(February 2018 – May 2018)
|Doc #1||Doc #2||Doc #3||Doc #4|
|An application form||Two essays||CV + a Scan of Diploma||Three Reference Letters|
The first document that I filled out was an application form. In this form, a participant indicates the field of study they are applying for (for me it was Creative Writing), provides brief information about their education, research experience and plans for the future. If an applicant has some preferences in the university, they can mention the schools they want to study in, briefly explaining their choice. However, as was mentioned to each of us, Fulbright does not guarantee a placement in a specific university. Although all the preferences of a participant are always taken into account, the final decision of placing the students in a certain U.S. university is always up to the sponsoring organization. In our case, it is an Institute of International Education, or IIE as we call it (current location: New York, United States). I kept this in mind, and after consulting with my professors (one of them is a Fulbright alumnus) and doing some online search, I chose three schools: one in Colorado, Texas, and Illinois. Minnesota was not on my list back then, so the first secret is revealed 🙂 What brought me there in this case? I will come back to this point later. I promise.
Study/ Research Objective Essay shows your specific interest within the field of study you are applying for. It is very important to connect the Fulbright program that you chose to your previous experience and to your further plans.
Personal Statement should include information about your education and work experience. Any professional achievements and specific interests in the study field should be mentioned as well. The essay is usually written in the form of narration, which I think is great as it gives you more space for being creative.
The essay part was definitely one of the most challenging for me. I guess those who have ever written cover letters and grant proposals will understand what I am talking about – the process of writing seems to be never-ending. Before starting to write, you should do the same thing that you would do for a job application: learn about the program, find the keywords, explain what you can contribute as a participant and…promote yourself. I would also recommend giving your essays for someone who can check them. Since I did not have a writing place at my university, I asked my professors to look through my papers. If there is a writing center in your place, you are the lucky one. Take that chance!
CURRICULUM VITAE (CV) + DIPLOMA SCAN
Curriculum vitae is a document that shows your working experience, educational background, your soft skills, achievements, and honors. In other words, this would be a more detailed version of a resume. The good thing about writing a CV is that you are not limited in a number of words/ pages. Make it as long as necessary to demonstrate your experience within the filed. When applying for the Fulbright program, we could use any of the standard formats of a CV (there are plenty of templates on the Internet). Another option was to fill out the Europass CV form, which was exactly what I did. I found that form very convenient to use in terms of arranging the information. When filling it out, you don’t have to think what sections you might include there – the form has everything ready for you: the section for personal info, job experience, education, certain skills, awards, etc. If you don’t want to include some sections in your CV, you don’t have to do it. You can personalize the format of the document and make it look in a way you want it.
As for the scan of the diploma, I could not send it since I was still studying the last semester in my undergraduate program. So, I submitted an enrollment certificate instead.
THREE REFERENCE LETTERS
Reference letters should be written by your teacher/professor/supervisor who can confirm your competency in a proposed field of study. The most important thing here is that a referent should know you very well, to be able to describe your best sides in detail. The status of a referent is not as important as your personal connection to them. My academic advisor, the professor of English and my boss from the last place of employments kindly agreed to recommend me for participation in the Fulbright program. Just take some time to think about who can make a good advertisement for you.
To sum up,the main goals of the Fulbright application are:
1) To motivate your choice (ask yourself, “why Fulbright?” “why the U.S.?” (or any other country) “why this major?” )
Before applying, do some research on the major you are pursuing. Look through the programs that universities abroad offer to prospective students, and find something that would perfectly align with your plans.
I applied for the program of Creative Writing, and I motivated my choice by sharing the dream of becoming a non-fiction writer. But here is the first question – why the U.S.? Can I pursue the same major in my country? Of course, I can. The thing is that in Russia the program of Creative Writing is taught only in my native language, which would not be enough for me. Writing in English would help me to break new ground both in the spheres of publishing, teaching and translating literature, and this is exactly what I emphasized in my application. To motivate your desire to study abroad, try to find something that would show that the program you want will be super-helpful to build your future career. And don’t forget to ask yourself the why questions (see above).
2) To prove that your candidacy is the best for this program
If you feel uncomfortable with making compliments to yourself, it’s time to learn how to do it. I noticed that as you start working on the application, you can gradually develop this skill. Make a list of your achievements, no matter if they are small or big. If nothing comes to your mind, talk about it to your friends, professors, and supervisors. Sometimes people around us see many things that we don’t want to notice in ourselves, so I think, this might help you to realize what makes you stand out.
All your accomplishments along with a background experience should be related to the field of study you are applying for. Demonstrating your passion for the subject of studying is important too. Since I intended to study writing, I showed how dedicated I am to this craft. Here is one of the lines from my essay:
Writing compositions in Russian and English was my favorite occupation. I was so deep in it, that I always was the last one who left the class after lessons.
I started telling the story of how my passion for writing revealed itself and how it led me to all my accomplishments such as taking prize places in a few linguistic conferences, getting awarded for contribution to a journalist association, etc. Think about your passion and connect it to your studying and professional experience.
Even though the first stage of the Fulbright contest might seem to be an easy one, I would say it is not. It takes some time to think about your goals, interests, achievements and then put everything together. So, take this time. Be attentive and scrutinize all the requirements. Be confident and think twice about why you are choosing the Fulbright program. I guess these are the main pieces of advice that I can give you. Please, don’t hesitate to ask your questions in the comments. Thank you!