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Fulbright Redux… and Beyond

November 20, 2019

Kay Ágoston, PhD
Director of Graduate Fellowships

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post for the Grad Insider on opportunities for Mason graduate students through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.  Then as now, Fulbright is one of the most sought-after of all the external funding opportunities I work with. So, it’s time for an update!

What is the Fulbright U.S. Student Program?

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is one of the most prestigious awards available to U.S. students.  Created in the aftermath of World War II, the program promotes mutual cultural understanding and academic exchange between the United States and the rest of the world by offering high-achieving students and recent graduates the opportunity to undertake a year-long experience abroad.  Each year the Fulbright U.S. Student Program sends close to 2,000 students and recent grads overseas – among them Mason students and alumni.

Applications for the Fulbright program open each year on or about April 1. Students work on their applications through the summer months, and submit them for campus-level review in early September. After completing the campus review, final applications are due in early October. Decisions arrive in the spring – usually April – for awards that will begin in the next academic year.  The next round of the Fulbright competition will open in April 2020 with a September/October 2020 deadline for awards in the 2021-22 academic year.

Who May Apply?

Applicants to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program must be U.S. citizens who hold a Bachelor’s degree (or will hold one by the start of the grant) but have not yet completed a Ph.D.  Candidates from all fields of study are eligible.  This covers everyone from graduating seniors and recent college graduates to Ph.D. students working on dissertation research.  Master’s students are eligible, as are those who have completed a Master’s degree but hope to enrich their graduate education through a Fulbright experience.  Students and recent graduates in Law, Business, and the arts are also welcomed.

Where Can I Go and What Can I Do?

The starting point for graduate students thinking about Fulbright is to decide what country you want to go to, and what you want to do there.  A large number of countries around the world participate in the Fulbright program.  You can see a list here. You may only apply to one country in a given year.

As for what you can do, there are two basic types of Fulbright grant:

  • Research/Independent Study/Arts grants support the awardee for one academic year of independent overseas research or study. The project may consist of field research for a master’s or doctoral thesis, but it can also simply be an independent project unconnected to a degree program. Students in creative arts fields may propose an independent Arts project. Research/Study and Arts applicants must have a well-developed project idea and the necessary contacts and skills (including language skills) to independently carry out the project.
  • English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grants support the awardee to spend one academic year working as an assistant instructor in at ESL/EFL classroom in the host country. You don’t have to be aiming for a career in teaching to become an ETA, but it helps if you can show how the ETA experience relates to your longer-term academic and career goals.

In addition to the grants described above, Fulbright offers specialized grants in Public Health and Digital Storytelling.  Some countries also offer specialized grants specific to that country. You can learn about these by reading the country profiles on the Fulbright web site.

Thinking of Applying?  Want to Learn More?

If you are interested in learning more about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the first step is to attend an information session.  Information sessions are offered each year in the spring and early summer on both the Fairfax and Arlington campuses, as well as online/webinar-style sessions. Dates will be posted on the Graduate Fellowships Web Site in late March. Fulbright Information Sessions are open to all Mason students.  Between now and the next round of information sessions, interested students are encouraged to explore the Fulbright U.S. Program web site and think carefully about what country and grant type offer the best fit.

Other Fulbright Opportunities

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program isn’t the only type of Fulbright award out there.  One of the following programs may be better suited to your needs. Bear in mind that these programs will have different application processes and deadlines from those described above. The Office of Graduate Fellowships can advise prospective applicants for these awards as well:

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Fellowships:  The Fulbright-Hays DDRA program offers funding for overseas doctoral dissertation research in countries outside western Europe/North America/Australia/NZ. This program is open to both U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Fulbright Scholar Program:  If you plan to complete your Ph.D. before the next Fulbright U.S. Student Program opportunity comes around, it’s not too late – you just need to look to a different type of Fulbright grant. The Fulbright Scholar program supports postdoctoral applicants seeking research and teaching opportunities abroad. Available grants vary by country. Some multi-country awards are also available. U.S. citizenship required.

Fulbright Awards for Teachers: If you are a working teacher pursuing a degree at Mason, you may qualify for the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching for U.S. Teachers or the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program, both of which offer overseas professional development experiences of varying lengths for U.S. K-12 teachers.


Dr. Kay Ágoston

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