Hi! My name is Suzanne Dunai and I am a PhD student in the History Department at UCSD. I was awarded the Fulbright to Spain for the 2015-2016 academic year so that I can perform the research necessary for my dissertation on food culture and food politics during the years of rationing in Spain(1939-1952). This was my second application to the Fulbright grant (my first application was rejected in the first round last application cycle), so I strongly encourage you to keep applying and refining your application as long as you are eligible for the grant.
Because of my experience in having both one unsuccessful and one successful grant, I want to share some of the things that I learned in the process. First and foremost, have as many people read your statement of purpose and personal statement as possible. They don’t have to be in your field or department. In fact, it is better to find people with different backgrounds to read your grant application because the grant committees can be diverse. This is especially true if you have to translate your grant to another language. [Comment from FPA: Spain requires applicants to submit their statements in both English and Spanish.] Second, save enough time before the submission deadline to ensure that you have the proper page formatting. Every line counts in the grant application, so do not wait until the final draft to write your heading. By my final draft, I was making revisions based on the number of letters in each word to keep my draft within the page limit.
Thirdly, what is important is that your research goals are very narrow and very polished. Remember that the Fulbright does not have to encompass all of your dissertation work, so there is no need to include ALL theory, sources, archives, etc., in the application. For my successful application, I narrowed the scope of my application to one city instead of three. While my dissertation will still include archival materials for a larger project, I only presented the most precise elements of my research in the application, which helped with clarifying my research goals for the grant and for my project. The statement of purpose should present a cohesive project which is obtainable in the time/financial allotment of Fulbright. In the end, it is the coherent project that gets funded, not the exhaustive. This also applies to the content of your proposal. Make sure that your application doesn’t favor theory to the extent that your own intervention is lost, and you do not want to present too many lists of sources or archives in your statement as this consumes space without providing interest in you as a candidate.
Finally, one major change that I made between my first application and my second is that I included the presentation of my initial research at a conference in Spain near the end of the academic year. I explained in the “country participation” section that I was going to apply to present my initial findings at a conference for young scholars in my field so I could further develop my project and academic network. This addition might have shown greater purpose or academic motivation for my dissertation, or perhaps it did not help or hurt my application at all. Unfortunately, we do not receive comments on our applications, so my thoughts are just speculative.
I hope my reflections on the Fulbright appliction help. Good luck!