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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.


Fulbright Impact in the Field: Climate Change and Environmental Justice – Experts Discuss Environmental Justice in the Face of Climate Change

May 3, 2021

“It is exciting to see this group tackle the climate crisis from a number of different angles. This discussion is especially relevant as we come off the end of the Global Climate Summit and as governments and other actors set new targets and lay out the groundwork for what the next 10 years of action will look like.”

– Tim McDonnell, 2016 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow to Kenya, Quartz magazine climate and energy journalist

The Fulbright Impact in the Field: Climate Change and Environmental Justice panel convened scientists, researchers, and other professionals involved in combating climate change. They discussed the latest scientific and policy developments, and looked at how new approaches and international collaborations can be used to combat climate change and pursue environmental justice. These experts also shared their Fulbright experiences and the benefits of their new ideas at institutions and in communities.

Meet the Speakers


Tim McDonnell (2016 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow to Kenya) is a climate and energy journalist at the global business magazine Quartz, covering the clean energy transition.


Amber Ajani (2014 Fulbright Foreign Student from Pakistan to American University) is a Climate Fellow at the UN Climate Change secretariat and a recipient of the UNFCCC-UNU Early Career Climate Fellowship.
Shalanda Baker, JD (2016 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Mexico) is the Deputy Director for Energy Justice in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and co-founder of Initiative for Energy Justice.
Dr. M Jackson (2011 Fulbright U.S. Student to Turkey, 2015 Fulbright U.S. Student to Iceland, 2018 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Iceland) is a geographer, glaciologist, TED Fellow, Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, and National Geographic Society Explorer.
Dr. Greg Poelzer (2015 Fulbright Arctic Initiative Scholar, 2021 Fulbright Arctic Initiative Co-Lead Scholar) is a Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) and leads the Renewable Energy in Remote and Indigenous Communities Flagship Initiative at the University of Saskatchewan. He is also co-director of a multi-million-dollar Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant.

Key Takeaways

1. We need to ensure that equity is central to our clean energy transition.

How can we ensure our infrastructure investment both reduces climate pollution and benefits marginalized communities?

This is a moment to think about how to “bake” equity into a new energy system, according to Deputy Director for Energy Justice Shalanda Baker. Her position underscores a commitment to address structural issues of energy use and environmental impact. The new Justice40 Initiative, which promises that 40% of relevant federal investment will benefit disadvantaged communities, ensures that every federal infrastructure investment accelerates clean energy and transmission projects in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Dr. Greg Poelzer, a Canadian expert on renewable energy in remote and Indigenous communities, and Co-Lead Scholar of the third Fulbright Arctic Initiative, urges us to focus on the opportunity that the energy transition provides for vulnerable Indigenous communities. He advocates for using strategic environmental assessments in systemic ecosystem review, and bringing in diverse voices for better long-term stability.

2. We need to make climate science communication more effective.

How can we communicate the core meaning of amazing scientific research, so that diverse communities can access it?

Glaciologist and explorer M Jackson uses mediums like film and art, rather than scientific journal articles, to visualize the impact of change. For example, her short film After Ice reveals the breathtaking story of a rapidly disappearing frozen world by overlaying archival imagery from the National Land Survey of Iceland with contemporary footage of glaciers in the South Coast of Iceland. This provides a dramatic look at how the ice has changed over the past 50 years.

3. We need to empower sustainable development decision-makers at the local level.

How do we ensure that policy implementation addresses capacity building and community issues?

Amber Ajani, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Pakistan to American University who now works at UN Climate Change, noted that it is important to include local stakeholders in strategic impact analysis and assessments. The panelists discussed that community “buy-in,” local stakeholder consultation, and the presence local communities in the “drivers’ seat” must come at the early stages of project development, rather than having ideas from the Global North applied to developing communities. For example, ideas that come out of Brussels, Ottawa, or Washington, D.C. to create eco-preserves could have negative impacts on the livelihoods of local Arctic communities. Shalanda Baker reminds us that today’s climate debate is not ahistorical: our current situation resulted from hundreds of years of the Global North exploiting natural resources for economic development at the expense of communities in the Global South. To create equitable climate policy, we need to understand and address this history.

To watch the panelists dive into these relevant discussions, click here.

The Fulbright Impact in the Field panel series is part of the Fulbright Program’s effort to help find solutions to challenges facing our communities and our world. Free and open to the public, this series provides a digital space for Fulbright alumni to share their expert perspectives and explore the program’s impact on local and global communities.

To learn about upcoming Fulbright 75th anniversary events, and see how you can get involved, sign up for the newsletter and visit


Fulbright for Posterity: The Ripple Effects of Fulbright on Rural America

February 13, 2019
By Niecea Freeman, Fulbright ETA to Czech Republic 2018-2019

“How about: It’s quality, not quantity?” my dad proposed, wearing a grin. We were brainstorming city slogans for Loyalton, California, my hometown of 800 people nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains—now named “the Loneliest Town in America.”  We all laughed. On the surface, country living seems like paradise, but in reality a myriad of issues affect rural communities across the nation. Employment opportunities are sparse, lower income leads to higher instances of poverty, and—consequently—there is a clear demand and absolute need for higher quality education.

Megan Meschery and her family in Spain, 2008 Fulbright program.

When the town’s sawmill closed in 2001, followed by a mass population exodus, Loyalton’s tax revenues declined rapidly and ancillary school programming disappeared with them. First, we lost music and art specials. Later, our middle school was condemned, and students were moved from portable buildings into the high school, losing their separate facilities entirely. In truth, it has only been through the extraordinary efforts of dedicated teachers and community members that our school district has been kept afloat: teachers like my high school Spanish instructor, Megan Meschery, who are determined to redefine our local community without much funding from state or federal agencies.

In 2008, Megan left for a Fulbright grant in Granada, Spain, where she examined how rural economic development funding provided by the European Union reduced inequalities in public schools regardless of geographic location. She sought to find parallels and lessons applicable to rural education in America and to develop ways to promote cultural awareness and growth in Loyalton. While Megan’s experiences rather highlighted the differences between U.S. and EU development models, Megan also returned from her two-year Fulbright burgeoning with ideas tailored to Loyalton’s situation, and immediately found ways to introduce positive change, starting with school electives.

The Sierra Schools Foundation sponsors hands-on learning opportunities like harvesting chamomile tea flowers in the Loyalton Learning Garden.

My favorite memories from high school are from the culture club she initiated, through which I saw my first Broadway play, Wicked, and visited my first classical art exhibit, featuring masterpieces from Rembrandt and Raphael. These experiences opened my eyes to the world beyond our tiny valley, and change did not stop there.

The following year, Megan founded a non-profit organization called The Sierra Schools Foundation (SSF – to combat inequality in the school district by providing grants for resources and programs such as the STEM Learning Garden, Local-Artists-in-the-School, Advancing to College SAT prep, and others. I volunteered with SSF throughout college, running fundraisers, where I witnessed firsthand how, with dedication and perseverance, local organizations genuinely have power to initiate positive change.

Niecea (right) and her mentor, Martina (left) in Lanškroun’s city square, Czech Republic, 2018 Fulbright program.

These formative experiences propelled me to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in the Czech Republic for the 2018-2019 academic year, where I will be living in a rural community not unlike Loyalton, teaching English to secondary students enrolled in veterinary and agricultural programs. As an undergrad, I pursued a B.S. in Integrated Elementary Education with an emphasis in English as a Second Language with the primary goal of becoming an elementary school teacher in a high-needs, rural community in the United States. Now, I  am ready to go forward and learn from the students and families of my host country to explore new perspectives and pedagogies that will reshape the way I view myself and my role as an educator. The quantity of programs in Loyalton’s schools has stagnated, but the quality of our education can continue to blossom

Niecea with the calves at the Lanškroun Veterinary & Agriculture School dairy