If you’re like a lot of people, you may have heard of Fulbright scholarships, but never really understood what they’re all about. Some people hear the words and immediately associate them with prestige, perhaps making the assumption that Fulbright awards are graduate school scholarships reserved only for the best students in the world. While it’s true that you have to work hard to earn a Fulbright award, you don’t have to be in a position of privilege.

Fulbright program offers scholarships for graduate students

The primary purpose of the Fulbright program is to encourage cooperation and mutual understanding among the various countries of the world through a global exchange of people, knowledge, and skills. Started in 1946 by Senator J. William Fulbright, the program today runs on an annual Congressional appropriation, as well as supplemental funding from other governments and organizations worldwide.

Fulbright Commissions around the world use these funds to award thousands of study and research grants annually to both American and foreign students. These grants and awards act as scholarships for graduate students.

Today, the Fulbright Program is the largest U.S. exchange program, offering opportunities for students and young professionals in more than 100 countries to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university lecturing, and teaching opportunities in elementary and secondary schools.

The Fulbright program is multi-faceted, providing grants and scholarships not just to students, but to professionals and teachers around the world. For American students, the Fulbright program offers two types of graduate scholarships, both of which are administered by the Institute of International Education.

The Fulbright Student Program

As a graduating college senior, master’s, or doctoral candidate from the U.S., you may apply for a fellowship to study and do research abroad by proposing a project in an area and region in which you are interested. (You should have some undergraduate preparation for your proposed project.) Projects can include university coursework, independent research, or professional training in the arts.

Fulbright scholarships for graduate school are awarded to projects which provide the most potential for applicants to meet, work, and live with people of a host country, sharing daily experiences, and promoting cross-cultural interaction and mutual understanding.

The Student Program also operates in more than 100 countries, offering graduate school fellowships to foreign graduate students to come to the U.S. to participate in research and further studies. This program seeks to offer insight into U.S. culture and values to potential future leaders from around the world. Foreign students can apply for Fulbright scholarships through the bi-national Fulbright Commission or through U.S. Embassies in their home countries. Projects from graduate school fellowships come to fruition in countries all over the world in areas of academia and the arts that are highly diverse and ever changing.

The Fulbright Islamic Civilization Initiative

This program funds research and studies in countries with significant Muslim populations. Projects selected for funding are chosen for their potential to increase and enhance Americans’ knowledge of Islam and of Islamic cultures.

Eligibility for Fulbright graduate school scholarships

If you are an American student, eligibility requirements are pretty simple. You must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen at the time of application.
  • Hold a B.A. or its equivalent before the start of your grant. (If you haven’t yet earned a B.A. degree or the equivalent, but have extensive professional study and/or experience in the field in which you wish to pursue a project, you may be considered.) In the creative and performing arts, four years of professional study and/or experience meets this requirement.
  • Be in good health. If awarded a grant, you will be required to submit a satisfactory Medical Certificate of Health from a physician.
  • Have sufficient proficiency in the written and spoken language of your chosen host country. This is especially important for projects in the social sciences and the humanities.

If you are a foreign student interested in pursuing a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in the U.S., application procedures and eligibility requirements vary from country to country. To learn more about the Fulbright program or to begin the application process, contact the Fulbright Commission in your country. If there is no commission in your country, contact the American embassy.

Awarding Fulbright graduate scholarships

The types of grants and fellowships awarded vary, and in many cases, additional funds must still be obtained for research projects that require greater resources than average. Ultimately, award selections are based on the quality of the applications, rather than by what country is requested for a project, or by the type of project proposed. The number of awards distributed in various regions around the world varies every year depending on the caliber of the applicants.

For more information about the Fulbright Programs, eligibility, and how to apply, visit the Web site at www.fulbrightonline.org.