time, you must resubmit your entire, complete application. This will be the FINAL SUBMISSION.

October 13

This is the national Fulbright deadline for when Prof. Cable hits the final approval button. Your application must be in BEFORE this time, on October 5th.


In the last week of January, you will hear if you are a finalist.


During this time, finalists will find out whether or not they have been offered a Fulbright. Students will not find out at the same time!   


I have lots of tips on how to choose a country, what types of supplemental projects might work, what pitfalls to avoid, etc. and am always happy to work with you as you wade through the application process. If you'd like to schedule a meeting with me please email Jill Graham


Elements of a Good Research Proposal 


What this should include:


Use a double title to convey the most compact information. For example—Icelandic Igloos: Inuit Architecture Below the Arctic Circle.

General Theme

What are you going to study/examine/explore? Put this in the form of one question.

Specific Goals

What is the key question you will try to answer in the course of your research? What are the major things you hope to learn by the completion of the final project? What is the disciplinary lens you are using for your research (which field)? Use a series of sub-questions here if needed.

Research Site

Where will you execute your work? (At a university? At schools? In certain communities? Rural locations?) Who will be involved in your research? (What people are you working with? Interviewing? Engaging with?)


Why is this project worthwhile? What will you learn? Why is this theme important at this time for this country or in general? How does this relate to your areas of interest or background? How will it contribute to your academic or professional training? What is the importance of the organization you will work with or the skill you will study? What practical application does the project have? It is not necessary to answer all of these questions, but you should be able to explain the worth of your project on several levels.


How will you do what you propose to do? Will you attend meetings, observe experts, organize an event, collect oral histories of specific people, interview a larger sample, document in film? What are the steps you intend to follow?


How will your project play out over 9-10 months? What will you do when, where, and why?


Do you need special materials, books, photocopies, or anything else?

Community Engagement

How do you plan to become part of the local community beyond your project? Volunteer activity? Participation in organizations? Exercise of your hobbies with local people?

Final Product(s)

What will you have to show for this project at the end? A paper? Portfolio? A dance? A report for the community? Any benefit to the community?

Have you taken a look at the Fulbright essay examples on Joe Schall's website?


Elements of a Good ETA Statement


What this should include:


Use a double title to convey the most compact information. For example—Lost in Translation: English Teaching and Joke Telling in Taiwan.

General Theme

Why do you want to teach? Why do you want to teach English? Why do you want to teach English in this country?

Specific Goals

What do you hope to bring to your students? What previous experiences, courses, or training will help you do this? What do you hope to learn from your students and your supervising faculty? What do you hope to learn about the language and culture of your host country? What is your philosophy of language teaching and learning?

Teaching Methods

How will you engage your students and make language learning something they enjoy and give great energy towards? What hobbies or interests can you incorporate into your lessons to make them more proficient speakers of English? How can you learn about their culture while teaching them about your own? What would a great sample lesson look like for the age group you will be teaching?

Free Time

What do you plan to do in your free time to learn more about the host community and culture? **Include this only if the country you are applying to requests it in the Fulbright materials (see the country info).


What kinds of material/realia (a good word: look it up) will you bring with you to help you enliven your teaching? Songbooks? Poetry? A musical instrument? Art materials? Etc.

Community Engagement

How do you plan to become part of the local community beyond your teaching? Volunteer activity? Participation in organizations? Exercise of your hobbies with local people?

Your Trajectory

What is your career goal? Does it relate to teaching or education? How does your goal relate to this proposal for teaching?

Remember Joe Schall and his fabulously helpful website!!!