Fulbright Scholarship - MBA
I intended to apply for MBA program. I worked on my application with little external guidance. Yes the personal touch of a mentor is invaluable but the internet is full of guidance on how and what to write. Thankfully I had access to good resources and so can you if you search a bit deeper. For me, it was fun writing personal statements and study objectives. They push you to dig deeper into yourself and put in words whatever is deep down there. It brings your inner self on paper.
Personal statement is all about how you market yourself, how well you start, how you engage the other person in your story, how you convey to them what is important to you and why, and how you close it. Using quotes at the beginning and at the end of a personal statement can be helpful in making an impression on the reader. In the main body of the statement, talk about an event that impacted your life, that changed your perspective somehow and then reflect on what did you learn from it and how it matured you. Talk about your ambitions in life, how you decided that these were your ambitions, and what do you want to do when you achieve those. Show passion for the Fulbright scholarship, but also do not appear to be begging for it. It can be a challenge putting all this in 750 words, but write a rough version of whatever is on your mind and then do the makeup later.
Writing a study objective can be equally challenging because it asks you why you want to pursue your selected field of study and what will you do when you get back. Initially I, for one, just had a desire to study MBA in U.S. so I only had a superficial understanding of why I want to pursue MBA and what will I do when I am done with it. Deciding what I will do afterwards was a challenge also because there are numerous sectors where you can work after completing MBA and the reason for selecting one among them can be a hard surface to scratch. In such situations, I suggest that you should search on the internet about your post education business sectors, select the one that attracts you the most and then come up with reasons based on your own life story. Then select any post education job that you think you will enjoy doing, and search on the internet about how and where you can get that opportunity. This can be a good way to start the study objective statement. Of course the research statement for PhD course would be different than my statement but I can only speak for myself.
For recommenders I chose my two supervisors at my organization and asked them to write the recommendation. This part of the application can also be challenging as the recommendation will not be as critical to them as it is to you, so I had to personally sit with them and help them write it for me.
My application was strong. I had impressive academic background and work experience at a reputable organization. But given the fact that I was applying for MBA when Fulbright prefers PhD and MS candidates in mainly energy and development sector, I knew I had little chance of getting in. So when the interview call came, I was pretty surprised. It was like my world shifted (haha) and I took some time coming back from the state of euphoria to normal state. The interview was around 8-10 days later, and during this time I had already booked a TOEFL exam, a re-attempt at GRE, was busy at full time work and now I had to prepare for the interview too. I managed to control things on my side but my GRE took a toll and I ended up with a lower score than before.
For my interview preparation, the thing that helped me most was the mock interview with Scholarden mentor. The experience enlightened me of areas where I needed to improve and come up with better convincing points. The mentor helped me a lot making case for myself to study MBA, and if I am not exaggerating, at least half of the questions in the mock interview were asked in the real Fulbright interview. I also watched videos of Fulbright grantees on YouTube on interview guidance and read articles written by grantees. They helped a lot too.
By the interview day, I was fully prepared to make my case for the scholarship. It was a nice sunny day. We were around 20 people who were called on that day out of which only two were for MBA. The interview panel had two Pakistani Fulbright grantees and two Americans. They were all very welcoming. They introduced themselves to me one by one which prompted me to introduce myself to them when their introduction ended. Given my field of study, there were no technical questions asked. Most of them related to behavioral aspects.
There may come a time in your interview when you end answering their question while they are still silent and not jumping to another question. That is the point, and it can be pivotal point, when you have to go another mile and tell them more about yourself while being inside the boundaries of their question.
A little humor in innocuous during the interview, though it was hard to get the Americans to laugh. Smile while answering their questions; maintain an eye contact with all of them, not just the person who asked you the question; show passion in your voice, body language and face expressions and most of all, be confident about whatever you say. They want to judge whether you will be able to survive in a country so different than yours and whether you are mentally mature to take up challenges in settling there. Show them that you have life experiences that have matured you enough and that you are a confident and responsible individual who is ready for whatever there is to come.
For you, the onus is to take the sum of your experiences to date, and rather than relying on them as they are, seek to tell a story with them; one that conveys a sense of the unlimited potential you can offer to the network of global leaders that is the Fulbright programme. For them, the priority is not to solely argue your merits as an individual scholar, but to persuade them that you believe you can impact positively on the work and lives of those around you.
Leadership comes in many forms, and not all of them involve running committees and organizing social events. Intellectual leadership in writing an article or journalistic piece; community leadership in taking on a junior role in a local charity; or even leadership amongst your peers by aiding a student with work, or being employed in a full-time job whilst attending university, are all examples of showing ingenuity, dedication, commitment and a true belief in the Fulbright Commission’s values. In addition, I should mention that while all of the above is vital to success, one cannot even begin the process without at least definite proof of potential academic and intellectual excellence. You certainly do not need to be top of your class, but you need to look like you could be, and that there are no limits to your ambitions.
To understand the importance of your interview, keep one essential fact in mind: this interview will be the only occasion you have in the entire review process, to make a personal case for your abilities to live abroad and to undertake your project successfully. It is essential to know what to expect in your interview and to take the time to prepare as well as you can.