Master in the USA. Fulbright Graduate Student Program. Part 1

On Habré periodically come across stories about how people go to study abroad. There were already several articles specifically about studying in America. But I did not find any posts about receiving a Fulbright scholarship, so I decided to share my experience in applying for a scholarship, completing a competition and studying at Purdue University . So, if you are interested, and especially if you want to try to participate in the scholarship competition, welcome to cat.

All that will be discussed is more applicable specifically to the Ukrainian office, although in general the process in the CIS countries should not be very different (I will write about the differences where I know), since in America all CIS countries are supervised by similar principles. I’ll break up the article into a couple of parts, thematically - submitting documents and a competition, studying at the university.

Fulbright Program

A small insert from Wikipedia
The Fulbright Program is an educational grants program founded in 1946 by US Senator James William Fulbright and funded by the Department of State to strengthen cultural and academic ties between citizens of the United States and other countries.
It provides international educational exchanges for students, scientists, teachers, specialists and artists. On a competitive basis, it provides grants to both American and foreign students, scientists and researchers. Stimulates "cross" education, in particular American students abroad, and foreign - in the United States. The Fulbright program is one of the most prestigious award programs in the world among similar ones, it works in more than 155 countries, 50 of which have special commissions that manage the program, where it is not there, it is supervised by the US Embassy Information and Culture Department.

From myself . The scholarship is considered one of the most prestigious scholarships in the United States. Many people in the USA have heard and know about her.
Initially a more humanitarian program, but recently it is gaining popularity among the basic sciences. For example, the specially recently opened Fulbright STEP program .

Scholarship Terms

  • university tuition

As a rule, a program involves financing your training for 2 years. Therefore, in the case of obtaining a PhD degree, during this time you need to find another source of funding.

  • 2 way ticket

Roundtrip tickets. Extra flights are not paid.

  • monthly scholarship

$ 1280 + depending on the place of residence. In the summer there is no scholarship and there are no tickets home either, which creates an interesting situation. It is also strange that some countries are paid scholarships in the summer, while some are not. Therefore, summer funding should be considered in advance.

  • medical insurance

Basic insurance Seven Corners. In principle, it is enough for routine visits to the doctor. More info here.

  • 2 year return requirement

You must return to your home country for 2 years in accordance with the requirements of J1 visa. Here we are talking about obtaining a residence permit in the United States. Nobody forbids staying in the United States on a tourist visa or another student visa, but most likely it will not be possible to obtain a residence permit without returning home for 2 years. With great desire and luck, you can get an exemption from this rule (waiver), but I have not yet met people who went through the whole procedure, so it's hard for me to talk about it. I heard more than once that these 2 years are not always physically required to be in their native country, but again there is little information.

  • the opportunity to take family with you

You can take your husband / wife and children with you, they receive a J2 visa, which, for example, allows you to work. Also, for each family member extra money is paid. More info here.

Submission of documents

The deadline for submitting documents for the competition is mid-May. It should be borne in mind that documents are submitted for the year ahead. So I applied in May 2012, when I was in my 3rd year at the university, and I began to study in the USA in August 2013. The results of the selection will be known somewhere in late September (choosing a university, how anyone is lucky), which nevertheless allows you to plan well in advance.
The list of documents is quite simple (here I will focus on the most important in my opinion):
  • Personal Statement - serves as a report on everything that you have already done and that in your opinion makes you a good candidate for a scholarship. At the same time, it should include some references to how studying in the States will help you achieve your professional and scientific goals, and why this cannot be done in the conditions in which you are currently.
  • Study Objective is an essay that follows as much as possible to talk about what you would like to do when you are in the United States. It implies a less detailed description of the project, the relevance of your chosen direction. It is advisable to describe in detail your goals in the chosen field and how you are going to realize these goals, and most importantly why go to the USA for this.
  • three letters of recommendation . Try to find people who can show you from different angles. It seems to me that the optimal set is work, university and social activities. It is advisable to characterize you in many ways, but it is better to have a letter from the supervisor. These letters will then be used to submit documents to US universities, and, knowing how we relate to letters of recommendation, it is important to make it clear to people that these letters are important, and not just an unsubscribe.

The first two essays are included in the application and judging by the reviews are the main criterion for the initial screening of candidates.

Selection process

The deadline for submitting documents is mid-May. Then, somewhere until mid-August, forms are being processed. Everything is liberal enough, if you miss something, you will most likely just be asked to send the missing documents.
In mid-August, they announce people who went to the second round (Semi-Final), that is, for an interview. The interview takes place in the form of a panel - 5-6 people ask you about your project, goals and arguments for the relevance of the project. As a rule, among them 2-3 Americans. In my case, half of the people who interviewed me came across Computer Science, the rest were just from the technical fields.
The interview itself takes place somewhere in mid-September, and the results are announced 1-2 weeks after the interview. So the applicants go to the final stage. The bottom line is that this is not a guarantee of the trip itself (although the chances are somewhere around 95%). A small part of people is eliminated due to poor test results, some because of their own will or because they cannot find a suitable university. Therefore, in addition to the main list, there is also a reserve one, and the chances for people from the reserve list are usually quite good.


After getting into the final stage (actually receiving a scholarship), you will need to pass 2 tests (TOEFL, GRE General). If you passed them before, the results are still valid at the time of submitting documents to universities and satisfy the minimum requirements, then you can not pass the tests. Finalists are paid for the change itself, but training is usually not paid.
  1. TOEFL iBT - consists of 4 parts (Listening, Reading, Speaking, Writing). Each part is about 30 points, a total of 120. The minimum in most universities is about 80, but an acceptable result is 100. It is very desirable to pass Speaking by more than 25, this often makes it possible to certify at the university if you want to work with students (I passed at 23 and I had to take an additional course)
  2. GRE revised General Test - this test has a progressive rating scale (from 130 to 170, for example 145 means you are in the first quantile, 151 average score, and from 157 the fourth quantile), depending on the university and the program, the requirements for this test are very different. Some universities do not require it at all. In general, the test is more difficult than TOEFL, it takes more time to prepare. Consists of 3 parts:
    • Math is a fairly easy test, at the 1st year level at a technical university. The bulk of the tasks in algebra. Nothing unusual, just for successful completion you need to get used to the wording of the assignments in English (as a rule, this is more complicated than the assignments themselves).
    • Vocabulary is simply incredibly complex. A very academic vocabulary is used, it is often simply difficult to understand what it is about. True, it takes a long time to prepare. Talking later with the Americans, I realized that among them there are many people who fail this test.
    • Writing - 2 essays. I have often heard that for foreign students this is not the most important part. According to empirical observations, it is better to devote more time to other parts. Although, again, regarding the program.

Tests must be taken in late October - early November, so it makes sense to think about it in advance. There is very little time between getting into the final and passing the tests, and as a rule, it’s not possible to significantly raise your level. Especially in GRE, where the language test is very, very complex.

University Choice

After passing the tests, according to your results, compiles a list of recommended universities for you, which, according to the Fulbright program, you could enter. The bottom line is that a scholarship is funding, but not a guarantee that you can find a university for yourself. Often, program employees try to take into account your wishes if they are from the field of logic, and not from the area “I will not go anywhere except Harvard.” You are offered a list of 4 universities and, as a rule, you need to fill in something yourself everywhere. The filing of documents begins in late November. The first proposals from universities will be after the New Year. And here, in principle, the most difficult situation happens. Some universities give the Fulbright program a discount on your studies, so it is more profitable for the program to send scholarship holders to such universities. Very well, when your choice coincided with what you are advised. Honestly, what happens in another case, I don’t really know. There are people who refuse, because they are not happy with the university. I believe that an obsession with the name of the university is a good thing, but not the most important thing. Moreover, in the end, upon arrival in the United States, you can transfer to another university.

Personal advice

  • if possible, give TOEFL or GRE before submitting documents, or one summer after submitting documents (results can be entered into your application at any time). Good test results give the commission a certain level of confidence in you and show knowledge of the language. According to empirical feelings, somewhere around 50% of the finalists passed at least one test before reaching the final. Also, passing tests in advance will greatly simplify your life if you qualify for the finals, since in another case you have to take them in a very short time (1-2 months).
  • it’s better to have a real list of universities where you want to go. Take the time and review the programs. As a rule, universities have specialization in computer science. Immediately I want to upset a little, the chances of getting into the Ivy League are not very many. The problem is not even the level of knowledge, but rather the financial side of the issue for Fulbright. Plus, to get into conditional Stanford you need a real argument why Stanford and not for example the University of Washington. Therefore, when submitting documents, it is better to have realistic goals.
  • Be as prepared as possible for your direction and project. Try to update knowledge, read what is being researched in your field right now. This is most likely to be asked for an interview.
  • in preparation for the interview I was advised one very effective technique. Spend 2-3 days and write out all the questions that you yourself would ask about your project. What can a person ask from the side. Ask friends to help you with this. So I managed to “guess” somewhere around 70% of the questions that I finally asked in the interview.

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