Articles, College, College or Career,, Goals, Travel

Travel with the Fulbright Program: What You Need to Know!


Do you want to travel the world? Teach abroad? Do you have a passion project that you just NEED to finish in that one specific country? Then you might want to consider the Fulbright Scholarship! Take it from me, a Fulbright Scholar who is set to go to Taiwan in August! 

What Is Fulbright?

Fulbright is a student program that allows graduating college seniors, grad students, and professionals to travel to a foreign country of their choice to teach English, to earn their graduate degree, or to conduct research. The program partners with over 140 countries so candidates have MANY options to choose from. Fulbright funds most, if not all, of a grantee’s travels, as well as gives them a living stipend based on the cost of living in the country they’re traveling to. So, if you dream of seeing the world but need a way to afford it, this is a great program to consider. 

I personally am going to be an English Teaching Assistant (or ETA). I’m going to be based in Kinmen, a small island county of Taiwan. There, I’ll more than likely be helping to teach English to elementary and, potentially, some middle schoolers. But every teaching experience is unique. I have a friend who won the Fulbright for France and will be helping teach high schoolers! So there are a lot of fun opportunities with Fulbright.

Why Should I Consider it Now? 

Fulbright is COMPETITIVE! And I’m not just saying that to brag on myself or to scare you. I just want you to be as prepared as possible. Fulbright has about a 20% acceptance rate for all its grants, with some countries and programs being even more challenging to get than others. With that being said, there is no “cookie-cutter” Fulbright grantee. They love diversity and people from many different backgrounds, so don’t be afraid to try your chances when the time comes!

Who is Eligible?

Now that you’re thinking about applying for the scholarship one day, let’s make sure you’re eligible, or if there’s a better opportunity for you elsewhere!

  1. You need to be a citizen or national of the United States.
  2. You need at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent before the start of your grant (four years of professional training/ experience counts for those in the performing/ creative arts).
  3. Candidates must meet the language requirements for the award they are applying for (this is listed in the program’s description).
  4. Applicants may hold a JD.
  5. Doctor’s of Medicine can receive grants for advanced academic study, but not internships or residencies.

Here’s more information and the preferred qualifications.

The Application

I’m not going to lie, this application can be A LOT. When I applied, I had a few short answer questions, filling out basic information, three recommendation letters, and then a Personal Statement and a Statement of Grant Purpose. The Personal Statement was a short essay about myself and the Statement of Grant Purpose was, essentially, an essay about everything I wanted to achieve with this grant. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, it puts applicants in a position where they only have so much space to put their best foot forward. And believe me, I went through MULTIPLE drafts and it took many months working with an advisor for me to finish everything.

My Tips

You’ve made it to the end of the article, and you’re probably wondering… so how do I complete this application to give myself the best chances of winning the scholarship? I have a few tips!

If You’re In High School:

  1. Browse the Fulbright website and get an idea about what the scholarship is, places you can go, and programs they offer (this can obviously change, but being familiar never hurts).
  2. Think about colleges and what colleges and programs could best meet your goals. I went to UAB, a university full of diversity and opportunities to be involved in multicultural programs. UAB also has a whole office for scholarships and fellowships (national and international) with an advisor to help with your applications. These factors really helped me.

If You’re Just Starting College:

  1. Get involved! Try to find programs centered around diversity, multiculturalism, mentoring, and/or your program of study (especially if you want to go for research). I personally was involved in UAB’s International Mentors, Student Consultants on University Teaching (SCOUT) program, and Honors Program.
  2. Consider learning a foreign language. I minored in Mandarin Chinese. While Taiwan doesn’t have a Chinese language requirement, I think my commitment to the language could have helped my application. This is especially important if the program you want to apply for has a language requirement.
  3. If your university doesn’t have these kinds of programs, make your own! Some universities let students create their own organization, so seize the opportunity to be a leader!
  4. Keep your grades up! Fulbright likes candidates with higher GPAs. There’s no shame in finding tutoring programs or asking for help if you feel like you don’t understand the coursework!

If You’re About to Apply:

  1. Start WAYYY ahead of time (I started about three months before it was due and wish I would’ve given myself AT LEAST another month). This application looks small, but it can take a while to fully refine before submission. You also want to give those writing your recommendation letters plenty of time to complete them.
    1. Some colleges have institutional deadlines to have a rough draft uploaded into the portal (this year, UAB’s is September 1st), so make sure to be aware of that.
  2. Find an advisor to help you! My advisor had YEARS of experience helping with Fulbright applications and, therefore, was super knowledgeable about the process and what the committees who look at them want to see. If you’re wondering who your advisor is and if your college has an institutional deadline, you can look it up here.




Skylar Summers is a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She's passionate about empowering women through storytelling, writing, and creating visual media. To learn more about Skylar, visit her Instagram page @skylarsummers20 and watch her short films on her website (linked on her Instagram page)!

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