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I am a junior and will graduate next year- am I eligible?
As long as you have graduated by the time the grant starts you are eligible. So you can apply as a senior in Fall of 2013 for a Fulbright that will start in the Fall of 2014, so long as you graduate before the grant period starts.
I am a graduating senior and it will be hard to compete against graduate students- should I apply?
Yes, you should still apply but there are certain things you should keep in mind. First, you should consider creating an application that is more a
program of study than an independent research project. PhD students propose stand-alone research projects. If you are a graduating senior, it is unlikely that you have the training or experience to conduct a year-long research project. Therefore, you should consider dividing your time among a range of activities, each of which is aimed at helping you attain your post-Fulbright goals.
For this reason, it is reasonable for a graduating senior to apply to take classes at a foreign university in order to pursue academic interests and career goals, rather than to simply propose a stand-alone independent research project. You can also propose to continue/ begin studying the language of your host country and/or engage in community service or outreach. Each of these can help you build up experience and the intellectual capital that will help you succeed in grad school or wherever you intend to go after your Fulbright year. The important point is that you propose a course of study for which you are academically prepared and that clearly advances your academic and career interests. Don't let your amibition go beyond your training.
Can I apply to more than one country and how do I choose the country to which I apply?
No, you cannot apply to more than one program. In general, you cannot apply to more than one country, although a few countries do allow multi-country applications (check the Fulbright website for specifics). Most students apply only to one country. There are several factors that should determine your country choice. The first is your
interest level and academic background. In your essays, it is imperative that you explain why you are applying to Country A as opposed to Countries B, C, and D. If you have no prior interest in Country A, and have no academic background related to it, it will be hard to write a compelling essay. The second factor is your
language ability. Different countries have different expectations in terms of your language proficiency. France expects a high level of proficiency in French, whereas most Eastern European countries prefer only a basic familiarity or require no experience with their official language. You should check the Fulbright website for the candidate profile of the countries in which you are interestd to determine language expectations. The third factor is your
experience and time spent in the host country. See FAQ about overseas experience for further discussion. The final factor is
competitiveness. Some countries are hyper-competitive. Italy, for instance, had 77 applicants for the ETA grant in 2013, but gave out only three awards. Bulgaria, by contrast, had 48 appicants and gave out 25 grants. Check the Fulbright website statistics page for the countries in which you are interested to get a sense of the level of competitiveness.
Is my experience overseas too little, too much, or just right?
Fulbright's eligibility requirements indicate that "Applicants must have sufficient proficiency in the written and spoken language of the host country sufficient to communicate with the people". Yet, they also state "applicants who have had extensive previous foreign experience in the host country are at a competitive disadvantage". Clearly, the question of experience is a tricky one. As is often the case with Fulbright, much depends on the host country and you should investigate the profile of the country in which you are interested on the Fulbright website. For many host countries, an applicant is ineligible if she has lived in that country during the year preceding the grant. Click here to see the list of host countries to which this rule applies. For some countries you are ineligible if you have dual citizenship with the host country and for others you are at a disadvantage if you've lived there for more than six months (excluding study abroad).
However, experience in the host country is not necessarily grounds for ineligibility or even a disadvantage; it can be a competitive advantage. Fulbright's official policies (Section 424.1) do indicate that preference will be given to those who do NOT have "extensive recent experience in the host country". However, they also indicate that "The demands of the field may require that this preference be set aside. Examples include...The demands of the field may require that this preference be set aside. Examples include...required language fluency, the nature of the particular field study, and assignments for which recent relevant experience abroad may be an asset". Therefore, if you have extensive recent experience in the country to which you are applying, you should explain in your application why this experience is necessary and an asset. For more information on this question, see this useful presentation from Johns Hopkins University. In particular, see the segments entitled, "Factor: Time Abroad" and "Factor: Language Abilities".
From whom should I request a letter of recommendation?
Recommendation letters are a very important part of your application and it is critical that you find recommenders that can offer a detailed assessment of your academic abilities, as well as your proposed project/ plan of study. Someone who just write you a general letter of recommendation that does not discuss your ability to carry out your proposed project will not contribute to your application. For this reason, it is usually a good idea to approach professors after you have developed your proposal.
Questions for ETA Program
Do I need teaching experience to apply for the ETA program (English Teaching Assistant)?
The answer depends on the country to which you are applying; different countries have different requirements. You should look at the candidate profile for the country in which you are interested (on the Fulbright website). The ETA program is not looking for experienced teachers nor is it limited to students who intend to pursue a teaching career. However, most countries want to see at least some experience teaching or tutoring, often in ESL (English as Second Language). Korea is one exception that does not require a great deal of experience. You can always contact the program manager for your country to find out how much teaching experience the host country expects.
For the ETA program, the application indicates that I should include with my statement of purpose a description of how I will engage the community. What kind of projects should I propose?
Under the ETA program, you will teach English less than full-time. The exact amount of time teaching will vary across countries, but it will always be less than full-time. The expectation is that you will use part of your free time to promote cultural exchange via some kind of community engagement project. Because you do not determine your location and assignment in the ETA program, but rather are placed by the host country, you cannot propose a specific project as can students applying for the research/ study grant. Therefore, in your statment you are offering your intention, or a basic plan, for how you will spend your time outside the classroom. Many students propose to learn the language of the host country. Others propose to teach or tutor, perhaps in a subject area in which you have expertise (e.g. art, music, athletics, etc.). You can also propose to do volunteer work. For instance, if you are an environmental studies major you might propose to volunteer with a environmental organization. The more the plan reflects your past interest and experience, the stronger your application.