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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

Making It Work the Second Time: My Path to Fulbright

December 12, 2017

James Kale, II, 2017-2018, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Brazil

Standing in the middle of the blacktop, watching my students play—the air brisk, the skies gray and the sun fighting to reveal itself—my pocket is furiously buzzing. I quickly grab my phone and remove it from my pocket in a panic, thinking it might be a parent calling or some emergency.

While unlocking my phone, I see that there are two emails and a text message exclaiming, “Congratulations!” from two of my Fulbright recommenders and the Boston College Graduate School Fulbright Program Adviser. In wide-eyed amazement, I quickly scroll through my email, looking for a message from the Fulbright Program. To my surprise, I received a gift, a surprise on my birthday. For the very first time, one of my dreams had come to life.

I am James Kale, II, and I will soon be embarking on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Brazil!

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U.S. Fulbright

Of Mice and Dreams: My Path to Fulbright

October 26, 2017

Steven A. Vickers, Jr., 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Latvia, giving a lecture on American culture at Daugavpils University, Latvia.

One of my favorite animated films tells the tale of a mouse with a dream to become a chef. Everyone thinks him crazy, but he strives towards his goal and proves to himself and those around him that anyone can, indeed, cook. My journey to becoming a 2015-2016 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) to Latvia played out much the same. I am not what many would consider the “typical” Fulbright recipient. Many, including some professors, thought me crazy to even apply for the prestigious award. Well, I sure did prove them wrong.

You see, I did not graduate high school and immediately enter a university as is expected of my generation. My family could not afford the living expenses my scholarships failed to cover, and I could not shake my intense desire to serve my country. So, my path took me to Parris Island, South Carolina and the United States Marine Corps; that path came to an abrupt conclusion when I found myself medically unfit to continue serving. At that point, I did as my father before me and entered the police force. I enjoyed being a police officer, but I always regretted not getting a degree. The demanding schedule of a police officer made attending school incredibly difficult. I decided to end my police career, worked a few random jobs, and enrolled in Faulkner State Community College at the age of twenty-seven. When I completed enough credits, I transferred to Auburn University.

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U.S. Fulbright

Tips for Fellowship Applicants

October 2, 2017

Fulbright U.S. Student Program applications are due this Friday, October 6 (no later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time)!

Need some last minute application tips and inspiration to help you hit the ‘submit’ button? Read 2015 Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow and 2017 Fulbright Alumni Ambassador Ryan Bell’s article from 2015 below.

Good luck to all of this year’s applicants!

This time last September, I sat in my home office back in Missoula, Montana, having a tiny panic attack. The deadline for the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship was three weeks away. My cluttered desk summed up the state of my application: teetering stacks of books, a fringe of Post-it Notes around my computer screen, and the trash can filled with rewrites.

I thought: Why put myself through the trouble? The odds were long that I’d get the grant, anyway.

Outside, the sun shone on changing leaves. Autumn is my favorite time to fish and I knew of a river where the trout were biting. My fly rod was in the closet, ready to go.

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