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May 05, 2008


H. Steven Green on the Fulbright

In Steve’s second post, he has provided a comprehensive guide to the Fulbright. Steve is a past recipient of Japan’s equivalent of the Fulbright, the Monbukagakusho Dissertation Research Fellowship that is awarded by the Japanese government scholarship to facilitate two years of research, which he conducted at the Faculty of Law, The University of Tokyo. In the following, Steve has really done an incredible job of putting together the key information that we have successfully used to help clients obtain America’s most prestigious scholarship.

-Adam Markus, アダム マーカス



In this post I provide advice for how to prepare a strong Fulbright scholarship application package. I’ve included specific information about application procedures and essay writing as well as comments for Japanese applicants who can link here for more details about the Fulbright Program.

There are four categories of Fulbright Grants, but this post is focused on those for graduate students. The other three categories are research (for scholars at universities and non-profit research institutions), journalist (including all media), and doctoral dissertation research (for PhD students enrolled outside the United States),.

Successful Fulbright candidates are those who prepare early and thoroughly, know exactly what their goals are, and know how to define them in detailed terms relevant for the task at hand. Many of the tasks will be similar to what applicants will need to do for graduate school applications, so those who work on Fulbright first, even if they don’t get it, at least have the opportunity to put together an applications months before they will have do it for graduate school. For the perspective and advice of successful applicants read issues of Applicant Newsletter.


In general: The Fulbright Program strives to contribute to the development of potential future leaders who will improve understanding between the United States and any other particular nation. You will need to make the case in your application essay and interview that you will be both an excellent scholar and a leader in forging bilateral ties between the United States and another country.  Review the history and goals of the Fulbright program before deciding whether it fits your needs.

In particular: First, the Fulbright Program primarily awards those working in the social sciences, fine arts and humanities. So if your academic or professional specialization is in one of the many fields in these three disciplines, then you may wish to consider applying. In fact, the list of the Japanese Grantees for 2007 http://www.fulbright.jp/eng/ong/j_list07.html#gs includes no one working in the physical or life sciences. Among the 42 awardees are 11 people working in topics that are not usually considered part of the traditional social sciences (e.g. sociology, political science, economics), fine arts or humanities. These include five recipients in public health and one each in accounting, architecture, business & management, education, forestry & natural resources management, and hospital administration. The other grants went to people working in comparative literature, international relations, history, law and linguistics, among other disciplines.

I recommend that you look in detail at the list of 2007 Fulbright Grantees in your home country to review the affiliation, status and research topic of successful applicants.


As of May 4th Japan time the 2008 Fulbright application form was not available. Therefore, I have used the pdf version from 2005 because it is the only one I could find on the web (Just do a Google search on “pdfapp05”). When the 2008 form becomes available I will update the post at that time, however I suspect the categories of the form will not change. In the remainder of this post I discuss strategies for parts #1-27, of the Fulbright application. The other forms are for academic transcripts, language tests and references.

Following a one-page application cover sheet, the first three pages of the application form request detailed information about your professional and academic goals as well as a short summary of your future plans.

First, if you have not already done so, then go to the official Fulbright website for your country and begin reviewing the application guidelines. The US Fulbright site is here, and the Fulbright Japan site is here.

The application requires many documents to be submitted together by a particular deadline, which varies according to country. Find out when the application form itself is available and plan to obtain it as soon as possible.

Second, as the Delphic Oracle of Ancient Greece said, “Know thyself!” Answer the following questions about yourself:

  • What are my specific research and professional goals? How does the one relate to the other, specifically?

  • What are my greatest strengths that will allow me to fulfill my goals? What accomplishments demonstrate these goals?

The application requires precise plans and concise language. For example, the application requires you to describe your future plans (#13) in enough space for 4-5 typed lines and provides only a bit more space for an abstract of your proposal.* You will not provide concise, believable information if you do not already have detailed answers to the questions above.

* You will have to write a longer essay describing your goals elsewhere.

Next, make a resume or CV (See my previous post). I am actually going to repeat some of the advice I give in that post with specific reference to Fulbright. Based on my experience as well as that of successful clients with whom I’ve worked, a professional resume/CV is invaluable.

The value of a resume/CV to your Fulbright application is threefold.

  1. The resume/CV provides you the means to make an excellent first impression on the selection committee. It neatly presents key information about your relevant background and it demonstrates your professionalism.

  2. The process of creating a professional resume/CV will focus your mind. Making a resume/CV is an excellent way to inventory your past experiences.

  3. Provides you with an accessible source for content for many of the categories in the application itself. In fact, much of the information required for application parts #1-27 (parts #14-23, in particular) is the same kind of information found on a professional CV or resume. You will have an easy time transferring the information from your resume/CV to the application, and your information will be in professional language.

Well, if I have to include much of the same information on the application as on the resume/CV, then why bother making the latter?”

Fair question. I can think of three good reasons to do so. First, as noted, the exercise itself will prepare you to make a precise, proper Fulbright application. Second, you can include more information on the resume/CV than on the application, so the resume provides a fuller view of your background. In particular, seeing your accomplishments and experience on a resume/CV reveals the “upward” pattern of your career/academic progress, from fewer accomplishments to more. In this way, the reader sees your professional growth. Third, the application actually provides space (in part #30) for you to include your resume/CV anyway! (And here’s a bonus reason: If you are applying for a Fulbright then odds are good that you are applying for other sources of funding as well. You should submit a resume/CV to all of these sources, so making one now saves you valuable time later!)

In conclusion, the utility of a resume/CV cannot be underestimated. As noted, a resume/CV should show the development of your academic and professional background as a progression of accomplishments over time. In this way it also helps you to write your statement of grant purpose and personal statement essays.


Here you demonstrate in detail what and how your research will contribute to your discipline. A contribution includes an addition to your field’s overall knowledge that also enhances understanding between the US and another nation.

ACCEPTED AREAS OF RESEARCH: Make sure your proposed project will contribute to one of the designated project areas. For Japanese applicants, there are five project areas: The United States, Pacific Rim Relations, Critical Issues of Contemporary Society, and Education.

Before you begin writing this essay consult with colleagues or your academic or graduate advisor. Ask them if your project idea is feasible and solicit their advice on how to strengthen it. But remember your audience: Avoid academic or professional jargon. The selection committee includes people of different backgrounds so it is unlikely that all of them, or even any of them, will understand your field’s specialized language. (This advice also applies to graduate school and other scholarship essays!)

You should provide detailed answers to each of the following six questions, reproduced here from Applicant Newsletter No. 9:

1. With whom do you propose to work?
2. What do you propose to do? What is exciting, new or unique about your project? What contribution will the project make to the Fulbright objective of promoting cross-cultural interaction and mutual understanding?
3. When will you carry out your study or research? Include a timeline.
4. Where do you propose to conduct your study or research? Why is it important to go abroad to carry out your project?
5. Why do you want to do it? What is important or significant about the project?
6. How will you carry out your work? All students should discuss methodology and goals in their statements. How will it help further your academic or professional development?


Given enough time and money almost any project is feasible. Your essay should account for resources, relevant to your project, of your host nation and host institution, as well as the time frame and funding of the grant. Where appropriate you should demonstrate you have already taken enough steps to setting up parts of your research. For example, explain; how your language skills are sufficient, that you have satisfied the relevant authority’s ethics requirements pursuant to any type of research involving human participants, that you have obtained permission, if needed, from local officials, etc. Any factor that could raise doubts about the likelihood of completing your project should be accounted for in this essay.

REMEMBER! You must write this essay within the space provided, which is approximately one A4 (8.5 x 11) piece of paper


The PS allows you to highlight the person-behind-the-project in no more than a single page. Show in detail what has made you successful in the past and will facilitate the success of your proposed project. In particular, you should be able to demonstrate that: you can think and plan to achieve goals; prioritize and follow-through on your objectives; learn from your mistakes; you have leadership and communication skills. IT IS CRITICAL THAT THE WHAT YOU WRITE ABOUT IN THIS ESSAY FULLY SUPPORTS YOUR STUDY PLAN. YOU NEED TO HELP THE FULBRIGHT COMMITTEE UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR SPECIFIC BACKGROUND WILL SUPPORT YOUR RESEARCH PLANS.

The selection committee is trying to read between the lines of your PS to assess whether the person described therein is likely to succeed at the project detailed in the SOG. The key to a good personal statement is to show, not merely state, your strengths in other endeavors. Rather than assert your creativity, for example, reveal it through a detailed example of a time when you were creative.

And, REMEMBER! The PS can be no more than one page long.


Note that instructions from your own country’s Fulbright office may request specific information for this space. Otherwise, as the instructions state, here is where you can include your resume or CV.


Fulbright requires three references. All 3 of your references should be from people able to judge the merits of your proposed project as well as your ability to complete it. For graduate student applicants this would obviously include your main advisor and other professors in your field at your institution or at another one.

The Fulbright letter of reference form contains two pages. One is for the actual letter, and one contains a list of criteria on which the recommender should rate you according to an adjacent scale. Among the criteria, the following are worth keeping in mind as they demonstrate the Fulbright’s seriousness in seeking qualified future scholars and leaders: “knowledge of field,” “seriousness of purpose,” “potential for significant future contribution in field,” “resourcefulness and initiative,” and “leadership qualities.”

Be sure to ask people who can accurately judge you on these criteria.

CONTACT YOUR INTENDED REFERENCES NOW! Even if you have not completed the SOG, you should contact potential references in order to let them know an official request will be coming soon. It is a basic courtesy to give the writer sufficient time to do so. It is also prudent to contact them so that you can discuss your project with them now, even if you have only begun to think about it.

THE APPLICATION: Miscellaneous advice

#36 OTHER SCHOLARSHIPS: Here you are asked to list other scholarships, or fellowships for which you may be applying. You should be honest and provide this information. First, it reveals something about your competitiveness in as much as, if you have a strong application package, then you probably are applying to other


The Fulbright application requires time and thoughtful preparation. Even before you have the application in front of you on your computer screen, you should do the following now:

  • Make your resume or CV

  • Contact references to let them know you will humbly be requesting their assistance

  • Solicit feedback on your proposed study from people in your field

  • Begin writing outlines and/or drafts of your essays: Even if your ideas are only in the embryonic stage, organizing them in essay format will hasten their development

  • Make the completion of your Fulbright application a top priority in your life: Prepare to replace your free time activities with working on your application

  • Fulbright award winners whom I’ve known come from different academic and professional backgrounds, but all have one important thing in common: They all started the Fulbright application process early and they devoted as much time as it took to complete the best application they possibly could.


For questions regarding this post, please contact me at h.steven.green@gmail.com.
- H. Steven ("Steve") Green, グリーン・ハロルド・スティーブン

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