What can I do to make a great Fulbright application?
April 25, 2006 4:22 AM   Subscribe

I am applying for a U.S. Student Fulbright. Any recommendations for putting together a proposal?

I'm nearly done with my MA and I'm applying for the fall 2007 Fulbright Program. I'm applying to Armenia with a proposal for building a participartory "Web 2.0" information site. The lack of transparency information sources has created a situation where gossip = truth. I believe that these gossip social networks could be utilized in the web to have a "truer truth." I set my proposal to professors at the American University of Armenia and they were really supportive. I've also had a lot of academics and technical people look at my proposal and the response has been very positive. (If anyone here wants to look at my proposal, I'd love the feedback.)

So, I have my draft proposal, I have people to work with in-country, so what can I do to make my application really shine? (I have experience living in Armenia already and sufficient language skills. I have a background in internet and media development in developing countries.) I'm not ethnically Armenian, so I think that this may work in my favour. I've also sent my proposal to my undergrad alma mater's Fulbright rep to look at.

What kinds of things do the admissions committee want to see in proposals? A detailed schedule? Lots of pro-American rah rah rah?
posted by k8t to Education (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your Fulbright rep should have lots of suggestions for you (where is your alma mater?). Are you applying through your undergraduate university? That would mean that people from that school will interview you.

Do you have a main mentor for your MA? How has that person affected this Fulbright process? Is he/she excited and involved? I received tremendous advice from my committee chair (MFA) for my Fulbright application.

In proposals -

1) "Detailed schedules" - for art this was less important, but for other subjects you want to show that your project is doable and that you have identified/secured the resources to do it. I wouldn't suggest an overly detailed schedule as you only have two pages for the whole shebang and you want to have material that is interesting to read.

2) "Lots of pro-American rah rah rah" - basically, no. Firstly, Fulbright is a progressive program. The whole point of it is that Senator Fulbright felt that Americans were too isolated from the world and wanted to develop a program that would get Americans out into the world to learn about other cultures. The program also has many overseas offices that facilitate fellowships to come to the US.

Secondly, I did hear, not from a program advisor, but from a Fulbright recipient, that the committees tend to be a bit shy about overtly political projects anyway. I think the gist is that Fulbright has no interest in sending students into situations that could turn ugly. You may want to consider how your project intersects with Armenian politics and what sort of danger levels may be involved (I presume the gossip you are referring to addressing with your Web 2.0 app is not celebrity gossip).

3) What the committee does want to read that you haven't mentioned is : how would your project change you/help you to grow? How would your project positively change/affect Armenia/community in Armenia? You mentioned building an app; what I would wonder in reading your proposal is : "well, how will k8t get Armenians to use this application? And also will she involve Armenian coders/content writers/others?" You might ask mathowie how you draw people into a social community site.

4) This is killer and could be a hurdle for your proposal (that you could easily overcome with some thought and explanation) : why does this have to be done in Armenia? You can make a Web app anywhere. Why does the project have to be done in Armenia? You write, "to address Armenian gossip." How will you address Armenian gossip in-country? Are you going to enlist people in Armenia to start posting to the site to drag other people in? Will you advertise in Armenian magazines/television/radio?

5) Same theme as 4, but I wanted to highlight this : What makes the application of Web 2.0 apps specifically Armenian? Couldn't you also build a Web 2.0 app to address political gossip in the US? Or if it's a matter of lack of outlets for "truth", couldn't you make this for quite a few countries with crippled journalism? That's not to say your project isn't interesting or with merit, but Fulbright is competitive (although to Armenia, less so) and generally requires a very focused proposal that primarily shows 1) applicability/fit for a specific country 2) potential for personal growth.

I would suggest making a description of this project that you would use to sell it to a company. You are asking for a considerable investment of money from Fulbright, so it's like a commercial proposal except you need to show a different kind of return on investment. Make a pitch, a truthful one, that makes Web 2.0 in Armenia sound compelling. Use some philosophy! Consider how you will grow and why specifically Armenia. Get 4-5 pages written. Now edit with a laser. Cut word-by-word the material that isn't necessary. Cut word-by-word the language that isn't strong.

It's early, so you can start building a relationship with the FPA at your alma mater. That person will be important!

Good luck!
posted by Slothrop at 5:08 AM on April 25, 2006 [2 favorites]

IANAFS, but I would imagine a detailed, ambitious, but achievable work-plan would be important, as would a realistic budget, demonstration that you have the necessary skills to meet your objectives, demonstation of an understanding of your objectives that is theoretically grounded, and appropriate use of specialized (i.e. jargon) language. Also, follow the application guidelines to the letter in terms of form, content, and other prescriptives.

Grant reviewers basically want to know that you can do what you say you are going to do with the resources you say you need to do it, and that doing so is important as you say it is. Good luck. It sounds like an awesome opportunity.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:13 AM on April 25, 2006

I'm not sure how much of a help my comment will be, but my girlfriend just was denied a Fulbright scholarship by the folks in Germany because there were so many darned applicants. Apparently, Germany gets more than all of the other countries combined (I don't have a source for that), which increases your chances of getting in (since you're not going to Germany).

She spent a lot of time talking with the professors at her school and in Germany getting ideas from both a Germany and a US perspective to cover all of the review committees.
posted by yellowbkpk at 6:12 AM on April 25, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the helpful feedback, especially Slothrop.

I think that I really need to focus on why Armenia is the perfect place for this sort of website -- the "social network" system of information sharing, just the right amount of internet and tech savvy, an active civil society with an interest in information sharing via the internet. These civil society folks are going to be relatively easy to convince to use this. Trust me -- there is very very little "real" "truthful" news that is available. The government controls most of the media. But an alternative that is consensus based could really provide a new authority of information power. The combination isn't rare, but it isn't common either. And this is a country that could use a shot in the arm.

My MA is in the UK, so no one here is of much help. My BA is from UMich and its Fulbright person is yet so far very helpful.

As far as personal growth - an interesting question - part of me, personally, wants to make a difference. I've been involved in Armenia for nearly 10 years now, as a student and as an aid worker. I've been so disappointed with the aid programs that I've been on. I've been trying to make an impact and help this country and these people that I love so much. As I get older I find better ways to do it, to be sure. This is the best thing that I've thought of so far to use my skills. Is that okay?
posted by k8t at 1:56 PM on April 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Proposals that Work is a pretty good book that was recommended reading in my MA. You might find it helpful.
posted by carmen at 8:47 AM on April 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm in the final round!!!!
posted by k8t at 4:00 PM on February 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

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