5 Awkward Questions You Don’t Want To Ask Your Fulbright Advisor

Aug 09, 2012 • Views 15,666

The GradCafe forums are a great place to get involved in discussions about graduate school admissions and grad school life with fellow applicants. One forum I read often is “The Bank”, where people with quirky usernames ask and answer questions about assistantships, fellowships, and scholarships like the Fulbright. It’s a great place to ask awkward questions, although keep in mind the responses are subjective! I pulled out some of the best questions and honest answers from former Fulbright winners:

From the Fulbright website I was able to find a past winner (about 4 years ago) in my field who studied at my proposed university. Would I look like a crazy stalker if I try to develop some line of communication with this guy?

“I’ve done this a couple times, and it worked out okay. They may be more or less open to communicating depending on their personality. Just stay polite and interesting.” – librophilia

I’m contemplating whether to apply through my alma mater and work with the Fulbright Program Advisor (FPA) there, or just apply ‘At Large’.  It seems that at-large applicants are exempt from interviewing with a university committee, which is tempting.

“I think it may depend on your FPA’s philosophy on how it prepares students.  My school’s office strongly suggested that I not apply at-large, and instead work with them since they have more insights into the kinds of questions Fulbright committees look for.  This I think is helpful, especially if you are so into your project that it becomes hard to see what people who aren’t knowledgeable of your field would be confused about. On the other hand, sometimes it may feel like they are gearing your application towards what they would be interested in researching or what they think Fulbright would consider a winner, so be prepared to stand your ground while still taking in their comments.” – Espanya2013

Is it necessary that your project relate to your host country? My project is at a place that has the connections to allow my project to succeed but has no connection to the host country. Will I be axed?

“Probably. The Fulbright program is about cultural exchange but you have to remember that people from your proposed host country will be reviewing your application if you make it to that stage. Why would they want to fund a project that helps you but not them? You’re going to need a compelling answer to avoid getting axed.” – msafiri

Has anyone been attending the Fulbright webinars? Do they teach you anything new that you can’t find by obsessively reading the website?

“I attended the general Q&A for Europe. It was pretty long and most of the questions being asked were not relevant to me or they could have been answered on the website. If you are reading the website carefully I think you should be fine. Just ask your campus FPA if you have any other specific questions.” – wlcolye

“I attended a webinar and I found it really useful, definitely join in if you can!” – cxxxxxx

I am a PhD student applying for a research grant to France. I have very basic conversational skills (really basic!). I was told that filling out the language self-evaluation would be helpful but I was wondering if I should also get the language evaluation filled out by a French faculty member here at my school? They won’t know me for very long, so I am not sure it would be a very accurate representation.

“You should do a language evaluation with someone at your school. Contact the French department. They probably have a person assigned to this task that you’ll make an appointment and meet with. The evaluation has nothing to do with how well they know you. It’s really about them testing your ability to read, write, speak, and orally comprehend the appropriate language. The language evaluation isn’t like a letter of recommendation, it doesn’t need to say anything about you, just about your language abilities. If I were you, I’d be concerned. Two semesters of French is probably not enough to do a project well in France. I know that my speaking skills were minimal after my first year of Spanish, which would’ve made it impossible to carry out a research project in a Spanish-speaking country. In your case, it might make more sense to spend this year focusing on learning French and apply next year for a Fulbright once your language skills have improved.” -msafiri

What are your awkward questions? We’re here to help!

© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.

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  • jeanne sokolowski

    As a Fulbright Program Advisor (FPA), I welcome applicants to ask me all these questions and others. Honestly, the FPA should be your FIRST resource for information. Many of us have been advising for Fulbright for years; have close interaction with Fulbright representatives; have received training and attended sessions sponsored by Fulbright; are former Fulbrighters ourselves; have observed National Screening Committee meetings; and/or serve on National Screening Committees ourselves!