[Note from FPA: Kristina has been selected to receive a grant to Chile! I’m very excited for her. Also, she says to listen to me for everything, but of course I should acknowledge that I am occasionally wrong on things. 🙂 ]
— Listen to what Zoe says, for everything
— Like any piece of writing, the more time you have to revise it, the better it will be. Start early. Get input from people who have done this before. Revise. Get more feedback. Let it sit for awhile. Go back and revise again. Etc.
— If you’re in the sciences, this is very different from, e.g., an NSF grant. My advisor and proposed collaborators thought I needed more “science,” but this goes back to Rule 1. You’re not writing for scientists. Now I get to do the actual figuring-out of the science plan!
— However, do get the language requirement out of the way (or at least scheduled) earlier rather than later. People tend to be out of town August and September.
[Note from FPA: Annie has been recommended for an ETA to Kosovo. She should learn in the coming months whether she’s been selected for the grant.]
My simplest tip for the Fulbright is to plan ahead. As soon as I heard about the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (circa sophomore year of college), I knew it was something I wanted to do. I was able to take several years to think about where I wanted to go and to start building experience to 1) see if I would actually like English teaching and 2) to add relevant experience to my resume. Though I realize it’s unusual for someone to plan that far in advance, I think it is definitely helpful to begin thinking about your project and the country you would like to apply to as soon as possible. Planning ahead is also invaluable to your application. The more time you have to work on your statements, the better they can get. I personally regret not working on mine earlier.
I had a really tough time choosing one country to apply to because there are many countries Obviously, you want to go to the country that you will enjoy the most and will be the most fruitful for your studies, but you also should consider which country you have the best chance of getting a grant for. Don’t be afraid to be strategic. The Fulbright website includes application stats, which you can definitely use to your advantage (especially if applying for an ETA where any expertise you have in English is not country-specific).
I think having a strong background in the region/country/position that you are applying for is perhaps the single most important factor in your application. I can’t speak to the research grants (maybe having a great idea is more important than relevant experience there), but it seems crucial for the ETAs. I am an English major and have experience tutoring ESL students, working in various classrooms, studying abroad, and working on policy/aid between the US and the country I applied to. The Fulbright is a competitive and prestigious program, so if you don’t have any or much relevant experience, you should go get some. I approached the 2012 deadline as a practice application without any real expectation of receiving the grant. I was planning on using this year to gain more experience so I could apply for the 2013 deadline, but lo and behold I am still in the running. So, it doesn’t hurt to apply while trying to gain a stronger background.
Many of the other bloggers here have provided great tips for writing your statements, so I will just add one quick tip. While you are working on your statements, try to verbally explain to your friends/family/strangers why you want to go and what you want to do. Doing this out loud helps you figure out and narrow down your motivations. It also helps you practice expressing them concisely and coherently.