I made this post to share resources and tips for foreign students to win a Fulbright scholarship and study a Master’s or PhD in the US for free. The Fulbright program provides scholarships for +135 countries, and each country office will conduct an annual application process to choose their candidates. In my case, I applied to the opening in Argentina since this is my home country.
The Fulbright application is very similar to the real college application - you have to provide your resume, your academic transcript, pass a valid English exam (TOEFL for example), and compose two essays.
From what I’ve seen among fellow Fulbrighters, a typical Fulbright scholar has either did research in its field of study, has impressive work experience, or perfect academic history. Usually, when you apply, you already have finished your degree and you have your resume built already, so there’s not much you can do there - the opportunity to demonstrate that you are a perfect candidate is through the essays. There are two: a Statement of Purpose and a Study Objectives. I’ll share fragments of what I wrote for these two essays.
The SOP is a personal narration of how I discovered a talent for statistics and how I applied it to my personal goals of aiding the most vulnerable. I opened my essay sharing how I (unexpectedly) became interested in my field of study; to then make substantial achievements in the use of data and statistics to aid vulnerable populations. Then I briefly mentioned the topic of my research, and in the last paragraph, the potential benefits this technology can bring to Argentina.
The openings of each paragraph show the structure of the essay:
P1) “Growing up in the slums, where going to university was not a rule, I did not have expectations about college — yet I…”
P2) “That is how I joined my first data-related experience, becoming part of a European Union research to make improvements in…”
P3) “Since then, my professional career took an exponential growth: from studying in Argentina and Chile, I worked for…”
P4) I lost this paragraph – I’m sorry :) I mentioned that in my UN job I realized how GIS data is available and inexpensive and countries could use them to draw national statistics.
P5) “There has never been a more critical time for governments and organizations to profit from the resources made available by satellite images…”
This essay should be about the future: what’s your research plan and how you will apply your learnings back in your home country. My Study Objectives essay was chronologically structured. In the beginning I showed how I gained some experience in my area of research first, in what direction I’m planning to do research then; and in the closing paragraphs, how this research has practical applications that can be applied in my home country in the future:
P1) “As a statistician, I had the fortune to work in different countries using data and technology to provide solutions to end poverty and drive inclusion…”
P2) “This experience showed me how critical it is to properly grasp the complexities of the problem being addressed before attempting a solution. I continued working towards the goal of fighting poverty, starting with measuring and estimating. I predicted income in Buenos Aires through…”
P3) “My interest in geographic information systems (GIS) evolved when I joined the United Nations (UN) as a consultant, using satellite images for climate change research…”
P4) “To be at the forefront of projects that aim to measure poverty in Argentina, I intend to join the Master’s to be prepared for the challenge of…”
P5) “My long-term life mission is to contribute to assuring social and economic conditions that allow people to live with basic human rights and…”
As you may see, there is a small overlap in both Statement of Purpose and Study Objectives. Although in both of them I mention my background and my personal goals - in the first essay I’m mostly focused on describing my past and how I became interested in my field of study and further research; while in the second essay I go more into detail about the program I want to pursue and the practical applications of this field of study.
To write your essays, I strongly suggest learning what’s the structure of essays used in college applications. Fulbright application it’s just a mock application to graduate school.
Another useful resource is to directly read statements that students used to get admitted to top schools. I found more videos than written content, but it’s still great guidance:
Finally, your application should be proofread by other people who can give you useful feedback. If (like me) you don’t have friends in grad school who can help out, try asking on Reddit for help, it always helps!
Be the first and only to leave a comment ever - via github on this ticket. Comments should appear on this page instantly, but I woudln't be surprised if it's not working (my bad).