FAQ: Fulbright Application Timeline

The previous post, featured Mikayla Bishop, an Spanish Fulbright ETA who applied “at-large”! If you would like to read more about her experience, click here.

Below you will find a Fulbright Application from Mikayla’s experience. As I believe that it closely mirrors that of a Research applicant with a university affiliation (i.e. my experience), I decided to share her detailed timeline with just a few comments added for those who are applying with the support of a university and/or for a research position. My comments can be found bold and [within brackets].

I hope you find this helpful! Leave a comment or send either of us an email if you have any questions :)

Mikayla’s general timeline was as follows:

  • Step 1: Read through application without filling it out. Take note of what I need to do versus what other people need to do (recommendation letters, etc).

  • Step 2: Reach out to those who you need something from, to give them as much time as possible to complete their part so you aren’t chasing them down at the last minute. This includes people who write letters of recommendation, reaching out to your former university for an official transcript, etc. [Researchers: If you have previously worked with a professor on a similar project to what you are proposing, be sure to ask for a letter from them and perhaps if they have any colleagues in the country of interest! It is best to do this sooner rather than later]

  • Step 3: Complete “basic” parts of the application, such as personal data, etc.

  • Step 4: Outline your “Statement of Grant Purpose” and “Personal Statement” essays. These are 1-page max, so if you ramble on like me, I would recommend jotting down all the things you’d like to cover, and then circle the 3-5 most important things from that list that you absolutely want to mention. [Researchers: You have two pages, single-spaced to propose and defend your Statement of Grant Purpose!]

    • Subnote: As stated, I didn’t have anyone to advise me on what the proper format of these essays should be, so I went with my gut. My “Statement of Grant Purpose” was much more formal, like a cover letter, stating what I’d be bringing to the table in this position and what I’d like to accomplish with my grant project. As Fulbright’s main mission is cultural ambassadorship, I tried to focus the Grant Purpose on how I’d work with the community, and what special skills I possess that could help me connect our two cultures (ex: I come from a theatre background, and as theatre/storytelling is a “universal” language, I pressed that doing theatre with my students or within the community could shed light on what connects humanity). [University affiliated applicants: Your university could possibly have an individual, or even office, available to support you in your application. They may have helpful resources available, such as previous winning essays.]

    • As for the personal statement, I wrote this one more as a narrative, letting my voice come through. I figured if one essay was formal and one showcased my personality, the Fulbright Commission would have a more well-rounded perspective of who I am. In the personal statement, I wrote about the events in my life that shaped me into who I am today and led me to want to study and work abroad. [Remember: the committee will read BOTH your Statement of Grant Purpose and Personal Statements! Diversify your topics, do not talk about the exact same thing in both essays! For me, I used my personal statement to describe myself, my future goals, and my life experiences that led to my proposed project]

  • Step 5: Draft your essays.

  • Step 6: Give yourself a break, whether it’s a few hours or even a few days. I find that stepping away from an application and returning to it with fresh eyes and a clear mind help me find previously overlooked errors, or things I’d like to revise.

  • Step 7: Send essays to trusted advisors from your past-- a former professor, high school teacher, a trusted family member or friend. Have them “edit” it so you get a fresh perspective. I asked them to edit it both for grammar/spelling but also for my “voice,” if how I wrote it genuinely captured who I am. [Researchers: Make sure you confirm the language(s) the application must be submitted in. For example, ETA and Master’s program applicants submitted an English application while Researchers submitted an application in both English and Spanish.]

  • Step 8: Follow up with anyone who has not yet submitted their recommendation/transcript/etc.

  • Step 9: Once someone submits their part (you’ll see it say “submitted” on the application portal), send them a personal thank you note. It means a lot, and I believe in good karma.

  • Step 10: Review your application at least three times. Do it once, take a one day break. Again, and break. One last time, and submit. As said before, it’s important to look at it with a fresh mind to catch overlooked errors. [Check your spelling!]

  • Step 11: Submit. And then pour yourself a glass of wine or go out to dinner with friends. Do something to celebrate, but also get your mind off of the waiting game to come… because let me tell ya, it’s a WAIT. [The Fulbright decision is a long wait indeed! Rather than stress over it for the next 4-6 months, pick up a new hobby or binge watch all of the Netflix (while still getting work/studying done, of course)!]

CONGRATULATIONS! You did it!!! I am so proud of you!! But above all, you should be proud of yourself. You just took a huge step toward your future, and putting yourself out there is an act of vulnerability that inevitably leads to developing bravery. You are stronger coming out on the other side of this application!


If you have any questions about applying for an ETA position “at-large”, Mikayla can be reached via email at mikayla.bishop@gmail.com. Also, be sure to follow her on Instagram (@mikkibish) to see more of her Fulbright journey!