During College Years
BEFORE clicking on any link below, first just read this page all the way through so that you can orientate yourself to what’s in here and then decide, based on what you already know, where is best for you to begin to dig deeper.
To understand fellowships generally, read
and perhaps a few of the links therefrom.
There is much in the above section, "Introduction to the Program" (program there meaning the whole Smith Fellowships Program) by way of the links on the right, that applies to Fulbright preparation.
You are welcome to dip into them but beware that our streamlined Fulbright Fast Track program operates differently from the rest of Smith's Fellowships Program in many ways and therefore some of the information in these links does not apply to the Fast Track process.
Everything you need to know about specifically applying for a Fulbright will be contained in the Fulbright Fast Track webpages, all of which you do not see at the beginning because you are introduced to deeper levels of involvement only as you prove a sincere interest.
This includes in the first instance demonstrating a willingness to invest the time and effort required to able to follow the instructions correctly.
The most important factor in producing a winning Fulbright application, is to START EARLY enough to give yourself the time to develop a proposal for your year following graduation -- even if you don't yet know you want a Fulbright.
This means during JUNIOR YEAR, fall semester, spring latest, MAKE CONTACT with Donald Andrew so he can show you how to think about what you may want to do and what may be best for you to apply to do -- even if you have no idea.
If you want to gain a better feel for fellowships generally, rather than going through all the right-hand links at Introduction to the Program, the following pages listed just below here should give sufficient background to orientate yourself further in the world of fellowships relative to the Fulbright.
Feel free to spend the time reading everything if you want to know all about fellowships but, for the Fulbright, we are trying to save you time with Fast Track.
Preparatory Development and Competitive Attributes will reinforce what you read here in Fulbright Preparations -- During College Years.
Even First-Years can begin preparations at the beginning of their college careers.
Alert! Junior Year Abroad tells you that if you are planning to be abroad during junior year, then there are two main factors to bear in mind:
1. Because you may have an extraordinary opportunity to make contact with the very people who will be key to the success of your Fulbright application, by way of helping you figure a project to propose and also as future sponsors, it's best to leave for abroad with some idea of what you will be looking to develop for your Fulbright year.
2. You better get started with organizing your Fulbright application plan during sophomore year because it is mostly during junior year that you will be preparing your Fulbright application and this is not only difficult to do from abroad, it is sometimes impossible if you for instance barely have internet access.
When to Apply – for the Fulbright?
Start your enquiry now by reading all the Fast Track links, such as this one you are on, and then answering the questions at
Tips from a Pro is worth reading if only to hear the mantra advice of all former applicants: Start Early!
Amy's experience relates to the first year of Smith's official Fellowships Program and a lot has changed since then in the way students should go about things and how the program runs.
It is her initiative and attitude though that shines through for all young students to emulate.
What she does not relate is that to boost her chances, she took an Economics course at UMass over the summer.
This shows some serious ambition.
Amy Liu went on to do a Fulbright Hays Fellowship while completing her PhD and is now a professor in Colorado teaching International Relations.
These are all the links you need to read, or just know about, at Introduction to the Program.
For knowing how your time and effort will be rewarded, go to Benefits from Applying
There are two paths to preparing to apply for a Fulbright since these fellowships are of two types: the Research Fulbright and the Teaching Fulbright.
All Fulbrights are conducted in one of about 155 foreign countries, so a fair amount of knowledge of your potential host country and its language to at least a "hospitality" or "survival" level is expected of applicants with a few exceptions.
Mostly, though, especially for Research, a proficient, if not excellent, command of the language will be required.
All depends on each country’s requirements found via
and on the level of language you will need to be able to conduct your proposed project.
So language stands out as your first preparation consideration, which means to learn at least some of the language of the country to which you will eventually apply.
But often early in your college career, you will not know where you will want to go or what you will want to do for a Fulbright.
It is during the course of your college career that you usually start finding out what really interests you and what you would like to pursue further, such as through a Fulbright.
And it is often the foreign language to which you are drawn to study that will end up dictating your country choice for a Fulbright.
So if you don't want to be so limited and do want to look and plan ahead (one of the attributes of successful people) then explore all avenues for learning a language, including at UMass for instance, which offers a great variety of choices:
The Five College Center for the Study of World Languages also hosts a variety of summer course options, including virtual learning through Skype sessions:
Smith offers some funding for intensive summer language programs with priority given to the study of non-European languages.
The application form for funding under this program is available on the Class Deans' web site:
It is due the last weekday before March 15.
Another way to learn at least some conversational ability of a more obscure or less frequently taught language, is to contact the Dean of International Students in our college Global Studies Center to find out if there are any students from your target country studying at Smith (or others who may speak the language you want to learn) then to contact them to set up learning the basics and, to start, some "tourist" phrases as a conversation partner.
Perhaps you can trade by offering to tutor them in some subject or help with their English writing.
More sources of language fellowships are available at:
Another, harder way is self-teaching with Rosetta Stone but even they do not offer all languages, so check out
or seek a "private tutor" as your only local option, or an additional international boost, for instance as a free exchange via
Here are some options via the Internet
Use online resources such as radio or TV stations, newspapers, magazines, etc. to augment your class materials or self-study program.
Bottom-line, you will eventually as part of your Fulbright application be required to complete a Language Background Report for all countries where English is not the first and official language.
On this form, you will have to show that you made some effort to learn the language of your host country.
To understand much of what you will read here, it is necessary first to familiarize yourself with Fulbright basics.
If you began reading about Fast Track at
then you will already have been directed to speed-read:
The more you read, the more you will know but, with Fast Track, we try to cut to the chase.
Knowledge is power and action produces results but, with Fast Track, do only what specifically advised within the Fast Track program.
Simply read through these files for an overview of the Fulbright but do not get bogged down in the detail because the program keeps changing.
What Smith classifies as "Research" Fulbrights include Study, such as for a degree, and other parts of projects that could include interning, volunteering or an apprenticeship (activities that could possibly also supplement a Teaching Fulbright).
The Fulbright has many facets and already, as you may have noticed, we are becoming side-tracked from Fulbright Preparations during your college years.
But how you prepare beyond country choice does really depend on whether you will be applying to do Research/Study or to Teach English.
For whatever you propose for your Fulbright, you must have the commensurate background skill.
If you want them to give you about $25,000 to spend a year in a foreign country doing something, you must show them you know how to do what you are proposing.
This means you know your subject and have some experience in it.
For Research, you know how to conduct research because you have performed research.
For Teaching, you have experience teaching, preferably in the classroom.
Research is the doing, but of what?
– The subject you have studied.
Teaching Fulbrights sometimes used to attract those who didn’t have a research project.
Not so anymore as Teaching and specifically Teaching English and more specifically Teaching ESL has become an equally specialized Fulbright.
Specialization for both Research/Study and for Teaching English (ESL) is key to winning a Fulbright.
You must become something of a junior expert in something to stand out in a highly competitive application pool.
To become that expert, you must focus or concentrate in a particular field.
This is where you follow your heart, your bliss so you spend plenty time doing what you love: what interests, fascinates and absorbs you.
It takes time building specialist expertise which is all the more reason to start planning in First Year if you can.
Often though, if you pursue your interests fully and with gusto, they will give you the background that qualifies you for a Fulbright.
Example: A sophomore decided she wanted to apply for a Teaching Fulbright to wherever she had the best chance of succeeding, but she lacked teaching experience.
For the summer before Junior year (when she would begin her Fulbright application) she got a job teaching English in Greece so she would have ESL experience.
She won a Fulbright to Korea.
Another student did something similar the summer following her junior year because she was too late in applying for funding to get overseas (see Funding below).
Nothing beats setting a goal and taking concrete steps to attain it.
Research shows that those liberal arts college graduates, who report the most enriching undergraduate experiences, are those who managed to integrate their academic and extracurricular pursuits into a theme that had a connecting thread running through it.
The other single-most impelling factor research has found in creating a successful and rewarding college experience is the extent to which students develop intellectual relationships with professors by spending time talking with them.
More on this below under 8. Academics.
There are many avenues to prepare yourself for a Research/Study Fulbright but none quite like actually doing research in your field or any research for that matter, simply for the experience of undertaking research.
Opportunities to do research abound at Smith but you have to seek them out to gain this major advantage towards eventually winning a major fellowship like the Fulbright.
How to find out about them?
Scan eDigest religiously when it hits your in-box, follow faculty department news, seek out advice from professors (who are your best college resource) and keep an eye on
Professors across campus have all sorts of research projects going on right here and all over the world.
They are always on the look-out for assistants.
All of the following count towards building background in your field:
Studies, courses, honors, thesis, special studies, Collaborations, research abroad, publications, Kahn, fellowships, papers, Blumberg, presentations, posters, internships, jobs, volunteering, and so on.
It boils down firstly to what you have studied and thus know in depth.
Then how have you worked with this knowledge, put it to some use to produce a tangible result.
Part of finding an idea for a research project and developing that into a project concept includes doing a literature review to see what research has already been done on your topic.
This will lead you to the names of those researchers anywhere in the world, whom you are at liberty to contact for advice, especially what fresh or neglected research angles are calling out to be investigated.
There are four tracks for Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (ETAs):
1. Elementary schools
2. Middle and high schools
3. Universities and teacher-training colleges
4. Language bureaus
For each of these, Fulbright seeks different attributes:
1. For elementary schools, they especially need Education majors OR those who have studied early childhood development and have experience teaching/tutoring groups of young children.
You should also speak the host-country language since these elementary-school children will just be starting English and may need explanations in their mother tongue.
2. For middle and high schools, they want students whose resumes demonstrate an interest in working with teenagers, so you can help engage (enliven) this age group in learning English.
You do not necessarily need full-blown teaching experience, such as in a classroom, because you are not expected to lead lessons but are an "English" assistant to the classroom teacher.
3. For universities and teacher-training colleges, TESL certification is usually required (check Country Summary).
They are also looking for mature candidates, maturity not gauged by age.
Experience teaching ESL to adults (e.g. immigrants, refugees) is good.
Since this is at a higher-education level, a degree of sophistication (intellectual / leadership) must be apparent in the candidate's background.
4. For language bureaus -- a Bi-National Center (BNC) affiliated with the U.S. Embassy -- you may be teaching middle- and high-school students, or adults, or both.
You should therefore be able to meet the qualities they seek in both 2. and 3. above.
In all cases, they are keen on students who have studied the host-country language, ideally by majoring in that language and or demonstrating high proficiency if indeed it is a language commonly taught in the U.S.
To be successful in the competition, you must have at least a tourist-phrase level in the host-country language or else a good reason why you do not, such as that it is obscure to the point that you are unable to study it -- and even then, online or self-study is recommended. (See 2. Language above.)
It is also highly desirable to have classroom teaching experience or the closest you can get to it such as tutoring small groups, preferably teaching English and, even better, teaching ESL, although you can't always choose what to teach and that should not stop you from grabbing any teaching opportunity.
The point of "teaching" experience (when applying for an ETA to middle and high schools) is to have a track record that shows you have taken an interest in working with children, so "teaching" for these Fulbright assignments embraces a wider background (e.g. camp counselor).
The value of classroom teaching experience cannot however be underestimated.
On the other hand, they may be turned off by an applicant who over-asserts her ability to take over a whole classroom, even though this ability may well be true (e.g. by having a masters in education).
You will be assisting a teacher probably much older than yourself (as a guest in her classroom) so, for middle and high schools, they look more for qualities that show your rapport with children.
They also seek bright sparkling exemplary young adults who will be good inspiring examples to children so as to infuse them with an excitement to learn English (as a foreign language) as well as the knowledge and ability to talk about many aspects of America and its society.
Acquiring teaching experience shows you know what it takes to teach or tutor -- a skill that is not only an admirable accomplishment but also a valuable commodity.
Volunteering is usually the best means to gain teaching experience -- an hour or more each week to teach/tutor, and doing so consistently over an extended period (a semester or more) shows your commitment to helping others by serving a specific need within an organization or community.
In the United States, opportunities to work with ESL students or "new Americans" are often available through faith-based or community-based nonprofit organizations serving immigrant populations (e.g. Catholic Family Services).
You may also be able to volunteer as a conversation partner or peer-to-peer tutor at one of the ESL programs many U.S. universities and colleges provide for international students.
Alternately, look for places to teach or tutor ESL abroad either during a summer or while on study abroad junior year, even J-term.
For opportunities abroad, explore the internet which has many volunteer teaching positions all over the world, such as a few found via
Some however require you pay for the experience, so also check out our Funding links below.
There are many teaching volunteer opportunities offered through Smith and others locally that you can arrange yourself.
Opportunities are regularly posted on eDigest, so scan the eDigest emails as they enter your in-box Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Some of the places students teach/tutor are Head Start, People's Institute, International Language Institute of Massachusetts (ILI), Center for New Americans, Volunteers in Northampton Schools (VINS), German Gerena Elementary Montessori Magnet School in Springfield, Amherst Jones Library ESL Program and the Smith Campus School.
Follow up at:
For more information, contact:
Center for Community Collaboration, Wright Hall, ext. 3060.
Community Service Office, Wright Hall, ext. 2793.
Lazarus Center (formerly the CDO), Clark Hall, ext. 2582.
Find FUNDING sources for Teaching at
Besides teaching experience, TESL Certification is a good way to help win a Teaching Fulbright to a university, especially if coupled with experience teaching ESL to adults.
If you wish to learn more about TESL certification programs, send answers to the 12 questions at
to the FPA without delay.
Unlikely as it is, you might be able to find some funding through Smith to help pay for a TESL Certification course.
Smith funds are available only to enrolled undergraduates, meaning once you have graduated, you are no longer eligible.
One way you may be able to get funding towards a TESL course is to do it abroad.
This could qualify you for funding from
A few students have obtained funding this way.
One did an S.I.T. course in Mexico and another did a different TESL course in Italy.
Another way, if you sign up early enough for this extremely popular offering, is to do it at Hampshire for credit:
Mt. Holyoke also offers a four week summer TESOL course for credit.
Boston University offers a TESOL certificate consisting of four courses.
Oxford offers TESOL certification courses across the country.
For more information on TESOL Journals and Online Resources, click here.
Students should check Hampshire College, 5 Colleges Consortium, and UMass Amherst for availability of other TESOL certification courses.
Finally, TEFL Course Review
lists more than 100 schools around the world providing TEFL certification courses.
Caveat Emptor !
For other funding sources, from Smith and elsewhere, see 11. Funding below.
Leadership is the key word here, but in its broadest sense that includes taking initiative in all sorts of endeavors that show organizational ability or service, preferably that somehow ties to your academic interests and ultimately to your Fulbright application.
And it goes one step farther: it is not just what you did that counts, but the outcomes from your efforts that make you stand out in a fellowships competition where most contenders have breath-taking resumes.
Broaden your vision through this website:
What is your "business card" self-description blurb going to say about you in eight words?
Factors that feed how you will sum yourself up in distinctive terms are:
● Know what’s going on globally.
Be informed. Form opinions.
● Your community starts here on campus and extends into the whole world.
Must get involved in activities beyond the classroom.
● Become committed to one or a few endeavors.
Don’t spread yourself too thin.
● A long list of diverse activities will not help.
Look for a focus, a coherency, a continuity that defines you.
And makes you stand out from the crowd.
● Membership on its own is not enough.
Go for leadership, initiative. Be enterprising.
Above all, achieve RESULTS, the fruit of effort.
● So how do you become a leader?
Through giving more than the next person.
● Volunteer to be the secretary or the treasurer of the group.
Performs tasks that make the group happen.
● Be the one who offers and helps to run things.
Who works for the group.
● Before you know it, you will be elected a leader.
Provided you put your name forward.
● High grades are helpful, even essential for some fellowships.
But it’s your intellectual development that’s more important.
● Extend yourself by going deep into one or two fields.
● Best way to do this: Use the most valuable resource on campus.
And that is your professors and other faculty members.
● Get to know them well enough so that they know who you are if someone asks.
There are about 500 faculty members on campus.
This makes for a faculty student ratio of 1 to 5.
● With that kind of ratio, there’s no excuse not to and every reason indeed to . . .
Visit them in office, lab. Find a reason to discuss an interest.
● Your mind will be stimulated and it will grow.
This ties to your intellectual development which becomes the subject of your Personal Statement essay.
● Fellowship winners tell researchers, the single most important factor in their success, was the professors they got to know.
● Speaking of research, and this also ties back to resumes:
Conducting research projects before your senior year is a powerful plus in fellowship applications.
● Collaborate with a professor, or do your own through the Kahn Institute, or independently with guidance from a professor, come up with an idea to investigate your interests more deeply.
● A fact of fellowships is that the letters of recommendation professors write count for a lot.
So however excellent you may be, strong letters can make the difference between winning a fellowship or not.
Or getting into a good grad school, or landing a plum job.
● I have seen highly promising candidates fall down because they had not made the effort to engage faculty beyond the classroom.
So there was a lack of professors who knew the candidate well enough to write strong letters.
Host country knowledge is highly prized.
You must do your homework about the host country, so you don’t propose activities obviously unrealistic to a local, thereby revealing a shallow background preparedness.
Of course, you will see what a country wants in a Fulbright Fellow from
but do not be put off when a country says they prefer graduate students because special U.S. funds are allocated for graduating seniors who are the preferred category from a U.S. viewpoint.
Some country summaries have, on the right of their webpage, a video (also as a transcript) of their Fulbright Commission director telling you what they are looking for in fellows.
This often contains revealing information not to be found anywhere else.
All this helps you in getting a feel for each country, to which country you may want to apply, or are best suited.
Most countries have a link at the bottom of their summaries to their own Fulbright website (including contacts) or an email address for seeking further information.
There are 50 foreign Fulbright Commissions.
In the other 105-plus countries, the Public Affairs section of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate acts as the Fulbright commission in that country and they can be contacted for information.
Get a sense of a country's geography by studying regional and city maps found online, in atlases or elsewhere.
Orientate yourself in the space of the place and its place in its region.
The best way to get to know a country is to visit it or, better, stay there awhile.
Try do junior year or semester abroad and then travel to other countries in your region.
If you can't do study abroad, don't let this stop you from applying for a Fulbright.
But do educate yourself about potential countries, including surveying
so you know what each requires and don't waste time barking up the wrong trees.
They want to feel you care about their country by saying things that show you have made a study of it, which includes not only academic subjects such as their history, but also some practicalities of life there.
We want to reassure through what we write that we are not caught up in an insular myopic American mindset out of touch with the different realities of living in other countries.
For cultural sensitivity to be sincere, it translates into understanding what others confront and must contend with in their daily lives.
So much is relative to our own experience and thus are we all subject to our limited perspectives that we must strive to broaden.
Your experience in &/or knowledge of America is the content of many conversational English classes you will teach abroad and, even for Research or any Fulbright, you are expected to know your own country that you will be representing as a student ambassador.
You must be able to talk about America, so you must be knowledgeable enough about your own country to be able to speak about its geography, history, politics, culture, peoples, economics, religion, arts, sciences &/or current events, etc.
You need to take some courses or do some reading if you are short on such knowledge.
You need to be up on current affairs internationally as well because many questions will be put to you about this in relation to America domestically and its role in the world.
Smith has several sources of funding for overseas experiences such as spending a summer in Greece teaching English, taking an ESL certification course in Mexico say, or learning a foreign language.
Be sure to apply before the deadlines, most of which are early to mid-spring!
There are a whole host of links to money at
Otherwise, check out the multiple possibilities at
under for instance Abroad, Language, Summer and Teaching.
Don't miss the Smith Student Aid Society grants and the wealth of Funding for Smith Undergraduates via the lists of campus sources at
Working on a Fulbright application is a life-changing experience, students report.
It is probably not like anything you have done before, starting with Preparations today.
There's a huge amount of hard work involved but the benefits derived and the satisfaction gained from completing an application make it all worthwhile.
Want to break the ice?
Get into the groove?
After all, what's this all about?
Basically writing to someone to give you some money to go do something interesting and important in a foreign country, right?
So think about it this way: You have this rich aunt rolling in money, who also happens to be an English teacher, so appreciates eloquence.
She's got a soft spot for you but is kind of strict, has high standards, and a searing intellect.
But you know how to charm her, you have a way with her.
Write her a letter telling her what you want to go do abroad for a year.
If you get Aunt Hilder excited about it, and convinced it's realistic, doable, you know what might happen next.
She may well offer to pay for the year.
Some students find this approach an ideal ice-breaker.
The feeling of familiarity of writing a personal letter to a friend cuts through this icy iceberg that you might fear looming before you.