Competitive Scholarships: What is a Fulbright Grant?

Funding, Scholarships & Financial Aid

Competitive Scholarships: What is a Fulbright Grant?

The following is part of a series of posts by different mentors looking to introduce you to the world of competitive scholarships that can give American and international students opportunities to see the world, explore interesting research within their field, and afford an elite education! We begin with the Fulbright Grant, as mentor Danielle Sclafani introduces us to this opportunity through a series of questions geared to American and international students!


I. What is the Fulbright Grant Program?

The Fulbright Scholar Program is a competitive, merit-based scholarship program run by the United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Through support from the U.S. government and through partnerships with other foreign governments, the Fulbright program sponsors U.S. and foreign scholars for educational, professional, and cultural exchanges in more than 155 countries around the world. The aim of the Fulbright Program is to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and those of other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. The Program ultimately encourages cross-cultural exchange and seeks to create an environment where openness, academic freedom, and intellectual integrity thrives. 

While in their host country, scholars have the opportunity to work and share with the people of that place and exchange ideas, points of view and personal, creative, and professional experiences. Think this sounds like the type of experience you'd like to have after you graduate from college? Well, then, read on for more information. 

Types of Grants

A variety of grants are available through the Fulbright Program. The three main types of grants available are Study/Research Grants (which enable scholars to research and study through an affiliate institution), Teaching Assistant Grants (which give participants the chance to teach English in High Schools and Universities in the host country), and Travel Grants. 

To be eligible to apply for a grant you need to have completed at least an undergraduate education, holding the equivalent of a Bachelor’s Degree. More specific eligibility requirements vary depending on the type of grant for which you are applying, and even depending on the country you choose. 

Note that some Fulbright grants are available exclusively for U.S. students and scholars, while others are intended for those from other countries. 

During their Fulbright year, scholars may conduct research, teach, or complete a project, all with the intention of promoting mutual understanding between the host country and the scholar’s country of citizenship. This is very important, and any successful application should show an understanding of the grant's role in leveraging cross-country relations. Grants cover travel and living expenses, incidental costs, and provide accident and health benefits. Other benefits vary depending on the type of grant and the host country.

II. What's available? Fulbright Grants for U.S. Citizens

Students may apply to go to a variety of countries through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program, Fulbright-mtvU Fellowships, Fulbright-Clinton Fellowship Program, Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, or the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Program (the latter, of course, is only for PhD students).

Scholars may apply through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, Fulbright Specialist Program, or the Fulbright-Hays Program. Teachers also have an opportunity to take part in a Fulbright experience. If that's you, then you may apply through the Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad--Bilateral Projects.

Professionals may apply through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, Fulbright Specialist Program, Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Fulbright-Clinton Fellowship Program, or the Fulbright European Union Scholar-in-Residence (EUSIR) Program. 

Groups may apply for a Fulbright Grant through Fulbright-Hays--Group Projects Abroad Program.

III. Wait, What if I’m Not a U.S. Citizen?

Don't despair. Remember, the Fulbright is also available to non-U.S. Citizens, but it doesn't have as much flexibility. Non-U.S. citizens may  participate in the Fulbright Program as a scholar in the United States.

  • Students may apply to come to the United States through the Fulbright Foreign Student Program or the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program (FLTA).
  • Scholars may apply through the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program.
  • Teachers through Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad--Bilateral Projects.
  • Professionals through Hubert H. Humphrey Program, Fulbright Foreign Student Program, and Fulbright European Union Scholar-in-Residence (EUSIR) Program.
  • Groups may apply for a Fulbright Grant through Fulbright-Hays--Group Projects Abroad Program.

→ To find information for your country of citizenship: http://eca.state.gov/fulbright/fulbright-programs/program-details-country

IV. How Do I Apply?

If you want to apply for a Fulbright Grant start thinking about it in advance. If you're in school, be sure to reach out to your institution's Fulbright representative, as the application will have to come through the school. If you're not in school at the moment, then you can apply as an at-large candidate, which means you're applying on your own. 

The Fulbright is a highly competitive grant and the application process is intensive. Applicants typically need to complete an online application and submit essays, letters of recommendation, and other information and materials depending on the type of grant. An interview is often required as well. Thus, successful grant applicants need to plan accordingly in order to meet the program’s strict deadlines. Thankfully, the Fulbright application has plenty of information that can be useful for all candidates, including suggested and final deadlines. 

V. Where Do I Find More Information?

The Fulbright Program’s website, the website of the International Institute of Education, and U.S. Department of State’s website are great resources if you would like more information.

→ For U.S. Applicants: http://us.fulbrightonline.org/

→ For Foreign Applicants: http://foreign.fulbrightonline.org/about

→ For both U.S. and Foreign Applicants: http://www.iie.org/fulbright

Good luck!