What to write for Fulbright essays?
September 4, 2010 6:37 PM   Subscribe

What does the Fulbright selection committee look for in both essays (both the Statement of Grant Purpose as well as the Personal Statement).

I'm applying for a Fulbright (I'm looking to study in Sweden), and I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for both of the essays (the Statement of Grant Purpose as well as the Personal Statement). I showed both of them to an adviser who told me that neither was what the Fulbright panel was looking for, but unfortunately, he didn't have enough time to tell me specifically what they were looking for. I know that he told me that I should describe how the grant will affect me and my perspective (and that I "a changed me" is the deliverable that I should talk about). Any other suggestions? Any good examples online? Personal stories? I'm applying for a Fulbright research grant, specifically on the subjects of design, play and fiction. The institution I will be working with is Konstfack, specifically their Experience Design Group, and I also plan on looking at some Alternate Reality Games and LARPing groups in Sweden as well as anything else that might be relevant.

Thanks! and let me know if you need any more specifics.
posted by taltalim to Education (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Sure. I am a Fulbright alum. My university was very helpful with drafts but much earlier in the process than you.

Your purpose statement needs to take the form of a research proposal. Google for this format. Lit review, gap in lit, your question, your contribution.

The personal essay is more 'I did this. Then I did this. Later I want to do this. Fulbright fits into this because X.'

Hope this helps.
posted by k8t at 6:50 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, having established contacts in country - specifically university researchers is key.
posted by k8t at 8:16 PM on September 4, 2010

Best answer: So I was a Fulbright fellow in Sweden a few years ago. Some thoughts:

I'm guessing that you roughly categorize your work under the ægis of the Humanities? I work in literature, and there was only one other humanist my year (other 10 were STM/Social Science). Both of us were doing work specifically on Swedish culture, and I'm guessing that helped us in the competition. It may be useful to think about whether the "design, play and fiction" you focus on will be specifically Swedish or not.

Even if what you are studying is in English, you may want to think about your commitment to learning the language there. Unlike the sciences, a lot of humanistic discourse in the Nordic countries is written in the national language. People you meet there may hand you articles written in their native language, or invite you to conferences or classes where people speak in one of the Nordic languages. Having at least a reading knowledge of one of these would help your case that Sweden is specifically where you want to be.

This leads into another point -- if you have some capacity in the language, you can make the argument in your Personal Statement that you will further Swedish/US relations by engaging in dialog with people you meet there in their native tongue. Keep in mind this a State Department program, and some amount of ability to represent the US to others abroad is appreciated.

Language may also help you in 'infiltrating' some of the social groups you mention above (LARPers etc). One thing to keep in mind -- and I would probably explicitly address this in your proposal -- is how you plan to gain access to these social constellations in a society rather more introverted than the US.
posted by squid patrol at 8:46 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you use the search function, I imagine you could find some previous threads with advice for Fulbright applications. In fact, you can click here for my comments regarding k8t's Fulbright application, which are the same as what I would suggest to you : think of how this project specifically applies to Sweden and what your study may bring to Sweden. Good luck!
posted by Slothrop at 4:50 AM on September 5, 2010

Slothrop's link didn't work out, but just check your own tag -- questions about Fulbright.
posted by asciident at 7:02 AM on September 5, 2010

Did someone fix the link? It looks to me like it goes to k8t's question and I am the first person to answer...
posted by Slothrop at 10:11 AM on September 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you very much everyone! Some fantastic suggestions, and I have a much better idea of what to do now.

Some clarifications: I'm a graduating, undergraduate senior - my background is in human factors and ergonomics, but my thesis, and what I've been working toward, is the intersection between Design, Play, Games, and Fiction. So within this is a lot of Borges, a lot of something called 'Pataphysics, a lot of literary and artistic examples of fictional worlds. While my senior thesis is about the theory and system of this, I want my Fulbright to be about the practice of the theory and system that I come up with. Basically, taking something very abstract and theoretical and making it actual.

I'm also trying to avoid the digital, as most everything written about play nowadays is about digital social networks and video games. I know I can't avoid it completely, but I at least don't want it to be the main focus.

Thanks again! Let me know what other suggestions you might have!
posted by taltalim at 10:32 AM on September 5, 2010

I'm happy to read a draft, BTW.
posted by k8t at 11:27 AM on September 5, 2010

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