Receiving a Fulbright U.S. Student Award is no ordinary accomplishment. The highly competitive federal program can shape careers and lives for decades after the year-long research, teaching, or study appointments are complete. Being accepted into the program can be overwhelming – just ask PhD student Samantha Horton, 2023 recipient, who couldn’t contain her emotions when she received the long-awaited final confirmation email. “I knew when the decision was coming, but when I got the email – I cried with happiness.”
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a cultural exchange program intended to enhance intercultural relations, foster cultural diplomacy, and nurture intercultural competence between the United States and other nations. Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), partnerships with over 140 countries worldwide connect U.S. citizens with their global counterparts. The program allows accomplished students from the United States to secure highly sought-after scholarships and grants to continue their studies abroad – whether through independent research, graduate studies, or teaching opportunities, a Fulbright U.S. student award marks the start of a transformative journey that combines academic and professional growth with cross-cultural immersion.
But securing a Fulbright grant is no easy feat. Applicants work with the Office of National Scholarships & Awards to craft a compelling Statement of Grant Purpose and Personal Statement detailing their suitability for a given program; they must also demonstrate language proficiency relevant to their host country. Each application undergoes a three-round review process, including a technical review, evaluation by the National Screening Committee, and approval from the host country and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
Recognizing the significance of this endeavor, IU strives to support and facilitate student success in pursuing Fulbright opportunities through workshops, specialized training sessions, and structured guides transforming the daunting application process into a step-by-step pursuit. For those who benefit from a digital roadmap, IU offers a dedicated Canvas page for Fulbright applicants, breaking down the entire application process into manageable steps; the site offers valuable background information on each component of the application and guides students through the creation of a competitive final submission. If real-time guidance is more their style, applicants can attend one of the many workshops where Paul Fogleman – director of IU’s Office of National Scholarships and Awards – explains the process, offers advice, and provides feedback on students’ writing and application materials.
It’s in moments like this that students feel the support of the IU community propelling them forward. Capper Howard, a 2023 Fulbright awardee, highlights the impact of staff like Fogleman throughout the application process, stating, “When you’re working towards something as rigorous as a Fulbright, it’s so important to have someone on your side who will be straightforward, kind, and constructive with you the whole way. It meant a lot.”Continue reading