You Might be Interested in a Fulbright

June 23, 2016

With approximately 1,600 annual awards, the Student Fulbright is one of the largest and best recognized national fellowships. I often talk with graduate students who think that they might be interested in a Fulbright but are not sure about the details. If you are one of those people, read below for insight from Emily Kotay, the Scholarship Advisor in the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships (ONCS).

Although Emily’s office is in the Honor’s College, she assists all UA students and alumni to identify and compete for nationally competitive scholarships like the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Truman, Boren, Goldwater and Udall. Emily is the point of contact for all UA students and alumni who are interested in a Fulbright.

This month I interviewed Emily to get more details about the Fulbright Student Program:

What is the purpose of the Fulbright program?

The purpose of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is to foster cross-cultural collaboration and scholarship. From its inception by Senator J. William Fulbright in 1945, the Fulbright program has fostered bilateral relationships. Essentially, Fulbright Student Scholars are cultural ambassadors, focusing on building scholarly collaborations around the world. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in more than 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students.

If a student thinks he or she might be interested in applying for a Fulbright, what should that person do?

The student should read the country description(s) of where s/he would like to go on the Fulbright website at . The website can be quite daunting to navigate, so I encourage students to make an appointment with me, even if it is just to gather information.  We can go over country descriptions together to see what is required to apply to that particular country, and to see if the student is a good fit for what that country is looking for in their visiting scholars (or in their English teaching assistants).

What are two or three things that you see strong applicants do during the application process?

The number one thing strong applications have in common is that the applicants write many drafts, not waiting until the last minute to write their applications. Strong applicants prioritize their applications. They treat the Fulbright application like it is another project they must do for a class. If students know now (early May) that they want to apply this fall (by early September; September 7 is the campus deadline), they should start putting together an application timeline for submitting drafts to me (and to anyone else they know who would be helpful!) to get feedback.

This is why I am excited about the Summer 2016 Application Support Program; it will provide structure and support to UA students applying for Fulbrights and other fellowships. Writing many drafts, asking for feedback, and incorporating that feedback makes for a strong application. The writing process takes time.

What are your top suggestions for creating a competitive application?

My top suggestion for creating a competitive application (besides seeking feedback and writing many drafts) is to make sure you are a good fit for the country you’re applying to. The best way to ensure a good fit is to go through the country description and treat it as if it is a checklist. Check for key words. Make sure you have an experience or a qualification you can write about to demonstrate that you meet everything the country is looking for in their description. If you make sure you’re a good fit, you have won half the battle!

If you think you might be interested in a Fulbright, contact Emily Kotay ( She is an excellent source of information and source of help. She is also able to put students in touch with current Fulbrights and Fulbright alumni who are willing to be a resource.


The GradFunding Newsletter is a service of the University of Arizona Graduate College, Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement. You may reuse this article but please acknowledge Shelley Hawthorne Smith and the University of Arizona Graduate College Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement.

To subscribe or unsubscribe to the newsletter, send an email to (link sends e-mail) with "subscribe (or unsubscribe) gradfunding FirstName LastName" in the subject line. You may send opportunities for posting or questions to address to the newsletter editor, Shelley Hawthorne Smith (