Fulbright Scholarship - Civil Engineer
- Bachelor’s CGPA: 3.64
- GRE: 322 (Q 159, V 164, AWA 4.5)
- IELTs: 8.0
I have mentioned my profile above, but bear in mind that this information varies from person to person and discipline to discipline. The Fulbright scholarship committee does not merely focus on these academic credentials while choosing a candidate, rather it looks at the complete profile which includes a number of other important items, most notably your personal statement, statement of study objective and letters of recommendations. The Fulbright cohorts of the past contain candidates with a wide-range of profiles, all gone to the US. The statistics of the test scores of 2018 cohort will, I presume, be soon shared with Scholar Den and made available for everyone to see. But again, these never tell the full story, for I know many applicants who had exceptional test scores but couldn’t make the cut. Remember, your ‘story’, ‘who you are’ and ‘what you plan to do’ are hugely important factors to the Fulbright selection committee.
My Fulbright journey began late, in the April of 2017 when I finally decided to apply for the scholarship. Let me emphasize here that this is by no means an ideal time to start your application. The delay in my case is attributed to a number of factors which are another story. The Fulbright application portal normally opens in February and that is when you should start looking at the procedure and working on the application. In my case, the delay meant that I had only two weeks to prepare for the GRE which is not what anyone wants to end up with. For most students, the GRE is the biggest obstacle in the application process. Let me assure you that by getting the right guidance and putting enough time and effort, it is not that difficult. There is a lot of practice material available on the web and for students who are not familiar with the SATs, your practice should ideally start 6 months prior to the test date. The two weeks at my disposal were far too less a time to have any serious go at preparation, but I was fully aware of the GRE format and had done some prior stop-start preparations in the previous year which served to help me now. Fortunately, I got a good score in the actual test (higher than any of the practice tests I’d taken); God had been kind. Here, it’s important to re-iterate that test scores are not the only thing that matter in the Fulbright application. If you don’t end up with your desired score, don’t fret and apply away anyway. What is lost in one part of the application can be made up for in another part. There are many recipients of this scholarship whose scores are below the 300 mark. As my personal observation, I would say the mean score of all applicants lies in the 305-311 range.
The rest of the application steps are similar to any other university or scholarship application. Just make sure you have ample time to complete the application. Your study objectives statement and personal statement are the two most critical items at this stage since they are the only platform where you have the chance to convince the scholarship of your credentials and potential. The deadline of the application is usually in mid-May so make sure you have the first draft of these documents ready by March. Get them checked, re-checked and refined by seniors, counselors, even your teachers if you can. But make sure your statement is genuine; it is true and unique to you only. Otherwise, it will end up in the plethora of generalized statements that the scholarship committee is all too wary of. In my case, I wrote my own statements and did not get them checked by anyone. Having said that, I believe it is definitely helpful to get a second opinion.
After submitting the online application, the next stage is the interview phase. The committee starts calling applicants around the August period and interviews take place in August and September. This is the crunch time. The committee normally calls 300 candidates for interview, out of which around 150 are selected. These numbers might change amidst rumors of funding-cuts which I can’t confirm at this time. But if you’ve made it this far, your odds are not too shabby. The idea of an interview can be daunting. Fortunately, we have good mentors like ScholarDen to make the process easy for us. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the ScholarDen page around this time and noticed that they were offering mock interviews. Sparing no time, I booked one up for myself immediately. It would be an understatement to say that ScholarDen gave me a few good tips. The mentor virtually dissected the whole interview process for me. The mock lasted around 20 minute followed by a guidance session for another 40 minutes wherein the mentor provided a detailed evaluation of my mock; the positives & negatives and tips on how to accentuate the positives and overcome the negatives. This mock gave me a lot of confidence and allowed me time to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses. The actual interview went great for me; mostly because I was so confident and well-prepared. The questions the interviewers asked were similar to the ones asked in the mock-up and, therefore, it was pretty much smooth sailing. I would highly recommend everyone who’s made it to this stage to utilize this opportunity and take a mock-up. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and will be in a position to present your best self to the interviewers. The final results were announced in mid-October and I finally received that sweet e-mail one fine morning; best feeling in the world!
So this was my Fulbright story. I have tried to cover every aspect of the process and hope this can be helpful to future aspirants. Best of luck to everyone!