o Should I Apply?
To help you decide whether you wish to apply for a Fulbright, ask yourself the following questions:
o Do I Need to Study Overseas?
The core of the Fulbright application is the argument you make for the necessity of studying abroad. The Fulbright Scholarship Board is unlikely to support a project that can best be completed right here in the United States. If you cannot make a strong case for why you have to study in a foreign country to achieve your academic goals, you should seriously consider not applying for a Fulbright.
o Do I Want to Study Overseas?
Are you genuinely enthusiastic at the prospect of studying or researching overseas for a year? Living in foreign countries - especially developing countries - is often extremely challenging. Do you have the personality that will enable you to thrive in such circumstances? Try to assess honestly how you would cope with the difficulties of living and studying abroad. A successful Fulbright year would depend in large part on your willingness and ability to live outside your comfort zone.
o Is My Academic Record Strong Enough?
Although there is no minimum grade point average requirement, successful applicants to highly competitive countries (e.g. Australia, Canada, France, India, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, and the United Kingdom) normally need to have very strong academic records. Successful applicants to less competitive countries (e.g. Albania, Haiti, Moldova, Paraguay, Rwanda, Uzbekistan, and Yemen) normally only need to have good academic records. All the same, your academic record is only one of many factors in the selection process. An applicant who has a stellar academic record, but who submits a weak application, performs poorly in the campus interview, and has only lukewarm letters of support is unlikely to be selected over an applicant who only has a strong academic record, but who submits an excellent application, performs extremely well in the campus interview, and has enthusiastic letters of support.
o Can I Get Three Good Letters of Recommendation?
The Fulbright requires three letters of recommendation. These are usually written by Duke faculty, but need not be. Fulbright winners normally solicit letters from persons who are willing to write in enthusiastic support of their Fulbright project and their ability to complete it successfully. Generic testimonials from "famous" people do applicants little good. Nor are references from professors who taught candidates in one large class likely to include the very detailed information that Fulbright selection committees value. The best letters of recommendation are written by persons who have a close, and preferably long-standing, relationship with the applicant. If you do not have such a relationship with three potential referees at present, now is the time to start developing one. Don't assume your professors remember everything, or indeed anything, about you. Give them as much information as possible about you and your Fulbright project. Remind them about the courses you took from them. Show them the term paper for which you got an A. Talk to them about your Fulbright proposal. Show them drafts of your application. In short, the more they know about you and your proposal the more likely it is that they will write a letter that will impress the Fulbright selection committees. Finally, and very importantly, ask for your letters of recommendation well in advance of the campus deadline. Your referees are busy people. If you ask them at the last minute, they simply may not have the time to write anything more than a perfunctory testimonial.
o Do I Have the Time and Energy to Commit to the Application Process?
Applying for a Fulbright Grant demands considerable time and energy. A substantial amount of time in spring and early summer should be spent researching study options and meeting with advisers and potential referees. Over the summer, you should work on drafting and polishing your essays. During the first few weeks of Fall Semester, you will turn in your application and prepare for the campus interview. Candidates who apply for a Fulbright at the last minute generally submit weaker applications. The time commitment is very manageable if you plan ahead.
o How Do I Compare with Past Winners?
Consult the file of recently successful Duke Fulbright candidates. These essays will give you an idea of the range of successful proposals submitted in recent years. Be sure that you are reading essays corresponding to your academic level (e.g., graduating senior, Ph.D. student).
You should now be able to decide whether you wish to apply for a Fulbright.
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