If you are seeking advice about the Fulbright grants process, the GradCafe forums are a great place to read discussions by Fulbright applicants and winners. It’s a particularly great place to ask questions you might be afraid to ask your Fulbright advisor or professor. Recently I found some interesting insights on things they don’t often tell you about the competitive Fulbright grants:
1. You can win a Fulbright with an average GPA
“I had a 2.9 GPA and got a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Brazil… I had 2 professors for Brazilian/Portuguese classes write recommendations. Taking these classes probably showed I had a good level of the language. Also, make sure your two statements are not the same at all. I think your personal statement is slightly more important. Just be real in your statements. Do not exaggerate or make things up. And do not bore them! Imagine how many essays they have read that sound the same. Tell them interesting things and important moments to you. In addition, prior to writing my statement I volunteered for a few months teaching immigrants English (since I did not have any experience teaching adults) and that in itself was beautiful.” – anonymous
Update: Fulbright now requires a minimum GPA of 3.0.
2. There is no disadvantage to applying at-large
“There’s no penalty for applying at-large. The only ‘disadvantage’ is that you won’t have an advisor to help you through the process or an interview for feedback on your app, but it’s not like you’re going to immediately be looked at negatively for being an at-large applicant.” – ElleBee
3. Mentioning that you were a Fulbright Alternate is a plus
“I applied for the Austrian Fulbright three times and mentioned that I was an alternate the previous year in my third application and I was accepted on my third try. I don’t know for sure if it helped me or not, but I like to think it did. I don’t think it will hurt to write that you were an alternate. It shows a lot of perseverance and dedication.” -woodendress
4. There is no benefit to applying early
“Applications aren’t evaluated by the national screening committee until after the deadline.” -anonymous
5. Fulbright doesn’t always directly pay for your flight abroad
“I am actually a UK Fulbright Scholar for the 2013-14 year, so I’m speaking to what I know. You can use part of your grant money to reimburse yourself, so to speak, but you’ll have to pay for your own ticket to get there – you don’t receive your money before you’re actually in London.” – pbo
“It’s a reimbursement process. They don’t pay, directly, for the flight. You have to pay up front and once you’re done you can get a reimbursement. You have to be wise about it though, as you only get a fixed amount to cover travel.” – daisusaikoro
“This must depend on the country, because today I received my e-ticket to India, paid for by the India Fulbright staff.” –jmv34
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© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved