The Fulbright scholarship is a merit-based grant offered to highly competitive students, teachers, artists and scientists for international educational exchange programs. Instituted in 1946 by former senator J. William Fulbright, this program opens doors to US students to enhance their knowledge in their chosen field of study in different countries. Simultaneously, students of other nations are also given the opportunity to study in the US as part of this exchange program.
The Fulbright program is primarily managed and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State. Overseas, the program is managed by the bi-national Fulbright Commission. However, the US Embassy's Public Affairs Section takes care of the program in countries that do not host this commission. The program also receives sponsorships from partnership governments, corporations, foundations and others from within the US as well as partner nations.
Types of grants
- The Fulbright program is offered in partnership with 155 countries.
- As of 2013, over 202,600 students from other countries and more than 122,800 applicants from the US have benefited from the Fulbright program. This takes the total number of Fulbright scholars to over 325,400 since its inception.
- 8,000 grants are offered to eligible applicants annually in areas of undergraduate and research studies, classroom teaching as well as lecturing at universities.
- 53 Nobel Prize winners and 78 Pulitzer Prize awardees are Fulbright scholars.
- 10 Fulbright alumni have been US Congress members and 18 have served as government heads.
- Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former UN Secretary General, is also a Fulbright scholar.
A Fulbright scholarship is offered to people across all fields except that of clinical medical research. There are four types of grants offered.
Grants for US students
Undergraduates, graduates, artists and young professionals are given an opportunity to study, research or teach English in a foreign country. Similarly, students from abroad are given academic and research opportunities in the US as part of this exchange program.
The Fulbright Scholarship offers English teachers of other nations to refine their skills and broaden their knowledge base through the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program. And for those pursuing advanced studies in music, there are four prestigious slots available in the one-year Fulbright-mtvU scholarship grant to research on a musical aspect and its cultural force.
A highly competitive scholarship program is the Fulbright-Clinton Fellowship that gives US students an opportunity to work in partner governments and their public sector organizations for a wholesome cultural experience.
Grants for US scholars
Professionals, scholars and faculty members in American academies are given an opportunity to lecture or participate in research programs in partner countries for a year through the Fulbright US Scholar program.
At a different level stands the Fulbright Specialist Program that gives select professionals and faculty of the US to serve as consultants in academic institutions abroad. This two-six week program opens up a new world of faculty development, curriculum and institutional planning in their fields of expertise.
Another interesting set of exchange programs that allows scholars from across the world to interact are the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program and Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program. Scholars across borders are invited to conduct research and share their knowledge through lectures for upto a year at American universities.
Bringing together scholars and professionals from the Western Hemisphere nations for a knowledge exchange experience is the Fulbright Regional Network for Applied Research Program. This is a one-year multi-disciplinary program that encourages team-based research and seminars for knowledge enhancement and transfer.
Grants for American teachers
The Fulbright grants have two programs dedicated to teaching professionals. One is the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program that brings together teachers from K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, offering them a knowledge exchange platform. The other is the Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching Program that offers teaching professionals a grant to participate in research programs or projects at a partner nation for a semester.
Scholarships for US professionals
American scholars and professionals are awarded grants of two weeks to a year to teach, learn and consult at partner institutions abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program and the Fulbright Specialist Program.
How to apply for a Fulbright scholarship?
Plan in advance: Most of the scholarship applications open about 15 months prior to the estimated grant date and have a submission deadline of about four months. Hence it is important that an applicant begins to gather all the required documents at least two years before the expected grant date.
All US citizens, both natives and naturalized, are eligible to apply for exchange scholarships to any of the partner nations. Non-US citizens living in America cannot apply for a Fulbright grant. Those holding a dual citizenship with the United States are, however, eligible to study in any of the partner nations, but not in the US.
Those applying to study at a foreign nation must be able to speak English and the language of that country proficiently to be considered a competitive candidate. Since US candidates have a choice of 50 countries to choose from for an exchange program, they need to cater to these grant requirements before deciding on a country of their choice.
The application process
US citizens can obtain a scholarship application from their college or a partner agency. Completed applications are forwarded to the Fulbright Commission, which are screened by a board comprising 12 members appointed by the president of the USA.
Select applicants are screened through tests and interviews to determine their eligibility for the various Fulbright scholarships.