5 things you ABSOLUTELY need to know before applying for Fulbright Scholarship

Pakistan’s most popular scholarship program.

As I conducted my research on what Fulbright offers; I came across the following. I have written this piece so that the next hopeful is able to benefit by gaining clarity on the scholarship’s finer details before they apply:

1. Fulbright is for Masters/Ph.D and NOT for undergraduates

YES! It is only for the people applying for Masters or beyond. There is a separate program offered for Undergraduates by the United States Education Foundation Pakistan (USEFP): the USEFP Undergraduate Semester Exchange Program. Students study in the US for 1 semester, all expenses paid for by the USEFP.

4 year Bachelors and Bachelors + Masters Candidates can apply for a Masters Fulbright award.

MPhil/Masters candidates are eligible to apply for Ph.D Fulbright award.

2. Taking the GRE is Mandatory for Application Submission

The heading speaks for itself: you NEED to take the GRE. There are no other tests that are acceptable other than the GRE.

If you are a Junior willing to apply for intake immediately after graduation, it is best to take the GRE during the beginning of your junior year.

If you are a graduate who is currently employed in any capacity, take the GRE well before the Fulbright deadline as seats start filling up rapidly nearing the end of the deadline (unless you prefer driving from Lahore to Islamabad to take the test on the 11th hour, your call!).

The weightage of the GRE score is variable, however a score above 300 complemented by an otherwise solid application will surely put you in contention. If you are applying for humanities or social sciences related programs, a strong verbal score is recommended (160+). Conversely, if you are applying for an engineering/computer sciences/finance program, a strong quantitative score is recommended (160+). However that does not mean you compromise on the other aspects of your tests; a balanced score speaks volumes!

MBA aspirants, be vary. The committee may ask you to take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) if your matched institute requires GMAT scores.

3. You will have to return to Pakistan after your Fulbright Masters/Ph.D degree is completed

This scholarship targets passionate Pakistanis.

A common misconception that persists among hopefuls is that post-Fulbright students can stay in the US after degree completion and vie for jobs/employment. In truth, one of the key qualities of the Fulbright program is that students are required to return to their home country for at least 2 years after completion of their degree.

There are two reasons as to why: first, the “brain drain” problem can cease to persist; at least when it comes to Fulbright Scholars (that is what we patriotic Pakistanis would like to think!), and secondly the key ethos of Fulbright is for successful candidates to return to and serve Pakistan in their professional/academic capacity.

Aspiring applicants, take note (hint hint!)

4. Deadline this year is May 17, 2017 — DO NOT SLEEP OVER RECOMMENDATIONS/TRANSCRIPTS

A common practices among students, busy academics, and professionals is they tend to leave “secondary” activities such as gathering recommendations and transcripts for the last few weeks, while they sweat over the GRE in the months before. DO NOT DO THAT.

Instead, it is highly recommended to get the “secondary” requirements fulfilled beforehand, subsequently granting you time to calmly compile and submit your application as a whole.

Haste makes waste. Literally!

5. A Balanced Application will Earn you the Scholarship Award

One strong aspect will not be enough to guarantee you the endowment. Previous applicants have had high GRE scores, impressive work experiences, solid extra-curriculars, however, they ended up in the rejection pool. What does Fulbright want?

They want balanced applicants with goals that cohere with their present and past achievements. Relevance is importance and cannot be understated. Furthermore, the interview is also of prime importance as candidates are tested in their interpersonal skills.

Do not exaggerate, be honest and transparent, stay focused on your goals, and be yourself: these are some general advise required to have a competitive Fulbright candidacy.

That’s all folks! I am here to take on any questions you might have. Happy Applying! And don’t forget to recommend the story so that other people can read it as well.