Don’t play the game. The odds are not in your favor. I say this because I began and completed my application for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship during the last three weeks of the 2013 application cycle. I applied to teach in the Dominican Republic. I wasn’t trying to start the process so late. I started graduate school in August of that year and learned about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program as I was looking for scholarships on the Internet. I spent the first month of graduate school looking for a Fulbright Program Adviser on my campus and it turned out there wasn’t one. By this time, it was already September and the application was due by the second week of October.
As I worked on my Statement of Grant Purpose and Personal Statement, I scoured the Internet for information about previous Fulbrighters, their experiences, their essays, their credentials, et cetera. That’s when I began to play the game: The comparison game. I began to lose some of confidence in my ability to prove to Fulbright application reviewers that I was worthy of a grant. These Fulbrighters had pages of credentials. They seemed to be on their way to winning a Nobel Prize. Here I was a first semester graduate student with a resume that contained mostly volunteer work from my undergrad and no leadership position in any organization. I didn’t graduate Summa Cum Laude. I was not saving the lives of orphans in Africa or building wells in India. I was sitting in St. Petersburg, Florida, trying not to get lost, make wrong turns on to the numerous one-way streets and get myself killed in an accident.
I began to think, “Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe I shouldn’t apply.” If you don’t apply for a Fulbright, the odds are not in your favor. There are no odds. People that don’t apply for Fulbright grants don’t get Fulbright grants. So, I say to you: Don’t play the game. Don’t play the comparison game. Never mind that you are the first person at your university to ever apply for a Fulbright. Never mind that you are applying At-Large instead of with the assistance of a Fulbright Program Adviser from your current institution or alma mater (although if you can work with one, do). Never mind that English is not your native language and you are applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. Never mind that the country you are applying to has only accepted two grantees every year for the last few years. Go for it! You are worthy of a Fulbright grant and much more. Your experiences, your values, and your abilities are yours and yours alone.
Go for it! You’d be surprised to discover the number of people that believe in you. Do all that’s in your power to stack the odds in your favor. Start the application early. Ask for help from everyone you know. Take criticism well. Work hard and don’t compare yourself to anyone. There’s only one you. May the odds ever be in your favor!
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
– Dr. Seuss
Have questions for Mary about her Fulbright experiences in the Dominican Republic and as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador? You can reach her at MOgunrinde.firstname.lastname@example.org.