The Fulbright Foreign Student Program

Alison Massey

The Fulbright Program is a scholarship program that awards funding to exceptional students of any field of study to complete research and further study in the USA. The program is focused towards prospective master’s and doctoral (Ph.D.) students and has helped students from 180 countries, including 35 from Africa, to gain placement and funding at over a thousand US graduate schools. Senator J. William Fulbright began the program shortly after World War II. On 8 March, Perdeby attended a conference and gathered some of the information prospective applicants may need before they consider applying to the program.

If you are currently studying towards an Honours degree or are in the fourth year of a degree equivalent to a US four-year degree, you are most likely eligible to apply for the master’s program. To apply for the doctorate program, you should already have completed or be in the final year of a master’s degree. The program offers two years of full funding for one degree (a master’s or doctorate), including living expenses on a “typical student budget” and in some cases textbooks. If your Ph.D. research runs over more than two years, you will have to fund your own studies from the third year onwards, although it was emphasised that many Fulbright students have received offers from their universities for further research funding.

Fulbright’s prerequisites for qualification are that applicants are South African citizens or permanent residents, excel academically, are highly motivated and display leadership qualities. It is vital that you apply at least 12 to 14 months before the US academic year in which you wish to study begins. The application process is multifaceted and acceptance is based not only on your application form and personal statement, which is completed through an online process, but on reference letters, interviews and workshops, to mention a few of many stages. Fulbright also recommend that before application you do some lengthy research into which graduate schools you wish to apply to as well as the specific department you will be working with as the final decision is made by the professor you will be working under.

There are many other aspects to this complex application process, but the staff at Fulbright Program and the US embassy are willing to assist applicants with any questions they may have.

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