U.S. Fulbright

Why I Thought I Wasn’t the “Ideal” Fulbright Candidate

August 5, 2014
Lauren Gaydosh

Lauren Gaydosh, 2012-2013, Tanzania, leading a film discussion in celebration of Women’s History Month at the Embassy of the United States in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

When considering applying to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, I was skeptical of my chances. After all, I did not fit what I thought was the typical Fulbright profile. I was, however, awarded a Study/Research grant to Tanzania for 2012-2013. Through my Fulbright tenure and involvement as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, I have come to appreciate that there is no prescribed profile that Fulbrighters must fit. Here are five reasons why I was sure Fulbright wasn’t for me, and why I was wrong!

1. I’ve had too much experience abroad.

Before researching the Fulbright, I thought it was a program aimed at providing international experiences to Americans with no previous experience abroad. Prior to my Fulbright tenure, I traveled across Europe and Africa and lived for two-and-a-half years abroad. Successful Fulbright candidates can have a wide range of international experience, from never having left the United States, to having lived and worked extensively abroad.

2. I’ve been to my host country before.

I lived in Tanzania – my host country – for 9 months before my Fulbright. I used my experience to make connections with researchers at the Ifakara Health Institute who would eventually become my Fulbright affiliates. I developed plans for a research exchange program that would bring American researchers to Tanzania to work with local scientists and collaborate on research projects. For applicants who have not traveled outside the United States, there are great resources available from Fulbright online, including a directory of previous Fulbrighters. Feel free to reach out to them, as well as the Alumni Ambassadors, to ask questions about your country of application, prospective host institutions and possible affiliations.

3. I’m a Ph.D. student.

I thought Fulbright grants were for students fresh out of college. I was deep into my Ph.D. studies. But I found that Fulbright was a great mechanism to engage in meaningful cultural exchange and to think about how my research contributed to this process. For those with families, Fulbright also has support for dependents.

4. I applied previously and was unsuccessful.

As the old adage goes, if at first you don’t succeed… I had applied previously to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and was unsuccessful. I thought this meant that I couldn’t apply again. On the contrary, my previous application experience actually helped strengthen my new application.

5. I’m applying to a country with a lot of applicants and few awards.

When choosing my country of study, I looked at the Fulbright statistics page and contemplated moving my project to a country with better odds. However, my Fulbright advisor gave me a great piece of advice; don’t get sucked in to the statistics. Your Fulbright proposal should reflect your passion for an area of research or study, and your choice of country should be motivated by its appropriateness and fit for the project, not your odds of getting a grant.

There is no typical Fulbrighter. Recipients come from diverse backgrounds and do widely varied research/study projects. Fulbright is for everyone; Fulbright is for you!

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  • Reply Carlos Suarez August 5, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I feel the same way right about now, I’m taking a BBA in International Business, and a minor in foreign languages. Last year I was awarded The Gilman International scholarship, and currently I’m a Alumni of the scholarship. I applied to the Fulbright fellowship program immediately I’d arrive with the expectations that I might receive the fellowship. I was wrong my application was rejected. Even though I still have not finish my BBA, last year I applied and this year I was supposed to graduate, but ran into trouble with my classes. So now I’m estimated to finish next, so I applied this for 2015-2016 Fulbright fellowship program(ETA) choice another country, my first option seems too, Brazil seems too saturated for the World Cup, and Olympic games, so I choices Malaysia with is the second country with the(ETA) post with around 90 post opportunities. A couple of days ago I’ve submitted the application. And currently Fulbright is in application process with the deadline in early October.

    I’m just worried that I might not get it again, I’ll put alot of work into the application. I feel some similar to your situation, but hopefully by early next year I’m accepted as Fulbrighter, I would be the first in my college to do such a thing.

    • Reply Jennifer Connor August 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      Hi Carlos —

      Thank-you for sharing your story and thank-you for your application! It takes a lot to put yourself out there, especially repeatedly. We’re wishing you the best of luck with the application process. Send me an e-mail at jconnor@iie.org if you’re interested in sharing your Gilman experience.

      Jennifer Connor, Fulbright U.S. Student Program Outreach

    • Reply Janice Feng August 25, 2014 at 10:41 am

      Hi Carlos,

      I was a Fulbright Malaysia ETA in 2012 and a current Fulbright Alumni Ambassador. If you have any questions about the program in Malaysia, please don’t hesitate to email me at JFeng.AlumniAmbassador@fulbrightmail.org.

      Best of luck in the application waiting process,

  • Reply Jaime Montoya August 7, 2014 at 1:34 am

    Thank you for sharing useful Fulbright links and resources such as the Fulbright Grantee Directory.

  • Reply Hussam El-Din August 26, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    I graduated June, 2013 from Business Administration, English section with Excellent degree with honors first in class. Beside that I have 5 years of internships and work experience . Four years thorough college and one year after graduation. I am also appointed as a Teacher Assistant at Canadian International College.

    I am wondering if you can help with guidance to help me achieve my goal which is having a full paid scholarship.
    I have been searching about this long time ago but I still get nowhere. Will appreciate any help.

    • Reply Schuyler August 29, 2014 at 1:34 pm


      Thanks for your interest in applying. Visit http://www.eca.state.gov/fulbright to review your country’s eligibility requirements and then contact the appropriate program staff with any questions about applying. Good luck!

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