How to Get a Fulbright Scholarship and Travel the World for Free

fulbright scholarship

Are you interested in studying, working, or teaching English in another country?

If you’re a college graduate (or soon to be one), then you may want to consider applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. This prestigious program awards a Fulbright scholarship to more than 1,500 individuals every year.

Fulbright scholars study and work in diverse fields all over the world. But what they have in common is a commitment to international exchange and solving global challenges.

Whether you’re a student, researcher, artist, or teacher, you could have a life-changing experience with a Fulbright scholarship. Plus, you’d be paying for grad school without any student loans!

What is a Fulbright scholarship?

Fulbright scholarships come in all shapes and sizes.

One scholarship could go to a writer finishing her novel in the Philippines. Another could support a Master’s student researching robots in the UK. A Fulbright scholarship could even sponsor a music student’s exploration of traditional folk music in rural China.

The Fulbright Program operates in more than 160 countries across the world. A Fulbright scholarship isn’t just for paying for grad school. It also supports research projects that drive innovation, solve complex problems, or add to our cross-cultural understanding.

Thanks to federal funding, the Fulbright scholarship covers most or all of the costs of tuition, books, research, room and board, living costs, health insurance, and round-trip transportation. Exact amounts differ by country and student.

What are the eligibility requirements for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program?

So, how can you qualify for a Fulbright scholarship? And could this international program be the answer to your question of how to pay for grad school?

There are a few different strands of the Fulbright program, including one for international students and one for seasoned professionals.

I’ll focus on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The U.S. Student Program sends American students abroad to attend grad school, conduct research, or teach English.

For this program, you need to be a U.S. citizen and hold a Bachelor’s degree before the grant starts. If you’re carrying out research, then you’ll need some proficiency in the host country’s native language. This requirement is waived for English teachers in certain places, like Korea and other East Asian countries.

You should also be pretty new to the host country. The Fulbright program wants to give students the opportunity to live abroad. If you’ve already lived in your host country, then you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage.

Finally, if you’re applying for an artist grant, then you must have at least four years of professional training in the creative or performing arts.

Tips for applying for a Fulbright scholarship

A scholarship that pays for grad school, living costs, and transportation in a foreign country? Yes, a Fulbright scholarship is as amazing as it sounds. That’s why you need to put together a stellar application to get one.

Fulbright scholarships are merit-based, but you don’t need to be top of your class to qualify.

The Fulbright committee wants to see that you’re a well-rounded person with unique passions and goals. They rely a great deal on your application essays to get a sense of who you are and how you’ll make the most of a Fulbright scholarship.

Not only should you work hard on your application essays, but you also need to provide three glowing recommendations.

Therefore, take the time to meet with your professors or employers to talk about your interests. A generic recommendation letter simply won’t do. You need to make sure yours goes in-depth about your strengths and personality.

Finally, you should state specific goals for the year ahead. Say exactly what you’ll study, where you’ll live, and why your year deserves funding. Keep in mind that some countries are more competitive than others.

For the 2016 to 2017 year, for instance, six students got awards for Australia out of 63 applications. Mongolia also gave six awards, but there were only 11 applications. Australia applicants had only about a nine percent chance of acceptance, while applicants to Mongolia had about a 54 percent chance.

The takeaway? Consider applying to a less “popular” country to maximize your chances of getting accepted.

Should you apply to the Fulbright program?

If spending a year abroad with a scholarship paying for grad school appeals to you, then you should look into the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. For inspiration, you can check out what current Fulbright scholars are doing on the ground.

The Fulbright Program expects students to engage in the host country and form relationships with people. They look for people with a high level of independence and self-direction in their work. Even from the beginning, you’re expected to have a concrete plan for the year ahead.

If you decide to apply, then take several months to do research, clarify your goals, write your essays, and put together the best application you can. And if all goes well, you could be spending the next year in a foreign country having the experience of a lifetime!

Looking for other sources for grad school funding? Check out this guide to learn more about how to pay for grad school without loans.

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