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Fulbright U.S. Student Program Application Tips: Advice from Top Producing Institutions

April 21, 2022

Applying for a Fulbright award might seem like a daunting task. However, it doesn’t have to be! We asked Fulbright Program Advisors from the latest cohort of Top Producing Institutions—schools that had the highest number of U.S. Fulbrighters for the 2021-22 academic year—to give some advice to prospective applicants. Use the tips below to craft a memorable proposal.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program’s 2023-24 competition is now open! Learn more about how to apply.

1: Do not self-select out and not apply

Do not self-select out and not apply. Let the national selection committee or the in-country committee decide if you are not the right fit. And if you do not end up getting a Fulbright, you were not “rejected.” Your application simply wasn’t selected this time around. We all apply for far more things than we end up getting–do not give up!
—Monica Cable, Franklin & Marshall College

Sincerely express your unique self

Sincerely express your unique self–each sentence should be a sentence that could only have been written by you.
—Jennifer Armstrong, Scripps College

Think deeply about where you want to spend your Fulbright.

Think deeply about where you want to spend your Fulbright year, and be as specific as possible in describing your preparation for the opportunity, your goals in applying, and the reasons for your choice of host country. Specificity is the mark of an excellent, compelling application.
—Marynel Ryan Van Zee, Carleton College

In your writing, share what is true to you

In your writing, share what is true to you (your genuine motivations, specific past achievements, and unique future goals) rather than generic statements that you think a Fulbright committee wants to hear.
—Jennifer Locke, Occidental College

Begin affiliation outreach as early as possible

Begin your affiliation outreach as early as possible, as the best contacts you make will engage you in conversation that will influence your project proposal in exciting ways.
—Robert Strong, Bates College

Start thinking about the Fulbright Program early on

Start thinking about the Fulbright Program early on, even in your freshman or sophomore years. Take advantage of the repertoire of language learning possibilities at [your university], especially those in lesser taught languages.  Language skills are often key to a successful application.
—David Holmberg, Cornell University

Remember the core tenet of Fulbright — creating mutual understanding across cultures

Remember the core tenet of Fulbright–creating mutual understanding across cultures. You might have a fantastically compelling project, but if you are not able to articulate how you’ll use your Fulbright experience to immerse yourself in a new culture and make personal connections, it’s not a Fulbright project.
—Joy Campbell, Michigan State University

Connect the dots!

Connect the dots! Think about the application as a whole and really think about your “why.” Consider how Fulbright is a fit with your personal values/interests, academic and co-curricular choices, and the ways you can demonstrate that you engage with difference and work to build mutual understanding in your own community.
—Melissa Ryan, Connecticut College

Imagine how you can be a cultural ambassador in your proposed location and role

Imagine how you can be a cultural ambassador in your proposed location and role.  You want to think about your strengths and interests and how those will translate what you teach others about the United States and what you learn about the host country.
—Anthony Cashman, College of the Holy Cross

Get ready to learn & grow!

Be prepared to learn more about yourself, your goals, and your potential than you have ever imagined.
—Rebecca Saulsbury Bravard, Florida Southern College


Fulbright Journalists Make an Impact: 10 Fulbright Alumni Reporting on Russia’s War Against Ukraine

March 16, 2022

The Fulbright Program has long supported journalism as a powerful means of cultural exchange. Fulbright journalists have been recognized with some of the highest honors across digital and traditional media and we proudly featured some of our prominent alumni, like Maria Ressa, during our Fulbright 75th Anniversary celebration in 2021. Journalists provide audiences with an opportunity to be part of events and places that cannot experience firsthand, connecting all of us in a complex and changing world. Thanks to their professionalism, integrity, and bravery, journalists replace myths and assumptions with facts, and help bridge divides that separate us.   

In digital, print, and broadcast media, Fulbright’s journalist alumni further the Program’s mission to strengthen democratic values and promote understanding among all people around the world. Below, meet some of our exceptional alumni who are keeping the world informed about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.  

Jim Sciutto, 1993 U.S. Student to Hong Kong 
As CNN’s chief national security correspondent and co-anchor of CNN Newsroom, Jim Sciutto is leading CNN’s coverage from Ukraine and helping to shed light on the situation for millions of CNN viewers every night. He has authored several books, reported from 50 countries, and was the senior foreign correspondent for ABC News based in London. He also served as Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor to U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China. Stay up to date with his reporting on Ukraine through his Twitter. 

Man wearing body armor that has the word "Press" stamped across the front.
Terrell Jermaine Starr, 2009 U.S. Student to Ukraine Reporter Terrell Jermaine Starr is currently in Ukraine providing real-time updates and commentary from Kyiv and covering the developing refugee crisis at Ukraine’s border through national news outlets and on the ground via Twitter. He is the host and founder of Black Diplomats podcast and a regular contributor to Foreign Policy magazine, where he writes about Eastern European politics and the intersection of foreign policy and race. Follow his reporting on Twitter.

Misha Zelinsky, 2021 Visiting Scholar from Australia 
Financial Review journalist Misha Zelinsky is currently reporting on the ground from Ukraine about efforts citizens are making to protect the city of Kyiv. Misha is a lawyer, economist, and public policy expert with a Masters degree in Public Administration from the London School of Economics. He was recently awarded the Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Australian-U.S. Alliance Studies (ASUMIN Indo-Pacific Scholarship) funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Follow his reporting on Twitter. 

Nina Jankowicz, 2016 Fulbright Public Policy Fellow to Ukraine

An internationally recognized expert on disinformation and democratization, Nina Jankowicz has provided commentary on the conflict in Ukraine to radio, print, and broadcast media. During her Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship in 2016, Jankowicz advised Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, supporting strategic communications in the MFA’s Office of the Spokesperson.  Follow her commentary on Ukraine here and watch her speak on PBS NewsHour here on how Russia uses disinformation to justify their actions.

Valerie Kipnis, 2022 U.S. Student to Ukraine

Valerie Kipnis is a Russian-American writer, reporter, and documentary producer. Most recently, she was at VICE News, where she reported on climate change, reproductive rights, and the former Soviet Union. Prior to VICE News, she worked at or contributed to Coda Story, The Moscow Times, and NBC. Prior to beginning her Fulbright, she produced a powerful piece for VICE News which was filmed in Ukraine and features interviews with volunteer soldiers and Ukrainian refugees. Kipnis was selected to complete her Fulbright in Ukraine but is currently carrying out her project in Warsaw, Poland. 

Olga Boichak, 2014 Foreign Student from Ukraine

Olga Boichak is a lecturer in Digital Cultures at the University of Sydney in Australia. She has provided expert commentary to Bloomberg News, ABC Australia, and more about the cybersecurity aspects of the current conflict in Ukraine. Boichak earned a Master of Public Administration from Syracuse University through the Fulbright Program in 2014. Follow her commentary on Ukraine on Twitter.

Karen Attiah, 2008 U.S. Student to Ghana

Karen Attiah is a columnist and the former Global Opinions editor for the Washington Post. She won the George Polk Award for her writing about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. While on her Fulbright, she researched public political engagement in Ghana. Follow her on Twitter here and read her op-ed on Ukrainians in the United States here. 

Julia Ioffe, 2009 U.S. Student to Russia

Julia Ioffe is a founding partner and the Washington correspondent for Puck News, a journalist-owned media company. She is a veteran reporter on politics, and previously wrote for The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Politico. Throughout the crisis happening in Ukraine, Ioffe has been commenting on the news daily on her Twitter and has also provided commentary on several media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, PBS’s FRONTLINE, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Follow her on Twitter here.

Samuel Charap, 2002 U.S. Student to Russia
Samuel Charap is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and has contributed several articles to media publications on the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, including the Financial Times and Foreign Policy. Throughout his career, he has written extensively on Ukraine and Russia, and has held several positions at think tanks and international organizations related to the region. His commentary and publications can be found here. 

Angela Stent, 2008 U.S. Scholar to Russia

Angela Stent is a foreign policy expert, particularly in the field of Russian foreign policy and U.S. and European relations with Russia. She is currently the director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian & East European Studies at Georgetown University and co-chairs the Brooking Institution’s Hewett Forum on Post-Soviet Affairs. She has spoken on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s motivations on outlets such as Amanpour and Company and NPR, among many others.

U.S. Fulbright

The Power and Resilience of Our Life Kits

January 10, 2022
This blog post is written by panelists from the Fulbright Western Hemisphere Panel, Navigating Blackness in the Western Hemisphere, Mathew, Prisca, and Sheila. These panelists have written a post focused on helping other Fulbrighters access their “life kits.”  If you are interested in learning more about the panelists, check out the Navigating Blackness panel on YouTube!


Panelists and Writers

Dr. Prisca Gayles
U.S. Student Program
Study/Research to Argentina, 2017-18

Sheila Encarnación Castillo
Dominican Student Program
Northeastern University, 2020-21

Mathew Holloway
U.S. Student Program
ETA to Panamá, 2017-18


Mathew: For many of you, Fulbright will be a series of experiences that will transform your understanding of yourself. Like any journey, there will be challenges. To assist you, we want to tell you about the best asset you already have: your life kit.

What is a life kit?
Your life kit is a reflection of your resilience. It is the collection of experiences, people, and abilities that have carried you throughout your life. In difficult times, each of us has relied upon our life kit to guide us. Hardships are inevitable, but our resiliency is too. 

We want to encourage you to take inventory of your life kit as we share some of our stories from our Fulbright experiences. While support will be available to you on your Fulbright, never forget your own power and guidance!

At the core of our life kit is community. It can encompass born and chosen family, friends, or just people who inspire you. Your community may vary in size, but it is the power of their love and support that matters most.

Prisca: My first extended trip away from home was leaving Oakland, California to move to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for college, and my first trip abroad was to Crete, Greece during my undergrad experience. Perhaps because at that point I was not a “frequent traveler,” I assumed that a “life kit” consisted of the various items and facts about a place that I brought with me to manage an unknown environment. During these experiences and many other ventures abroad, I learned that the most important resource was the community I built when I arrived in new environments. When I became a study abroad coordinator, I also realized that even the privileged students who seemed to have everything they needed, struggled abroad if they didn’t establish a community of care in the host country.

So my advice to Fulbright students is to find your community when you arrive in your host country. For me, that was a brilliant, vibrant, and beautiful group of Black women in Argentina who I could dance, write, cook, read, talk, debate, laugh, protest, and cry with. For others it might be a tango or bachata club. Maybe it’s a running group or hot yoga studio. We all have something that brings us joy, so find your people, build your community, and embrace that part of your life kit.


March 8 International Women’s March in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2018
Photo credit: Archivo del Área de Género de la Comisión Organizadora de 8 de Noviembre

Questions to consider when calling upon community

  • Who are the people I need in my community?
  • What roles do they play?
  • How can I tap into the power of my community during Fulbright?
  • What hardships have my ancestors faced? How have they overcome them? How can their experiences guide me through challenges?

Honor your skills and passions

Mathew: Your Fulbright will have its challenges. Though the obstacles may vary, you can always count on the skills and passions you bring to guide you. You have learned to use them before to meet the moment—trust yourself and what you bring with you!

Sheila: One of the most valuable tips that other Fulbrighters on the Foreign Student Program have shared with me is to pack light. For many of us, this can be a challenge. Some of our programs are for two academic years, and as students on a budget we want to keep our spending to a minimum. When deciding what stays and what goes, we must not forget to carry the things that keep us connected to our hobbies and passions. A chess set becomes an icebreaker on a night at your dorm, a pair of rollerskates turns into the best way around campus, and a set of swimming gear becomes your first try at building community in a new city.

As someone who struggles with anxiety, I found swimming to be a great ally for my mental health. Upon arriving in Boston, I was very intentional about finding a place to swim, and quickly I found the Brookline Public Swimming Pool a mere few blocks away from home. There I encountered a vibrant community center filled with friendly neighbors and a wide array of activities. The pool is on the site of the first municipal indoor swimming pool in the U.S., built in 1896. The pool kept the original sign which reads “Brookline Public Baths, The Health of the People, The Beginning of Happiness.” During stressful times, I have tested that maxim by reaching into my life kit, bringing out my beloved fins, and taking them out for a few laps.


Photograph of the Brookline Public Baths plaque in Brookline, Massachusetts, USA:
Photo Credit: Sheila Encarnación Castillo 

Questions to consider when thinking about your skills:

  • What are the skills and traits that I bring to my Fulbright?
  • Where and how did I develop them? 
  • What values & beliefs shape my approach toward my overcoming challenges? 
  • How can I continue to recognize and reaffirm my capabilities?

Celebrate your triumphs & milestones

Mathew: As a last piece, we want to remind you all to celebrate your triumphs and milestones along the way. During your Fulbright, you may face self-doubt and feel insecure about your sense of belonging in the world. In those moments, reflect upon your successes. As you reflect, consider how you can celebrate and keep learning from them.

Questions to consider when reflecting on our triumphs and milestones:

  • What successes have I had during my Fulbright? 
  • What are ways I can honor my successes?
  • How will I celebrate each milestone of my Fulbright experience?
  • What have I learned about myself from those moments?

We appreciate you taking the time to take this journey with us as we reflect on our life kits and what they mean for each of us. We hope that any Fulbrighter reading this post realizes the richness they bring to the Program and the opportunities that lie ahead. 

Thank you so much for reading this blog post. Remember that if you are a current Fulbrighter either studying in the United States or elsewhere in the world, there are resources to support you: Fulbright Assist, the support of your respective Fulbright commission or U.S. embassy, and the alumni-led Fulbright affinity groups.