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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!

FLTA Foreign Fulbright

Are You a Non-U.S. Student Looking for More Information on How to Apply for a Fulbright Grant? Start Here.

June 29, 2015

How It Works: Fulbright from Fulbright Program on Vimeo.

Interested in applying for a Fulbright Student grant to the United States and don’t know where to start? Here are some useful tips:

  • Non-U.S. Citizens who hold at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent can apply to the Fulbright Foreign Student Program or to the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program (FLTA).
  • The Fulbright Foreign Student Program offers opportunities for foreign graduate students, young professionals and artists from abroad to study, conduct research, and/or teach their native language in the United States.
  • Students in all fields of study are welcome to apply.
  • As a Non-U.S. Citizen, you will need to apply through the country in which you hold citizenship; either through a Fulbright Commission, or, the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in your country.
  • To find out if your home country has a Fulbright Commission or if the Fulbright Program is administered through a U.S. Embassy, please visit:
  • Once you’ve determined how the Fulbright Program is administered in your home country, please contact the Fulbright Commission or U.S Embassy to find out what the eligibility requirements are, what programs are offered, and when the application deadlines fall.

Still have questions? Feel free to send your questions to Good luck!



Developing a Project

April 6, 2009

Language Requirements

Many countries do not require a high level of fluency in the host country language because projects to these countries can typically be completed in English. Nevertheless, developing a hospitality or basic level of proficiency (which most applicants can obtain between applying and starting a grant) is highly recommended in order to successfully complete your program and to survive comfortably while abroad. Also, we strongly advise reading the country summaries (available online at and in the program brochure) to identify the host country language requirement, so that you can begin to prepare as early as possible. Keep in mind that for certain languages there is the possibility of language training or study grant. Click here for more information on the Critical Language Enhancement Awards, and click the country summaries for language training opportunities.


Take a look at the videos on the website. The videos feature Fulbright Commission Directors and Fulbright alumni offering advice to future applicants. They are a good preliminary resource when you’re thinking of applying. The videos are located throughout the ‘THINKING OF APPLYING’ section and the ‘HOW TO APPLY’ pages.

Fulbright U.S. Student Alumni Database

Our online directory of alumni is searchable by the following criteria: first name, last name, U.S. institution through which a former grantee applied, home state, field of study, country visited and/or grant year. This is a valuable resource for learning what types of projects have been funded in your chosen country since 1993.

Where to Get Help

There are numerous resources that you can use in preparing a Fulbright application. If you are currently enrolled at a U.S. institution, consult with your on-campus Fulbright Program Adviser. If you are applying at-large, or if you are enrolled and want specific information, we encourage you to contact the appropriate regional Program Managers at IIE ( Before calling, we suggest that you fully review the information about the prospective country. We also encourage you to attend an IIE Guidance Session for students or participate in one of the webinars focused on a world region and featuring returned grantees and program staff. One webinar will be conducted specifically for those applying in the arts. Lastly, do you have a friend, colleague or professor who received a Fulbright grant? One of the best resources to use when thinking of applying are Fulbright alumni who can provide useful information about their experiences. Remember, however, that if past grantees did not conduct their program in the same country to which you will apply, their advice may not necessarily be as useful to your potential application.

Choosing a Host Country

Country/regional competitiveness may play a role in determining the country to which you finally decide to apply, but a good rule of thumb is to choose the country that best suits the nature of your project and provides the necessary resources for successful project completion. The Fulbright selection committees look for well-prepared applicants who have compelling reasons for applying to a specific country and a feasible project for the grant timeframe for that particular country.


U.S. Fulbright

Tips for Getting Started, By IIE Staff

March 30, 2009

Developing a strong, feasible and compelling project proposal is the most important aspect of a successful Fulbright application. Your first step should be to familiarize yourself with the program summary for the country to which you wish to apply. Program design varies somewhat from country to country (i.e., some countries encourage applicants to incorporate coursework into a project, while others prefer independent research). Click here to view the participating country summaries. Please ensure that your project design fits the program guidelines for your host country.

It is essential that applicants have adequate formal training for the study or research that they wish to pursue and that their language skills be commensurate with the requirements of their proposed project.

  • Graduating seniors generally will be expected to attend regular university lectures as part of their projects. They should describe the study programs they wish to follow in very specific detail. They should not expect close academic supervision and should be prepared to supplement lectures with an independent research project.
  • Graduate students, as well as advanced degree candidates proposing research for theses and dissertations, will be expected to work independently without close supervision.
  • Ph.D. candidates should indicate when they expect to complete preliminary or comprehensive examinations and whether their project statements have been accepted as dissertation proposals.
  • Creative and Performing Arts candidates should submit projects indicating their reasons for selecting a particular country, the form their work will take and the results they hope to obtain. For more information on preparing applications in these areas and any required supplementary materials, please click here.
Is the Project Feasible?

You must demonstrate that your project and your research strategy are feasible, including its time frame. In mapping out your project, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will the culture and politics of the host country impact my work?
  • How do the resources of the host country support my project? Will I have access to the documents/equipment necessary for successful completion of the project?
  • If employing such methodological techniques such as extensive interviewing and the use of questionnaires how will I get/locate subjects? Have I received approval for the questionnaire from the project supervisor?
  • Do I have all of the necessary permissions from local authorities?
  • Is my language ability adequate? If not, how will I accomplish my work? (Eligible applicants should also consider a Critical Language Enhancement Award for additional language training opportunities.)

In other words, if there could be any question regarding the feasibility of your project or your ability to conduct the project, address the issue directly. Enrolled students are urged to consult professors in their major fields and their Fulbright Program Advisers about the feasibility of their proposed projects; at-large applicants should consult qualified persons in their fields.

Master’s Degree Programs

Candidates considering earning a master’s degree must make sure that the country to which they are applying will accept their project. Some countries do not recommend that applicants apply to undertake a degree program for a number of reasons including the impossibility of completing a master’s degree in one academic year or the other Fulbright grant would not cover tuition fees charged. Applicants should review the country summaries to determine whether there are any restrictions in applying to complete a degree program. If you apply for a degree program in a country that does not offer tuition as part of the Fulbright funding package, then these costs must be covered from an alternative source.

If your plan is to complete a master’s or other structured degree program, make sure that you apply for admission to the host university by their deadline. Do not wait for the Fulbright decision to come through; it may be too late to gain admission to your preferred university.

A Brief Note on Host Affiliation

More information on establishing a host affiliation will be available in an upcoming newsletter. Please keep an eye out for this issue. If you are applying for admission to a university, it is not necessary to submit the letter of admission with the application (although this is desirable). You may submit the acceptance letter whenever you receive it, but an award offer would be contingent upon your placement at a university. If you are not planning to matriculate at a university, then a support/affiliation letter must be included with your application. Any support documentation you can obtain from a potential host will help to make your application more competitive and will also demonstrate the feasibility of your proposal.

English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Applications

If you are applying as an ETA, you are not expected to present extensive research plans. Rather, you should describe the following to reviewers:

1. Why would you like to undertake a teaching assistant assignment?

2. What are your qualifications and what experiences do you have which relate to the overseas assignment?

3. How do you expect to benefit from the assignment and how will you use your experience upon returning to the U.S.?

4. What will you do outside the classroom (most ETAs work no more than 20 hours per week. See developing the statement of purpose for ETA grants on the website)?

All host country affiliations for ETAs will be arranged by the Fulbright supervising agency in the host country. ETA applicants should not attempt to arrange their own affiliations.

Writing the Study/Research Project Proposal

The best project proposals begin with good ideas. Start by putting your ideas on paper and listing your goals and objectives. Share your ideas with your Fulbright Program Adviser, your academic adviser and professional colleagues in your field. As you work on your project, consider the following questions, while remembering your audience. Avoid discipline-specific jargon. The individuals reading your proposal prefer that you be direct about the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of the project. In a persuasive manner, address the following:

1. With whom do you propose to work?

2. What do you propose to do? What is exciting, new or unique about your project? What contribution will the project make to the Fulbright Program’s goal of promoting cross-cultural interaction and mutual understanding?

3. When will you carry out your study or research? Include a timeline.

4. Where do you propose to conduct your study or research? Why is it important to go abroad to this specific country to carry out your project?

5. Why do you want to do this project? What is important or significant about it?

6. How will you carry out your work? All students should discuss methodology and goals in their statements.

7. How will this project help further your academic or professional development?

8. What will be the outcome of your study/research? (See Developing The Statement of Proposed Study or Research on the website)

A Bibliography

Since the Project Statement component of the Fulbright application cannot exceed two single-spaced pages, a formal bibliography is not necessary. However, if background data is provided, it is appropriate to briefly cite sources within the two pages.

Project Category for Applications in the Arts

Almost all creative/performing arts projects involve some kind of study or research as well as practical training. Therefore, you need to decide what the primary focus of your project is: academic research or a practical training in the arts. Keep in mind that creative/performing artists must also submit supplementary materials in addition to the written application. If you do not feel that your work to date in the arts is your best, it may be more appropriate to apply using an academic field of study, such as art history, theater studies, etc., in order to have your application reviewed appropriately.

Multi-Country Projects

A multi-country project is a project that must be carried out in more than one country. All countries must be within the same geographic world area. Applicants submitting multi-country proposals must have very good justification for putting forward such a project. Keep in mind that you are doubling or tripling the work involved in securing host institution affiliations, not to mention obtaining visas, finding housing, etc. Also, multi-country proposals recommended by screening committees must be approved by each of the relevant host countries before they can be granted. If one country rejects your project, then your project may not be feasible. Generally, you will be given the option of revising your proposal for the remaining countries which have approved your original project. Currently, multi-country proposals may only be submitted in the Western Hemisphere and in certain countries in Eastern Europe/Eurasia.

A Final Word…

Organize your statement carefully. Don’t make reviewers search for information. We urge you to develop a lead paragraph with all of the salient details – the who, what, when, where, why and how – and have several people read and critique your statement including a faculty adviser, a faculty member outside your discipline, a fellow student and/or a colleague. It would be ideal to have a host country academic or artist review your proposal for refinement and host country issues of sensitivity, security and feasibility.