Global Engagement

Clemson Applicants: Guide

Now that you have decided to apply, it is important that you start the preparation of your application as far in advance of the campus deadline as possible. While a few candidates have been successful in the competition for these awards after only a limited period of preparation, these students are the exception. Preparing a competitive application takes a great deal of time and effort.

The application requires essays, references, a language evaluation, transcripts, and a campus interview. However, the most important aspect of your application is your proposed project. To be competitive, your project should be original, relevant, feasible, and clearly defined. What makes a project successful varies by country, discipline, and the qualifications of an individual applicant.

By the time you submit your application, you should be able to both summarize your project in one sentence as well as speak to the project specifics at length. You should also be able to recognize the greater significance of your project with regard to the host country and the United States as well as potential contributions to your academic discipline. For more information on the project proposal, see below.

Although a fully completed application may seem daunting in the early stages, you have many resources to help you. Do not hesitate to ask for assistance or advice from your advisor, faculty, staff, family, friends, and the Clemson Fulbright Program Advisor.

One thing to keep in mind: whether or not you are successful with the Fulbright, the time spent thinking and writing about their future plans is well worth the effort. If you plan to apply to graduate schools or interview with prospective employers, the Fulbright application process can provide you with valuable experience. In the essays, you will have to consider your future plans and goals. In this way, applying for the Fulbright can help you to further define your academic and career goals.

Researching your options
Applicants for the Fulbright must determine where and what to study and/or research overseas. Applicants who have familiarized themselves with the educational opportunities in the country of interest will be in a position to prepare stronger applications. Since choosing the appropriate course of study & research and the country of interest will greatly affect the competitiveness of your application, it is important to survey all viable opportunities available in the country of interest before making major decisions. For instance, students who are interested in studying in the UK should investigate other universities in addition to those as well known as Oxford or Cambridge. Also, please read the country-specific information thoroughly in the Fulbright Program Book, or website, as requirements and restrictions vary country to country. Certain countries may emphasize accompanying university coursework or the importance of in-country affiliations. This may impact the decision about your qualifications for certain countries as well as your competitiveness for selected countries.

Explore overseas educational opportunities: It is important for applicants to familiarize themselves with the educational resources (universities, research institutes, faculty, libraries, labs, archives, etc.) available in the country of interest. This familiarity will help you with essays and the campus interview. If your proposal includes studying or conducting research at a particular overseas university or institute, it is your responsibility to gain admission or access. Fulbright applicants should try to obtain detailed knowledge of programs, courses, or other educational opportunities and contacts (particular faculty members) available at their chosen institution.

Develop and utilize faculty contacts: It is important, throughout all levels of the application process, to use faculty members as a source for advising and support. Work closely with a Clemson faculty member to polish your project idea as well as to develop a network of faculty contacts. We have many individuals at Clemson who have been a Fulbright recipient in the past, sat on interview committees, or are intimately familiar with the program. Use this resource!

Seek potential affiliations: If any part of your project includes working closely with or taking classes from a particular overseas faculty member, it is critical that you make contact and develop a relationship with that faculty member. Email potential contacts with an introduction of yourself and a description of your interests, and (when appropriate) an outline of your research or study proposal. Hopefully, the overseas faculty member will respond positively and “invite” you to study or conduct research at their institution under his/her supervision. If so, ask them if they would be willing to formally invite you by writing a letter of support on your behalf. Such support can greatly bolster the competitiveness of your application. (Note that Fulbright selection committees are forgiving of grammar or spelling errors in these letters, especially if English is not the national language of the host country.)

Putting together a strong application

1. The Essays:

Your Fulbright application requires two essays: a Statement of Grant Purpose and a Personal Statement. The essays are your opportunity to state who you are and what you want to do. Since you will not have any interviews beyond the campus level, you should put as much time and energy into these essays as possible.

Writing these essays can be frustrating, but your final essays should produce a picture of you as a person, a student, a potential scholarship winner, and (looking into the future) as a former scholarship recipient.

Think carefully about the approach you should take to each essay—the Statement of Grant Purpose vs. the Personal Statement—because each will serve a different role in your application. Each essay should make a statement about your academic life and plans, as well as your personal goals and beliefs. Your writing should grab the interest of the reader and make him or her want to meet you. Write simply and directly, and do your best to find a balance between modesty and persuasiveness.

Essays should be formatted in 12-point font, Times New Roman (or a similar reader-friendly font), with one-inch margins. Although applicants sometimes get away with using smaller fonts and margins, we don’t recommend doing so. Essays should be single-spaced, and it is not necessary to use spaces between paragraphs. Citations may be omitted.

Statement of Grant Purpose
The project proposal for study & research grants is limited to two pages.  The proposal for an English Teaching Assistanship is limited to one page. Use this space wisely to fully describe your project.

For study & research grants

The project proposal should demonstrate that you are able to plan and implement a successful (and feasible) research project and it will be your guide to completing it and meeting your objectives. The essay should be as specific as possible, while also being flexible enough to make the best of the reality you will find once you arrive overseas, which will inevitably be a little different than planned. The following are questions you should ask yourself during your writing and editing process:

  • Is the proposal persuasive, direct, concise, and easy to read?
  • Does it emphasize the relevance of the project?
  • Does the introduction answer who, what, when, where, why, & how?
  • Do the next paragraphs detail what you propose and how you will do it?
  • Is the timeline realistic, specific, acceptable, and appropriate?
  • Are there achievable goals, concrete outcomes, and measurable results?
  • Does the proposal fit within the context of your academic experience?
  • Do you include an explanation of your field and context of the project?
  • Does the proposal describe with whom you will work and the significance of this assistance?
  • Does it demonstrate why the project or study needs to be in the country selected, the resources the country provides, and how it will benefit from your work there?
  • Does it demonstrate an interest to engage with the host country community through volunteer and extracurricular activities?
  • Does it explain your future plans (immediate and long-term) and how your work will help further your academic or professional development?
  • Does it leave the reader with a sense of why your project should be funded
  • Does the closing paragraph reemphasize what you will achieve and what makes your project exciting, necessary, and unique?

Overall, the project proposal should be compelling and easily understood. Since you don’t know exactly who will read your application at the campus, national, and international level, write so that your proposal is clear and comprehensible to someone who knows nothing about your subject while also specific and detailed enough to convince an expert. Do not be afraid to use language or concepts specific to your field and to reference the work of other authors.

Consider the following outline:

  1. Introduction
  2. Background
  3. Methodology
  4. Timeline
  5. Affiliations and support
  6. Qualifications
  7. Project’s significance
  8. Your future academic and professional goals

You may also want to review the pre-application guide, found here, to help you construct a strong study/research grant application.

For English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) proposals

If you’re applying for an ETA grant, the proposal is one page in length. ETA applicants are not expected to present extensive research plans. Rather, you should describe for the selection committees:

  • Why you would like to undertake an ETA assignment and why you have chosen the particular country.
  • Any specific qualifications, training, experiences you have had that relate to the overseas assignment.
  • How you expect to benefit from the assignment and what use you will make of the experience on your return to the US.
  • What use you will make of time outside the classroom. (Most ETAs work no more than 20-30 hours per week.) Note: Different countries have differing philosophies on this, e.g. Argentina expects a developed side project in the proposal, whereas, Taiwan prefers their ETAs to focus solely on teaching. Again, it is crucial to be familiar with the country-specific requirements.

You may also want to review the pre-application guide found here here to help you construct a strong ETA application.

Personal Statement
Your personal statement should narrate your personal and intellectual development. It should illustrate how a Fulbright grant is the next logical and necessary step in your life, and how you are qualified to carry out your project. It is your opportunity to illustrate what a unique and exceptional individual you are! Here are questions to consider while writing:

  • Is your essay interesting and easy to read? Does it show, rather than tell, who you are?
  • Does it demonstrate your motivation and ability to work independently?
  • Does it show who you are and make the reader want to know you better?
  • Do you demonstrate your experience and interest in intercultural learning and sharing? Will the reader feel confident you would act as an “ambassador” for the US?
  • Do you maintain a theme or connecting concept throughout the statement?
  • Does your essay explore connections between your academic life and the rest of your life?
  • Do you repeat information included in other parts of your application? Omit them unless they are necessary for further explanation or emphasis.
  • DO NOT turn the essay into an extended version of a resume.

We cannot over-emphasize the importance of having a variety of people read your essays. Readers should be people whose opinions you respect. They also should be people with whom you have already discussed both the scholarship for which you are applying and the course of study you wish to pursue. Ask your advisor, faculty members, classmates, roommates, and friends to read your essay, but explain the essay’s context first.

This process can be incredibly rewarding and yet frustrating. Each time you show your drafts to someone, he/she will suggest changes and you will have to weigh their suggestions against others. It is up to you to decide when you think your essays are ready for submission, but it is important to listen to multiple sources of advice as you craft your essays.

Feedback on Essays from Clemson’s Fulbright Program Advisor
We are available to critique essays and offer advice. Students may submit essays for review by e-mail to, though it is advised to first make an appointment.

2. Letters of Reference
You are asked to submit three academic letters of reference for the Fulbright Scholarship. The Fulbright is primarily an academic scholarship, so the selection committee is looking for honest appraisals of your academic abilities. You should keep the following points in mind when selecting recommenders:

  • References should be from faculty members with whom you have worked, had a class, or conducted a research project. At least two of the letters should be from professors in your major or field who are familiar with your abilities and proposed project.
  • Choose people who know you well academically, extracurricularly, and personally. A letter of recommendation is most useful when it includes specific comments on the strength of your Fulbright application.
  • Identify your recommenders and contact them as early in the process as possible. Brief them on the overall timeline, expectations, and opportunities with regard to the Fulbright Scholarship.

It is important to show your recommender a copy of the final draft of your proposal; the academic references should be about your proposal and how qualified you are to carry out that proposal, and not just how good a student you are. A good academic reference for a Fulbright puts the faculty member's knowledge of you in the context of your proposal and your potential.

3. Foreign Language Forms

The Foreign Language Evaluation (Form 8) functions as a reference letter on your language skills. The Language Background Report (Form 7) is completed by the applicant and is a self-assessment on language abilities. This report can state intentions to strength proficiency before the grant and the means of doing so.

The Foreign Language Evaluation, whenever possible, should be from a faculty member (who instructs that particular language). However, in a few cases, the particular language may not be taught by faculty at Clemson. In these cases, only, it is possible to submit a Foreign Language Report from a native speaker. Also, indicate how the reference was completed (e.g., an interview, general conversation, written materials).

Foreign language forms are NOT necessary for countries where English is a national language or if a foreign language is not required by the country (see “Country Summaries” on IIE Fulbright website). If your project requires knowledge of another language, you must submit an evaluation and report in that language, whether or not the Country Summary indicates the language is required for application. If language forms are not required, but your language skills are strong, it is recommended you submit these forms regardless, as language proficiency can strengthen your application overall. If your project requires skill in more than one language, you may submit separate language forms for each language needed.

For more details on these forms, please visit

4. Transcripts

Submit official transcript(s) from all institutions you have attended since high school. You upload your transcript—either a scanned official copy or an official electronic copy—directly to the online system.

5. Last Thoughts

  • Plan ahead and manage your time well. This process won't seem overwhelming if you stay on top of things.
  • Details! Whether it's completing your application or following-up on your references, pay attention to the details! There should be no typos in your entire application. Don't risk looking sloppy or lacking in seriousness of purpose.

 You should also thoroughly review the Application Process information.