How are the Fulbright grantees selected?
We are looking for applicants who are either aiming at an academic research career or are professionals in different sectors of society.
The technical check-up for the applications – the application requirements and deadlines are definite
The evaluation of the applications begins with a technical check-up. In this way we make sure that the applicant fulfills the minimum requirements stated in the application instructions and that they have delivered all the required documents. There are no quotas for specific disciplines or geographical locations. The grants are given to those applicants who do best in the evaluation, independent of the field or place of study. Only applications which have arrived by the deadline and which include all the required documents are taken into account in the selection process. If there is even one document missing from the application package, the application cannot be evaluated. The Fulbright Finland Foundation has created a simple checklist for the applicants to go through all the required documents to prevent an unfortunate elimination from the selection process based on a missing document. Despite of this checklist, some applicants are eliminated at the technical check-up stage due to an inadequate application.
The discipline-specific expert statements
The Fulbright Finland Foundation sends the applications that have passed the technical check-up for discipline-specific experts to be evaluated. At this stage, university professors and experts from different research centers in different fields, mainly from Finland and the U.S., are involved. Some of the evaluators are also Fulbright alumni. The Fulbright Finland Foundation has created a wide expert network, which is updated annually.
Below you can see application tips provided by the experts who have evaluated Fulbright applications for several years, as well as hear about their expectations regarding a good application:
A good application is clear; the applicant has a clear plan what he/she wants to study or what he/she wants to focus on.
In the applications I mostly pay attention to the whole. In a good application you can see that the applicant has familiarized themselves well with American universities in advance and that they have actually chosen an institution which can give them the most, considering their own level of expertise. It’s also important to see that the applicant has a clear vision of how their current expertise is linked to the planned period in the U.S. and how the visit helps them in the future. I also find important that the teaching/studying in this particular host organization/field of study is relatively strong in the U.S. specifically.
One should find out in advance which universities offer important courses and how one can combine them. It would also be good to mention something about the course content.
A good application shows what additional value the grant year can provide for the applicant and their community.
I’ve often missed the information or at least an estimation about how the grant would benefit Finland. The benefit for Finland as a result of the grant ought to be described and reasoned – it’s not enough that the applicant themselves benefit from the grant. Of course, it’s not easy to answer this question but one could at least try.
The ASLA-Fulbright grant is or at least can be much more significant for the applicant than grants provided by the Finnish foundations etc. This is why one should invest in the application quite a lot.
The statements from home universities – some of the grants are co-funded by the Fulbright Finland Foundation and Finnish universities
The Fulbright Finland Foundation asks for an evaluation for the applications also from those Finnish universities which have notified they are interested in co-funding their students’ graduate grants. The universities rank their grant applicants and evaluate each of them. The selection committees of the Fulbright Finland Foundation use these statements when making the selections. All applications have to fulfil the requirements set for a Fulbright grantee, so the support of the university alone is not enough to be selected. If the university does not participate in funding the Fulbright grant, the board of the Fulbright Finland Foundation can select the applicant to be fully funded by the Fulbright Finland Foundation.
Selecting the applicants for an interview
The pre-selection committee of the Fulbright Finland Foundation, which consists of the board members of the Fulbright Finland Foundation, and Fulbright alumni and collaborators, for example, selects some of the applicants for an English interview based on the expert statements, evaluations carried out by the Finnish universities, the grant application, and the attached letters of references, essays, and study certificates. When evaluating and making the pre-selection, the committee focuses on the following criteria, in addition to the statements and references:
- the meaning of the project in developing the knowledge of the field,
- the clarity and viability of the application,
- the meaning of the project in achieving the goals of the Fulbright program, and
- personal attributes evaluated in the interview specifically: the applicant’s ability to adjust and their suitability to act as an ambassador of the Fulbright program in the U.S.
- the reasons to study or do a research project in the U.S.,
- academic and/or professional abilities and competence,
- the individuality and innovativeness of the application.
The suitability to be an ambassador for Finland and the Fulbright program is found out with the help of interviews
Approximately a half of the applicants are invited to a discussion-style interview, held at the Fulbright Finland Foundation. After the initial selection stage, where applicants’ academic achievements are the main focus, the interview, in turn, will aim at finding out whether an applicant is suitable for an academic cultural exchange program where the grantee is expected to be interested in being an ambassador for Finland and the Fulbright program in the U.S. Because of this we are looking for applicants who have the ability to create networks and connections between Finland and the U.S. The interview committee also evaluates the applicants’ abilities to facilitate future change, to promote the development of science, arts, or their own professional field by, for example, and to create opportunities for international collaboration and connections. These types of qualities are difficult to evaluate based on an application, which is why the interviews have an important role in the selection process.
Because the grant selections of the Fulbright program are not solely based on academic achievements, in some cases the selection committee has had to reject an applicant who, based on their application, has seemed to be excellent but has not fulfilled the criteria in terms of personal attributes required from a person representing the Fulbright program.
The Fulbright Finland Foundation selects the grantees
At the end of all the selection stages, usually after an incredibly difficult consideration, the interview committee presents their selection recommendations for the Fulbright Finland Foundation’s Board of Directors, who make the final decisions on the grantees. The formal acceptance of the American program partner is given by the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, appointed by the President of the United States. Annually, as a result of a thorough 4-month selection process consisting of several different stages, approximately ten top-level applicants from among 30-60 applicants are selected to represent Finland and the Fulbright program, and to carry out their graduate-level studies in the U.S.