The Fulbright Masters and PhD scholarship for studies in the United States is open till the 15th of May 2019. A plethora of students are going through the phase of filling out their applications as we speak – which is in itself quite a daunting task.
The application – if you have had a chance to look at it – it nearly 20 pages long. By the time you get done filling it all out, you will honestly wonder why it doesn’t ask you to explain in 250 words why you were given the name you were given – it is that detailed! With that being said, it is always advised to start working on the application as soon as possible to avoid the rush of last minute.
Through this article, I wish to inform you of some of the key things that you should prepare and have in hand before you sit down to fill in your application. It is always best to organize your data so that it is easy to refer too even when there is shortage of time and/or patience. Following the steps below will ensure that your application process would be as smooth as it can be:
Step 1: Organizing Educational Documents
My recommendation to future scholars is to get an accordion file and place all of your educational documents, degree, transcripts and certificates in it. It is always best to adopt a chronological order and then divide the accordion file into sections that you label according to various levels of academics i.e., High School, Intermediate, Bachelors, Masters etc.,. Then you start to place all documents related to that level within that section. I can tell you from personal experience that this makes things very simple.
Step 2: Organize your Professional Documents
As is the case with your academic record, I always recommend that you get another accordion file and place all your professional documents within that file. Again, the best option is to section off the file in a chronological order and then place the documents inside. Not only does this allow for easy reference but it just makes things simpler to find in the future also.
Step 3: Update your CV
The next step is to update your CV just so that it reflects every aspect of your professional and academic life. Your CV is a representation of your skill set and it should really make you stand out as a professional. Seek expert opinion on how to highlight your expertise through your CV because sometimes, we just do not know how to market our capabilities.
Step 4: Make a thorough list of probable Referees
The next logical step is to write down a list of people from whom you think you can get a reference. I will write a separate blog post on how to select referees and why they are important. But for now, this step is important. You should have at least 4-5 people in your list of possible referees and you should get in touch with them immediately. Inform them of you intention of applying to the scholarship and let them know that they are a possible referee to get their consent.
Step 5: Register for the GRE
If you are already knee deep in the process, you would be aware of the GRE deadlines. Even though you do not have to have given the GRE at the time of submitting your application, you still have to provide proof that you have registered for it. This is something that you should be done with immediately. Although the USEFP website will tell you that the GRE exam spots are open every week for all the five days, I can tell you through personal experience that this does not guarantee that you will find a seat especially in your own city. During this time, most of the students, and you have no idea of the number of students that apply for this prestigious scholarship, are applying for the GRE as well – obviously! Your best bet is to reserve a seat now.
In my case, I waited for too long and when I went online to register, I was shocked to find only two available seats in Islamabad; one was for a test date that was just two days away (way too soon for me) and one was at the time when I would have been out of country. I was left with the option to look for a seat in Lahore and there too, I found just one. Phew! Enough said; if you haven’t registered yet– go register!
Step 6: Field of Research
The biggest most important thing that any applicant to Fulbright needs to spend their time and energy on is research regarding the field in which they want to pursue their studies. Granted that for Masters students, the choice of field and its specialisation is far more easier and less complicated but for PhD aspirants it is a strenuous process. Reasons:
- You do not want to be in a position where you have written your research statement and your future plans when you suddenly discover that not more than one university offers the field that you are looking for.
- Once you are successfully through the process and your placement plan is under discussion at the IIE, you will want that your choice of field as well as your research objectives within that field are comprehensive.
- There have been instances where the research objectives and the choice of field have not been clear enough and successful candidates have been placed at research centers that did not fully cater to their choice of study.
What do you need to do:
- Prepare an accordion folder (yes they are my favourite).
- Separate them on the basis of universities i.e., one section for one university.
- Then you start your research. For example, you are willing to go for a PhD in Public Policy. You will start with searching the web for the best programs in Public Policy offered in the United States. Ideally you should have a list of at least 10-15 institutions with this program in the offering (slight variations are ok!); the more thorough you are the better. The programs may vary slightly; some universities might have a PhD in Public Policy; some might have Public Policy and Management; some might have Economic Analysis and Policy; so on and so forth.
- Once you have narrowed down the programs, you will download and print (or don’t if you want to save paper which you should) the following:
- The curriculum being offered
- The research specialisation being offered
- Previous research of the department/school to see whether it aligns with what you want to do
- Look at the faculty – then look at their research areas
- Then you pick and choose the programs for your list of preferences and for formulating your research objectives. Following these steps will ensure that your research objectives are well rounded and up-to-date with the latest trends of research in your field of interest.
Please note that by following these steps you will ensure that you are prepared to fill in your application in the best possible way. In my next blog post, I will be targeting some frequently asked questions regarding the timeline of the whole process, queries regarding the application itself for which I will be uploading a sample application all filled out including the parts about funding and I will upload some samples of actual reference letters both from academia and professional fields – so watch this space.
Till that time, aspirants, bow your head down and get to work. Do not sweat about giving your 100 percent to a task that will shape the rest of your life. You future self will be grateful to you.