Applying for the Fulbright Part 3

Neerja Thakkar graduated from Dartmouth in 2019 with a BA in Computer Science and Mathematics. For the past year, she was doing computational photography research in Spain on a Fulbright research scholarship, and in Fall 2020 she will be starting her PhD in EECS at UC Berkeley.

This is the last post in my series on applying for the Fulbright. In it, I cover a recommended Fulbright application timeline and some other thoughts that I haven’t yet covered. If there’s anything else you would like to hear about regarding applying for a Fulbright please don’t hesitate to contact me!

My first post is here and the second here.

Recommended Timeline

(Assuming an early October deadline)

As you’re applying, keep in mind that it can take a long time to contact professors abroad, wait to hear back, schedule meetings (especially given time differences), and iterate on a research proposal.

  • Spring: Start the process of deciding on a country/program/research field and reaching out to host institutions - see my first post for some thoughts on how to go about this.
  • June: Decide on a host institution, do background research, and talk to your advisor in the host institution about your research proposal. Start thinking about your personal statement and brushing up on the language of your host country, if necessary.
  • July: Draft your research proposal and personal statement. Continue practicing your language. Reach out to letter writers.
  • August: Iterate on your research proposal with your host institution and continue to work on your personal statement.
  • September: Take your language evaluation. Ask friends and family to look over your essays and suggest changes. If you have to translate your statements into another language, give yourself ample time and see if you can find native speakers to proofread. Revise, revise, revise!
  • October: Proofread and submit your application at least a day or two before the official deadline, since the system gets slow towards the end

Fulbright Advisors

Many universities have a designated office/advisor for fellowships such as the Fulbright - look up your school’s “fellowship office”. Dartmouth has a designated Fulbright advisor, and she was an invaluable resource for me through the process. She was able to give me guidance as I found a host institution, wrote my personal statement, and developed my research proposal. She also provided me with statistics on past applicants from my school and other useful information. If you have such a resource available at your institution, definitely utilize it - any fellowship advisors at your school are there to help you.

After you submit the application

After I submitted my application, I didn’t hear anything until the end of January, when I found out that I was selected as a semi-finalist. At this point, I didn’t have to do anything, but I have heard that some countries require more information or interviews (potentially not in English) from semi-finalists.

Then, at the end of March, I heard that I was a Finalist (aka I had received the grant)! One important thing to know is that once you get a Fulbright, you have to make a decision about if you want to do it relatively soon, so that you can start the visa process. I was on the fence for a bit while waiting to see if I could defer grad school, and this led to me being a bit behind on getting my visa at first.

Fulbright often selects alternates. I have no idea about how many alternates end up being selected, but I do know anecdotally that some definitely are, so don’t lose hope if you are an alternate.

Best of luck if you choose to apply for Fulbright grant!

Neerja Thakkar
Neerja Thakkar
EECS PhD Student @ Berkeley
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