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U.S. Fulbright

Back to School: What You Should Know About Securing a Letter of Affiliation

July 12, 2021

By Fulbright Program Staff

Congratulations on deciding to further your education abroad by undertaking an independent research project or graduate degree through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program! You’ve confirmed your eligibility, determined your host country, and selected an award. Now what?

In this post, we will explain how to successfully navigate an important portion of the application process: securing a letter of affiliation from your prospective host institution. As the primary location for your Fulbright experience, successfully engaging a host institution and adviser is critical to your application’s success. Read on to learn how to secure your letter of affiliation:

 

Study/Research Award

The Study/Research Award allows young professionals to design an independent research project, working with advisers at foreign universities and institutions in approximately 140 countries. In general, this award requires a letter of affiliation with the prospective institution.

What is a Letter of Affiliation?

A letter of affiliation outlines a host institution’s support of your proposed Fulbright project. A letter should come from an individual or team at an institution with whom you will be working closely during your Fulbright.

  • Examples of affiliations include universities, laboratories, libraries, archives, non-governmental organizations, etc.

Letters should be appropriate for your proposed project, and the letter writer should demonstrate a clear understanding of your work, outlining how the host institution will support the applicant and project.

Letter of Affiliation Requirements

All affiliation letters are:

  • Dependent on country and award: Check the host country and award pages for the most up-to-date criteria.
  • Printed on institutional letterhead: Make sure it has a signature from the appropriate contact!
  • Not confidential: Applicants receive the letter and upload it into the online application prior to the national deadline.

An applicant may include up to three letters of affiliation if the letters are appropriate and necessary to their project. Adding unfocused letters may confuse application reviewers and distract from your application. For a comprehensive look at affiliation requirements, view the Application Components page and recorded Affiliation webinar.

 

Graduate Degree Grants

The Study/Research Award also includes the “Fulbright Graduate Degree Grants” subtype, which funds study at an affiliated foreign institution or degree program.

What is a letter of affiliation for graduate degree grants?

For applicants pursuing a graduate degree:

  • Your letter of affiliation is the official acceptance letter proving admission into the graduate degree program. This not typically required at the time of the application. All candidates should review their award page for more information.
  • Even if the Fulbright award does not require an official letter of acceptance by the Fulbright application deadline, all candidates are encouraged to reach out to their proposed adviser or department chair to inquire about receiving a letter of support prior to admission decisions, which may be uploaded into the application.

Chiamaka Ukachukwu, 2017 Fulbright U.S. Student to Belgium, celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science with her fellow lab mates in the Jean-François Collet Lab, Institut de Duve.

Tips and Best Practices

A few final pointers for a smooth affiliation process:

  1. Start early! This simple-but-crucial step will give you time to brainstorm, draft, revise, solicit feedback, contact potential host advisers, and everything else that goes into a compelling Fulbright application.
    • “Start your search as early as possible, it will be really helpful. I emailed 15-20 professors at different universities in order to find my affiliation!” Isra Hussain, 2018 Fulbright U.S. Student to Austria and 2020 Fulbright Alumni Ambassador
  2. Review the academic literature. Looking into topics and authors within your academic discipline is a great way to acquire more knowledge, better understand your Fulbright project, and determine which professionals may be a resource to you.
    • “I spent a lot of time researching the background of these professors that had responded and reviewing their own research” – Isra Hussain, 2018 Fulbright U.S. Student to Austria and 2020 Fulbright Alumni Ambassador
  3. Utilize personal and professional networks. While the idea of creating an independent research project or graduate school application is daunting, your networks are here to help. On campus, reach out to faculty members, a reference librarian, and your Fulbright Program Adviser; off campus, get in touch with your professional and personal connections, Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors, former Fulbright U.S. Students and U.S. Scholars, and the Fulbright Association.
    • “Tapping into your network is really important. Faculty network and faculty relations are a great place to tap into.” – Kurt Davies, Fulbright Program Adviser and Director of Global Awards at New York University
  4. Be flexible. Your patience and flexibility throughout the application process will help both you and your potential affiliate perform your best. Be sure to:
    • Meet your host institution where they are, and adjust the scope of your project based on the resources available. Be prepared to share a basic overview of your proposed research/study project when contacting potential affiliates.
    • Conduct yourself professionally and use a clear, positive tone.
    • Explain the Fulbright Program, including Fulbright’s funding and grant benefits, which prevent financial obligation from the institution.
      • “Open the conversation with a sense of what can I give to your organization, how can I contribute to your ongoing research.” – Kurt Davies, Fulbright Program Adviser and Director of Global Awards at New York University
  5. Cast a wide net. Finding a host affiliation takes time, so pursue multiple leads and ideas until you find the right institution and adviser.

We hope this article provides clarity into letters of affiliation, and helps you create the best application you can. Start early, do your research, and don’t give up. You can do it!

2019 Fulbright Austria participants at the TU Ball at the Hofburg Imperial Palace.

U.S. Fulbright

Making the Grade: Five Things Every Applicant Should Know About the Fulbright U.S. Student Program Review Process

October 15, 2020

By Fulbright Program Staff

Congratulations on submitting your Fulbright application! Now what? Have you ever wondered what happens to your Fulbright application after you hit “submit”? In this post, we’ll shed light on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program’s technical review and National Screening Committee (NSC) processes, illustrating how an applicant becomes a Fulbrighter.

 

1.  First things first… Technical Review

After you hit “submit,” Fulbright Program staff first conducts a technical review of your application materials. Therefore, it pays to thoroughly review country descriptions and eligibility criteria at the beginning of your application journey to ensure that you meet all requirements. Check out our handy application checklist to make sure you don’t forget to include any application materials, too.

During our technical review, we double-check your biographical data, citizenship, transcripts, letters of recommendation, project plans, and more for eligibility and completeness. Make sure that ALL required materials are successfully uploaded and viewable in your online application portal—you won’t be able to add missing documents later! (Hint: Be sure to view and save a PDF copy of your application before submitting—you’ll have both a copy of your application for your records and be able to confirm that all documents are successfully submitted and readable!)

After confirming an application is eligible and complete, it is moved to the National Screening Committee (NSC) for review.

 

2. The NSC: The Reviewers (and What They Are Looking For)

During “NSC Season,” almost 200 committees meet to review and discuss all successfully submitted applications. Each application is sent to a committee of three reviewers a.k.a. NSC members, for a transparent, merit-based review process.

Who exactly are these reviewers? The individuals that review your application are typically university professors with expertise in either a) your academic/professional field, or b) the country or world region where you propose undertaking your Fulbright. Many are Fulbright alumni, while others have been recommended by Fulbright Program Advisers or other NSC members. Reviewers reflect the diversity of the U.S. higher education community and include panelists from minority-serving institutions (MSIs), Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), and other underrepresented institutions.

Each committee reviews approximately 60-70 applications in advance of a meeting, scoring each submission based on specific review criteria. While all programs and applicants are unique, NSC reviewers look for well-researched, feasible research and community engagement projects, adequate academic and personal preparation for the proposed country or award, and personal attributes and qualities that illustrate a positive and passionate cultural ambassador of the United States to the world. Be authentically you!

 

 

 

 

3. NSC Review Day

Throughout November and December, NSC reviewers gather for review meetings. Committees consist of three reviewers and one staff facilitator who directs the flow of the meeting, answers reviewers’ questions about the Fulbright Program, and records results. At these meetings, reviewers discuss each application using a collaborative approach and are welcome to adjust their scores based on their conversation. At the end of the meeting, final scores are tabulated by the staff facilitator, determining which candidates the committee recommends for further consideration during the host country review process.

 

4. Time & Consideration: The Breakdown

As you may have gathered, the NSC process is a massive undertaking! In 2019, 525 NSC members reviewed approximately 10,400 applications at 175 committee meetings in 6 different cities. From start to finish, more than 11,000 hours are spent screening, reviewing, and scoring each application. And that’s before the in-country review process!

 

 

5. The Decision

Based upon the NSC process, applications are designated as “Recommended” or “Non-Recommended.” All applicants are notified of their application’s status, and recommended applicants become “Semi-Finalists!” Recommended applications are forwarded to their respective Fulbright host countries for an additional round of selection, taking into account Fulbright Commission and U.S. Embassy priorities. During this period, Semi-Finalists undertaking research or graduate degree programs may be asked to submit letters of acceptance or affiliation from their proposed institution, so it’s important to receive all necessary documents as soon as possible. In some cases, host countries may also choose to contact Semi-Finalists for short phone or video chat interviews, in order to get a better sense of the person behind the application.

After months of concentrated effort by both applicants and Fulbright Program staff, host countries will share final application notifications on a rolling basis between February and May. Successful applicants are sent an award offer, and are officially known as “Finalists.” Qualified applicants not selected as Finalists may become “Alternates,” or potential awardees that may receive an award offer, should additional funding become available. Non-selected applicants are encouraged to celebrate their Semi-Finalist status, and reapply for the next award cycle. Even those who are not selected should feel extremely proud of their efforts, and know that many parts of the application can be applied to future endeavors beyond Fulbright, such as applying to graduate school.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program application process is undoubtedly long. We hope this article provides some clarity into the process, and helps you create the best application you can. In writing, editing, and discussing your candidacy with friends, mentors, Fulbright Program Advisers, and other individuals, you may gain greater insight into your passions, your reasons for pursuing a Fulbright, other transferable skills you possess, and insight into our world. Our best wishes for a successful application and bright future!

U.S. Fulbright

Interview with Fulbright U.S. Student Alumna (2014-2015, China) and 2016 Rolex Awards Young Laureate Christine Keung

November 8, 2017

Christine Keung, 2014-2015, China

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It was New Year’s Eve, and my Central Asian dorm mates all chipped in to buy a whole sheep. It’s a common Central Asian tradition to sacrifice a sheep to celebrate a big event, and given the fact that many of my international dorm’s residents were Muslim, the sheep had to be prepared to Halal standards…”

Such was how 2014-2015 Fulbright U.S. Student to China, Christine Keung, celebrated holidays in Shaanxi province during her award in Environmental Studies, where she worked closely with local university students to improve the region’s urban and rural waste practices.

Since completing her Fulbright award, Christine Keung has been named a 2016 Young Laureate by the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, a 2017 Time Magazine Next Generation Leader, and gained admission to the MBA program at Harvard University.

We recently interviewed Christine to learn more about how her Fulbright experiences have had an impact on her career trajectory, what advice she has for prospective Fulbright applicants, and how she has maintained strong ties with the friends and professional contacts she established while in China.

How did you originally hear about the Fulbright Program and what/who inspired you to apply?

I first learned about the Fulbright Program during my freshman year at Wellesley College. I had a Teaching Assistant who had been a Fulbrighter in Spain who encouraged me to apply before I graduated. As a first-year student who had not yet selected her major, who had never worked as a research assistant, and who had never studied abroad, I really couldn’t imagine myself as a Fulbright Student. It wasn’t until my junior year that I seriously considered applying for opportunities to live and work abroad after graduation. I had spent the summer after my sophomore year on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that allowed me to conduct independent research on China’s Loess Plateau. That trip allowed me to visit Western China for the first time and to form many of the relationships that helped make my Fulbright project a reality.

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U.S. Fulbright

Memories of Magnitude: Reflections on My Fulbright Experience in India

September 20, 2017

Benjamin Simington, 2015-2016, India (left), with several sadhus from different Kabir Panthi monasteries. They visited the famous Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain together during the Kumbha Mela pilgrimage.

Memory came to be a major theme of my research, along with my personal experiences with the Fulbright Program in India. My initial research project was titled Mahant with a Message: A Study of Sant Vivek Das Acharya. I wanted to focus on the life, religious activity, and socio-political vision of Sant Vivek Das Acharya, the head of the Kabir Chaura monastery of the Kabir Panth. The Kabir Panth is a monotheistic religious community in India rooted in the teachings of the medieval Indian poet-saint Kabir. The community has an emphasis on ideas of tolerance, personal spiritual practice, and the equality of all human beings.

As I continued with my research, the importance of ideas of memory became more and more salient. I eventually shifted my focus to look at how Kabir is remembered in the Kabir Panth through ritual, the space of the monastery, and through the poetry of Kabir in everyday conversation. The way that Kabir’s poetry functioned as a form of remembrance had great personal significance for me. Studying this facet of memory allowed me to experience the poetry of Kabir in a way that was not simply abstract. I was able to internalize it. Memory remains a vital part of the religious experience of the members of the community.

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U.S. Fulbright

Pro Tips for Acing the Fulbright Campus Interview

August 31, 2017

Clockwise from left: Shayak Sengupta, 2015-2016, India, Emily Yedinak, 2013-2014, Chile, Yuriy Veytskin, 2013-2014, Australia, and Gwyneth Talley, 2015-2015, Morocco

On-Campus interview season is coming up! This can be a nerve-wracking time for those of you applying to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program through your college or university. Try not to worry, though – the interview is a way to add a “face” to your Fulbright application and get helpful feedback.

You’ll hit submit on the Embark Online Application before your campus deadline, your on-campus Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) will schedule an on-campus interview, and you will then have the chance to explain and defend your project. This interview is an additional element to your application when your campus committee rates and recommends you. After the interview, your FPA will re-open your application, allowing you to adjust it before the final national deadline. As Fulbright U.S. Student Alumni Ambassadors, we’ve been through this process before and have created a Q & A about campus interviews to help you prepare.

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