How to Complete a Fulbright Research Application

Before you begin working on your Fulbright grant application, carefully read this Fulbright Overview page (click on all the links and tabs!) to make sure you are eligible and to learn whether this award will further your educational and personal goals. Follow the steps below for applying and receiving our support. By following these instructions, you'll be sure to produce an application that represents you authentically and favorably. Start in the spring semester or early summer, and work on your application in time to submit by internal deadline September 12, 2023, at NOON.  
Ella Rose '23, research, Chile.

What to do & when to do it

Step 1: Explore on your own and with us

Applying for a research grant takes gumption, creativity, and persistence, but the rewards are many. You'll learn how to design a project, reach out to potential partners, and situate your research within scholarship in your field. Your research project may emerge from your senior thesis (planned or accomplished) or an independent capstone project. It may even be something you haven't explored before at all. However, you'll be most competitive proposing a project that draws on the knowledge you've gained and research methods you've acquired in your major discipline. You'll need to think not only about what you'd like to research, but where abroad you want to do it. You can get at this in two ways - start with a project idea and look for a country to do it in, or start with a country and look for researchers in your field who are doing interesting things there.

Either way, the first step is to explore! Explore your project idea with faculty in your field. You'll need the advice of a faculty member who knows about scholarship in your field. Start the conversation in the spring before you apply. 

Explore the Fulbright award search database to identify countries that offer grants for independent research to those with a BA. Some countries only offer graduate degrees, not independent research. Read the country pages carefully to make sure you and your project are eligible.

Explore research and faculty profile pages at universities in some potential countries. You'll need an ally in your work (known as an affiliate) to win the grant. More on this under affiliations below.

Explore information that may factor into your country choice on the State Department website.

Explore your ideas with the the Office of Fellowships staff - for this grant, with Christine Overstreet. We want to meet with you to discuss your options and ideas.  Request an appointment here so we can get the ball rolling. 
Once you've started exploring, you're ready for Step 2!

Step 2: Begin the online application

The Fulbright app asks you to enter a lot of information - biographical details, extracurricular activities, awards, travel history, work experience, and more. Open the application and begin to fill it in. You can enter and save as you go.  

It also asks you to compose three short paragraphs (abstract; community engagement; plans upon return) that you might think of as a why, a how, and a what: 


1. Why do you wish to be a Fulbright grantee and pursue this research? Why is this country appealing to you? You will also summarize your project here. (1750 characters) 
2. How will you get involved with your community within the university and outside of the campus? How will you meet people in order to share your culture and values as a U.S. citizen with the host community? (1750 characters) 
3. What do you plan to do upon your return to U.S.? How will having done this reserach make a difference? What work or further study will you pursue? (850 characters). 

Some people wait until they've finished their essays to answer these questions. But begin thinking about your answers now and draft some ideas in a separate doc. It will help you form the story of your application. Watch and listen to this powerpoint to help you think through these questions: Pulling it Together with Purpose: the Fulbright Application

If you have any language skills for your destination country at all, complete the language self-evaluation within the app. It can help your chances, even if it's not required! 
You'll work on Step 2 throughout the summer. Once you've started, you can move on to Step 3!

Step 3: Reach out to recommendation writers

Reach out to three potential recommendation writers to explain your intentions and ask if they'd be willing to write on your behalf. You can do this in person, over email, or on the phone. Ask early - at the end of the spring semester or beginning of the summer, if possible. They don't have to write the letter immediately, but knowing they've already agreed will reduce your stress and you'll have only to remind them when the deadline draws near. (Yasmina Martin '14, research grant)

For the research grant, at least two (and sometimes, all three) of your writers should be faculty who have taught you as a mature student or supervised your research. They may have taught you at AC or study away. If you've done/are doing a senior thesis, your advisor is a good choice. Opt for faculty whose expertise is in the field in which you plan to do your research. They can comment on your academic strengths, on whether the research is feasible for a young scholar, and on why it is important in the field. In some cases, the third letter can be from a staff person, coach, or work supervisor who can speak in detail to your potential as a cultural ambassador.  Ask your recommenders to read our Fulbright Overview page so they understand the Fulbright and what the reviewers hope to learn about you in the letter. Talk with Christine about your recommender choices. 

After they've said "yes," you can then enter their names and contact info in the Fulbright online application. Trigger the recommendation request through the portal about four weeks before the internal deadline (or sooner, if they wish it). Show your recommenders drafts of your essays before they write. You may need to wait until the beginning of August to do that, so you can trigger the request then. 
Started reaching out for recommendations? On to step 4!

Step 4: Request an affiliation letter

Most countries require that you demonstrate at the time of application that you have established a relationship with a host - known as an "affiliate" - in the destination country, who will support your work in some way. - introducing you to interviewees, providing space in a lab, giving you access to archives, and/or giving research guidance. Usually this person is a faculty member at a university, but it may be a researcher or practitioner at another kind of institution.  


- Search the Fulbright Scholar Directory to find U.S. faculty Fulbrighters and faculty from your destination country who have come to the U.S. They can make great affiliates! 
- Search the Fulbright Student Grantee Directory to find students who have done research abroad in your field. You can see which universities they used as affiliates. 
- Check ou the affiliation letter tab on the Fulbright website where there are more suggestions for finding affiliates.

Once you find some leads, reach out to ask them to have a virtual conversation with you. Sounds scary, but they usually say "yes" if you ask in a respectful way. Here's a template for an email you can use to request a meeting. Once you've had a conversation, request an affiliation letter. Your contact may be unsure how to write that letter. Here is a template your affiliate can use to write their letter. Once they send the letter to you, upload it to your application. Note: this might take months to come to fruition. Reach out in the spring or early in the summer. Aim to upload your letter a before the internal deadline, but you can still upload it any time before the final deadline. Sometimes the letters come just in the nick of time!

Step 5: Develop your statement of grant purpose

The Statement of Grant Purpose (SOGP) is one of two essays you'll write for the application. It is the first one the reviewers will read, so we think you should write it first. But before you start writing, you need to do some thinking! As a way to think through your research aims, methods, and context, use this Research SOGP Questionnaire. Once you submit it, we'll read it and tell you if there is anything more you need to consider before drafting the essay. (Phuong-Nghi Pham '18, research, Canada) 

Draft the statement of grant purpose: include the context for your interest in this field; describe the aims of your research, methodology, timeline, role of the affiliate, ways you are prepared to undertake the research, relevance to the host country and the Fulbright mission, and your intended career or educational steps after the year. Note that auditing courses, or even enrolling in a master's program (where you don't attend classes but just do your research) is advised or required for some countries. Check your country page carefully and address anything advised. Send the SOGP to Christine as a Word or Google doc for feedback. You'll revise and re-send until you both agree it is ready for internal submission. From the start, use the required format (below) so you know how much room space you have. Before you write, read a few essays from former AC Fulbright research grant winners here
Once you've got a solid draft, you can move on to Step 6! 

Format: 1-inch margins, 1.0 spacing, Times New Roman, 12-point font. At the top of page 1, type: 
Line 2: Your Name, Country of Application, and Field of Study from Program Info page 
Line 3: Your Project Title as it appears in the Program Information page of application 
On page two, enter the above or only Last Name, Grant Purpose, Page 2. 
Do not use the Header tool. Type the above within the 1" margin. Start in Word then convert to a pdf before uploading.

Step 6: Craft your story - the personal statement

Once you've got the SOGP in good shape, it's time to tackle the Personal Statement. This essay is your chance to show the reviewers how you will represent the U.S. as a cultural ambassador from your own experience as a citizen, a student, a person. Draw from your personal history, family background, intellectual influences, educational, professional, and cultural opportunities (or lack of them), and how these experiences have affected you in order to introduce yourself and what you value to your readers․ Include your specific interests, career plans, and life goals, as they relate to the Fulbright opportunity․ To see how others have done this, go back to the sample essays

There is no pre-draft form for this one! As with the SOGP, send this essay to Christine as a Word or Google doc for feedback. She'll respond  within a week. You'll revise and re-send until you both agree it is ready for internal submission. From the start, use the required format  below) so you know how much room you have to play. Got the essays in good shape? On to Step 7! 

Format: 1 page, single spaced, 1-inch margins, Times New Roman, 12-point font. At the top, type: 
Line 2: Your Name, Country of Application, and Field of Study from Program Info page 
Start in Word then convert to a pdf before uploading. Do not use the Header tool. Type the heading within the 1" margin.

Step 7: Gather supporting documents

In addition to the recommendations, Fulbright wants to see other documents that attest to your academic qualifications, namely transcripts and (if required for your country) language evaluations.

Request your official AC transcript and study abroad or transfer college transcripts early enough to get them in the portal by the internal deadline. While Fulbright says they allow unofficial transcripts, because the name of the college must appear on it, AC students must use an official version. Complete an “Electronic Transcript Request” and enter Christine Overstreet ( as the recipient. She will convert the file to a Fulbright-approved format and send it to you to upload following Fulbright's instructions on requirements and how to upload. Make sure the GPA you enter in the online application matches what is on your transcript. 

For transfer or study abroad transcripts, follow instructions at the relevant institution for requesting an electronic version and have it sent to Christine as above. 

Upload your letter of affiliation. (If it comes in after the internal deadline, upload it as soon as you can afterward.

Request Language Evaluations from qualified instructors! Language evaluations are required for some countries. Even if not required, getting an evaluation is wise if you have any language skills at all for the country. Fulbright offers language evaluator instructions and a sample form here but instructors will complete an online form accessed through an email you trigger within the application. If your language evaluator is also a recommender, you must enter two distinct email addresses for the two requests. The language evaluation is desired by the AC internal deadline. 
See sample instructor evaluation formGot these docs ordered and uploaded? You're ready for Step 8!

Step 8: Check for accuracy and completion, then submit

  • Proofread everything you've written for the application - short entries, small paragraphs, essays, language self-evaluations for typos. We suggest you print the app and read it out loud to yourself, word for word. (We promise you won't catch errors if you review the app on your phone.) Upload your essays.
  • Check to see if your recs and language evals are in. If not, send gentle, polite reminders. (If they're really late, send howlers. JK. But do remind them.) If you're waiting for a transcript, upload a placeholder doc with the name of the intended transcript on it.
  • Submit by the internal deadline! (No worries. We can unsubmit it at any time up until October 7th, and we will!)

    All done? Yippee! You're ready for Step 9!

Step 9: Join us for an interview

All Amherst College students will be endorsed to move forward to the Fulbright national competition. However, Fulbright asks us to conduct a campus interview and to write an evaluation of you as a candidate based on the interview with the Faculty Committee on Student Fellowships and your written materials. We love this part! We get to talk to you in person or over Zoom!

After you submit your app, we'll send a Doodle poll to schedule your 20-minute interview. Sign up for your interview slot and prepare for the conversation

What do we mean by prepare? Review your application, and think about what else you can tell us about your research plans and interest in the country. How are you learning more? Reading novels or watching movies made there? Reading journals or newspaper articles about the country? Get ready to bowl us over with the ways you are trying to learn more! Interview over? Let's move on to step 10!

Step 10: Sprint to the finish!

After your campus interview, we'll un-submit your application in the portal and send you final suggestions for improvement. For this round of feedback, we'll address the essays again if needed, but mostly focus on those short paragraphs. If we have noticed them, we'll alert you to any typos. However, as this application represents YOU, well, then YOU should make sure your app is error-free! Revise and proofread one more time, then hit submit by Wednesday, October 4th at NOON. This will give us time to review it again and, if needed, return it to you if we find any errors. 

As you are making your final revisions, we'll be writing your campus committee evaluation - our chance to highlight the skills and attributes that we think will make you and outstanding Fulbrighter. We'll attach those to your app in time for the final national Fulbright deadline of October 10th. (We don't like to leave things until the last minute. We respect your work too much to do that!)

What happens next?

The Fulbright process takes so long that we joke that people sometimes find out they won and forgot they even applied! After submitting, you wait, but wait actively! That is, be alert to the stages of selection and any emails you may receive from Fulbright. From here, they'll contact you directly about how you are faring in the competition. Tell us what you hear from them, as soon as you here it, so we can continue to support you.


OCT 10

National Deadline (5PM ET; you snooze, you lose)


Applications are screened for technical errors (that's why it's important to proofread!) by the staff at IIE, then sent to that National Screening Committees, comprised of faculty members from all over the U.S.


National Screening Committees select applications to send to the host countries for consideration


You are notified by email of your status as a semi-finalist (app is sent forward to the host country) or not (application goes no further). If at this time you have additional affiliation letters, you can upload them. 


U.S. Embassy or Fulbright Commission staff along with interested partners in the country review your application. They may invite you for a Zoom interview. (If they do, tell us! We'll help you prepare.) By the end of April (countries notify at different times) you will receive an email telling you that you're a finalist (you've won the grant!) or not. Tell us what you here! We'll celebrate with you or offer a shoulder to cry on. Either way, we'll still be here to support you. 

Have questions? Please contact us.

Christine Overstreet, Director of Fellowships
212 Converse Hall


Physical address: 100 Boltwood Avenue, Amherst, MA 01002

Mailing Address: AC #2214, PO Box 5000, Amherst, MA 01002