Upcoming Fulbright Webinars
*Newly added*

For a full list of upcoming webinars, please visit the Information Sessions section on the Fulbright website.

Past webinars are uploaded to the U.S. Student Program website.

Dean Lisa Gates will also be offering an online/in-person info session for the Fulbright and Watson on Tuesday, August 4 at 4pm in Library 105B. Login instructions from off-site will be posted here and at go/fellowships shortly!


For students thinking about degree options through a Rhodes scholarship, the foundation continues to support second BA programs. This used to be a more common degree choice, and the foundation still feels it is an excellent choice, worthy of consideration. In choosing the second BA, students experience Oxford’s tutorial system–one of the institutions great strengths. The Oxford “MA” (Master of Arts) degree is awarded to anyone with an Oxford BA seven years after matriculation, i. e., five years after someone completes a two year BA with Senior Status, or four years after one completes a three year BA with Senior Status. All separately examined Oxford masters’ degrees are described as MSc, MStud, MPhil, Mlitt, MBA, MPP. Applicants thinking about a second BA should also have a potential graduate program in mind too, given the competitiveness in BA admissions. As always, degree choices are not a factor in selection as a Rhodes scholar.

This is the first of a few posts about writing the personal essay for your fellowship application.  These comments are most germane to the personal essay, as opposed to the project proposal or other more focused questions.  I’ll talk about those in a separate post.  These comments are geared toward those amorphous intellectual autobiography kinds of questions (typical in the Marshall and Rhodes, for example).  The Rhodes, for example, just asks you describe in 1000 words or less “your academic and other interests.  The statement should describe the specific area of proposed study and your reasons for wishing to study at Oxford.” Don’t let the simplicity of the question fool you.  This is a very hard essay to write well, especially in 1,000 words or less.

Here are some common problems with these essays: they are boring, full of cliches and even spelling errors, they are poorly organized, discuss the wrong things, the goals are too vague, and leadership examples too superficial. (And this list of faults is not campus specific; I’m getting these critiques from the people at foundations who read the somewhere between hundreds and thousands of essays submitted each year!) So to help you get going and avoid these pitfalls, here are some strategies organized by the different stages in writing. Remember, there is no magic formula and no perfect essays. There are many strong, effective essays. They are all unique, but what they have in common is a clear, compelling rationale; a thoughtful perspective; clear goals; and a personal voice that comes through the writing.

Brainstorming: Think about the material that these essays should reflect. You should think about key events and ideas that have shaped you as an individual and your interest in pursuing the study of x.  Think about anecdotes and stories worthy of retelling (and note, no epiphanies at the top of a mountain, please).  Identify concrete details that give your anecdote precision and imagery.  Is there a thread that connects your past experiences to future goals? What is it?

Draft: Work the ideas culled from your brainstorming into a draft.  Put it away.  Go do something else and return to the draft the next day.  Read through it.  Redraft.  Repeat the process until you have something that seems coherent, well-organized and reflective of you. Getting your personal voice across in the essay is important.

Test the draft:  This is a good exercise for you to do by yourself and with a friend (if permitted! Rhodes and Mitchell applicants, work on your own).  Get a brightly colored pen or marker. You pick the color. Now read through your essay and underline every expression that you’ve heard before and every example that could be true for any number of people you know.  Ask your friend to do the same with a different color marker.  Look at what’s left.  That remainder is probably the beginning of your original, unique content and writing style. Remember, if you can’t grab your reader’s attention within the first two paragraphs, you’re not going to progress to the round of finalists.

Review the draft in conjunction with selection criteria: The foundations write out their selection criteria for good reason; this is how they evaluate your application. Do you address these criteria in the different parts of your application?  For applications that rely on only one or two short essays, much, though not all, of this work will happen within the essays.  Do your examples illustrate well the qualities the selection committees are looking for? Read the essay in conjunction with the other application sections: is it clear how you exemplify their selection criteria? (Remember, letters of recommendation and the endorsement letter, if applicable, also do this, but you do not have access to them.)

Select good examples: Much of what you do in this kind of writing is illustrate through example.  You need concrete details in order to provide your reader with real way to understand you and what you’ve accomplished.  Choose examples that address important selection criteria (e.g. intellectual curiosity, leadership) and write about them in a way that reflects on their significance. They should also connect to your broader goals.  So if you organized a conference on campus on issue Y, think more concretely about that activity.  Ideally it should be related to intellectual/social/political/environmental issues you care about, but be specific about your role in the event and the impact that the event had on issue Y.  There is an important reflective component to these examples.  If it’s not there, that’s a problem.

Be reflective and concrete in talking about your experiences: You don’t have a lot of space, but it’s helpful to move between general statements and details. You want to avoid phrases, sentences that are too vague or general to be useful to your reader.  As you read through, note the places where you see this and the places where you see a statement grounded with a few details and you’ll see a big difference in impact.

Share your drafts with other readers, unless this if for the Rhodes or Mitchell: Faculty, fellowship advisors, friends and family can all be useful readers in this process.  Faculty will primarily pay attention to your academic goals, your professional aspirations, your academic program of choice (if this is for post-graduate study), as well as to the language and organization of the essay.  Fellowship advisors will look at the whole essay and application for coherence, detail, and rhetorical effectiveness. Friends and family will be able to speak to how well you’ve done articulating YOU as a unique, accompished person.  When you share your drafts, ask all your readers to think about how well you’ve answered the following questions: Who am I? Who do I want to be? Where do I want to go and why?  What inspires me to achieve this goal? What makes me special? Rhodes and Mitchell folks, you need to do this work on your own. Take breaks between drafts, so you can see your work with fresher eyes.

There is no magic formula to a successful essay.  It’s all about deep reflection and serious revising.  You should expect to work through anywhere from 10-30 drafts.  I often see 5-10 drafts from individual students.  And if it sounds like a lot of work, it is.  But it’s useful work.  It can pay off greatly in winning a scholarship.  Even if you don’t win, it’s very useful writing for graduate school and employment applications.

Mitchell and Rhodes applicants, you will need to do this revision work without the benefit of outside readers. You’ll need to try to imagine yourself as an outside reader at times and read your essay with that lens. Would this make sense to someone who did not know me? Does the essay give a good understanding of who I am, what I care about, where I want to go? Does it provide a grounded and clear understanding of what you have worked on, what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve learned, and why that all matters?

Don’t forget the copyediting. Spelling, grammar and correct word usage is essential. You do not want your reader getting tripped up by your language; you want your language to be a transparent vehicle for your reader to learn about you, your goals, your accomplishments, your story.


Excellent letters of recommendation are critical for successful fellowship applications.  I can’t stress this enough; without strong letters, you will not win a fellowship or scholarship.  The readers of fellowship applications depend on these letters to give a fair evaluation of your achievement and your potential in the context of their professional experience.  I once had a letter (another institution many years ago) from a faculty member who thought a fellowship applicant was an amazing student with tremendous potential.  “Pick this one,” he wrote in his letter.  And guess what?  She was picked. (Of course, there was much more in the letter, describing the student’s fine intellectual qualities, academic achievement, her potential as a scholar, and it was all stellar.)

So how do you get a letter like this?  I’ll start at the beginning.

1. Get to know your faculty.  This takes initiative on your behalf, and it may be easier for some students than other, but it is critical you do this.  Most of your letters of reference will come from faculty members who have taught and/or advised you, so it’s a good idea to start getting to know them early on in your college career.  If these folks have known you for more than a semester, have spent time talking with you and evaluating your work, they will be able to write detailed, knowledgeable letters about you.  And this is the kind of letter that is essential for a successful application. There may be occasions when you need letters from employers or research supervisors (more frequent for alumni), but the same holds true. If people do not know you very well, their letters are of limited value.

2. Select your letter writers appropriately.  Look at the goals you outline in your application.  What projects do you talk about?  Which intellectual interests? Are you writing a thesis?  The faculty who are closely connected to these activities are good candidates to write for you.  Someone who knows you very well in another context–say a former high school teacher or work supervisor–may be your biggest fan, but s/he is probably not be such a good choice unless they can speak to qualities you possess or work that you have done that is relevant to this scholarship application.  You might be a fabulous camp counselor, for example, but if you’re applying to a master’s program English, your camp director won’t be much help in getting you there. Make sure you choose people who know you well and can speak knowledgeably about you in areas that matter for the competition you are applying for.

3. Discuss your fellowship ideas with your professors early in the process.  Whether you’re applying for a graduate program or creating an independent project, they can be extremely helpful in suggesting excellent programs given your interests and refining your thinking about project ideas.

4. When you ask anyone to write on your behalf, provide them with a current resume, a transcript or degree progress report, information about the fellowship (and the selection criteria!), a draft of your statement of purpose/research proposal/personal statement and clear instructions about when, where, and how the letter is to be delivered.  These are all very important, especially since fellowships differ in what they are looking for and how they want letters submitted.  Make sure you and your letter writers know these details. In many cases, the fellowship advisor will also ask for a courtesy copy of the letter for her files, but letters of recommendation are typically confidential.

5. Make sure you give your writers plenty of time to get this done. When I write letters for students, I appreciate at least three or four weeks of advance notice.  If the deadline is early fall, talk with your writers the previous semester about your plans and find out what would work best with their schedule.  In the case of fellowships requiring Middlebury nomination, your letters are typically not part of the application for nomination.  But you should have talked with your recommenders well in advance and put them on notice, because if you are nominated, you may have a very short time (maybe two weeks or so) to get these letters submitted.  Talking with your recommenders well in advance also helps you adjust for their plans.  If the professor who knows you best of all happens to be on sabbatical in a far away place with limited email access when you need that letter, you’re in a tough spot.  So better to have talked with them well in advance and made arrangements so that you can indeed get that letter when you need it.

6. Problems or questions, talk with your fellowship advisor! And typically, she will want to talk with you about recommender choices prior to your final selection of your writers.

Summer Research Symposium
Thursday, July 30, 2015 at 2 pm
Bicentennial Great Hall

Includes a poster session with refreshments. The entire campus community is invited to attend.

To participate in the symposium presenters must submit an abstract by Thursday, July 23, 2015 by emailing the application to uro@middlebury.edu.

See go/summer for more information.

This is a frequent question from Fulbright applicants: what should a letter of affiliation say? Here are some guidelines:

1. Review the country-specific information about affiliations. A majority of Fulbrighters will affiliate with universities, although in some countries it is possible to affiliate with other types of organizations, such as research institutes or government ministries. Make sure your proposed affiliation is acceptable for your country and appropriate for your project.

2. The letter should come from the institution/individual in the host country with whom you are proposing to work. It should be written in or translated to English, printed on official letterhead and signed by the author. Email correspondence is not acceptable, but you can receive a letter as a scanned document to upload to your application.

3. The letter should confirm that you will be able to affiliate with this organization and describe ways in which they provide resources or assistance to you for your project. This may include the ability to audit courses, access archives, labs or libraries, participate in research conversations, or be part of a research group–really anything that will support your project. If organizations/individuals have not had experiences with Fulbright grantees in the past, you may need to advise them about what to include.

4. Make sure the affiliate understands your project and it’s great if they can speak positively in support of your project and the importance of this work.

5. And review the Fulbright website, both your country-specific information and in the application tips. There is a lot of great advice there!

For those who applied for British scholarship nomination in the spring and are interested in being nominated for the Keasbey Scholarship, information and materials for 2015 are now available at go/keasbey . Questions? Ask fellowships@middlebury.edu .

New changes for Indian and Chinese citizens studying in the US from the Rhodes foundation:

From this application cycle, Indian and Chinese citizens studying in the US may apply for the Indian and Chinese Rhodes Scholarships, respectively.

Rhodes Scholarship for India

Citizens of India, who hold an Indian passport, or equivalent proof of citizenship, who are studying for their undergraduate degree at a US university may apply for one of the Rhodes Scholarships for India. Candidates must have completed, or be due to complete by 1 October 2016, their undergraduate degree (to a standard equivalent to a First class degree in India, ie GPA c3.75 or above).

Candidates must have undertaken formal study at an educational institution in India for a minimum of 4 of the last 10 years, and have completed a school leaving exam (10th or 12th standard) at a school in India. Please note that only one of the five available Scholarships for India (and in exceptional cases, two) may be awarded to candidates who are pursuing, or have pursued, their undergraduate studies abroad.

Candidates must have reached their nineteenth birthday, and not have passed their 25th birthday at 1 October 2016, i.e. must have been born after 30 September 1991 and on or before 1 October 1997.

Applications open: 15 June 2015

Closing date: 31 July 2015

For further details, including full eligibility criteria and how to apply: http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/india


Rhodes Scholarship for China

Citizens of the People’s Republic of China who are studying for their undergraduate degree in a US university may apply for a Rhodes Scholarship for China.

Candidates must have completed (or be due to complete by August 2016) their undergraduate degree in China or overseas. If studying overseas, candidates must provide evidence that they have received at least five full years, out of the last 10 years, in full-time education in China.

Candidates must have reached their 19th and not have passed their 25th birthday on 1 October 2016.   This means applicants must have been born after 30 September 1991 and on or before 1 October 1997.

Candidates must have a GPA in the top 5% of his/her class.

In addition, candidates for the China Rhodes Scholarship must provide

  1. TOEFL or IELTS certificate to the standard described on the Oxford website: http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/applying-to-oxford/application-guide
  2. A GRE or GMAT certificate.

Applications open: 1 July 2015

Closing date: 25 September 2015

For further details, including full eligibility criteria and how to apply: http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/china

Sign up for this summer’s lunch and learn opportunities:

Research Luncheon: Marketing Your Research Skills
Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 12 pm
Bicentennial Great Hall

Grab lunch in the great hall (if you signed up) and then move into 216 (STEM) and 220 (arts, humanities and social sciences). Presentations by the Center for Careers and Interships’ (CCI) Mary Lothrop and Tim Mosehauer. Sign up by Sunday 6/28 to reserve lunch.

Research Luncheon: Graduate School Panel
Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at 12 pm
Hillcrest 103

Join a newer faculty panel discussion on graduate school considerations. Panelists: Adam Dean (Political Science), AJ Vasiliou (Chemistry & Biochemistry), Ananya Christman (Computer Science), and Brandon Baird (Spanish & Portuguese). Sign up by Sunday 7/19 to reserve lunch.

More information can be found at go/summer

If you’re interested in applying for Watson Fellowship nomination in the fall and we haven’t yet talked, now is a great time to connect!  I am around for much of the summer, but will be traveling too—so my ability to respond to you may be faster or slower depending on when you contact me. You can reach me at fellowships@middlebury.edu and/or 802-443-3183.

For the fall deadlines, I may need to adjust slightly—will have everything set in August, but it won’t vary greatly from what I’ve outlined below. If you haven’t sent me a preliminary Watson application or spoken with me yet about your interest, summer is a great time to do so!

For the nomination process in September, you will need to submit the following:

  • Watson Application Cover Sheet (available by through go/fellowships)
  • A proposal explaining what you want to do, your background/experience, and the source of your interest in the topic. Please consult the Watson Foundation Web site; this statement should be a blend of the Personal Statement and the Project Proposal. Draft proposals must be no more than 5 pages long, double-spaced, double-sided, in 12-point font. (Yes, if nominated, you’ll be reworking this into two separate essays.)
  • Résumé
  • Academic transcript, printed from Banner Web (provide the chronological format, NOT the degree audit format. We do not need an official transcript for this.)

I will hold an info session again in the summer (date TBA) and am looking at a September 17 campus deadline for nomination applications. We will invite a group of applicants to interview with Watson campus committee members; that group will select up to four nominees and one alternate.

Application Process and Timetable:
By June 30: Have read through carefully information on the Watson fellowship site—both at go/fellowships (click on Watson in list) and at http://watson.foundation/fellowships/tj .
By July 20: Draft of cover sheet and combined proposal/ personal essay for nomination application (see materials above) to me for feedback. Do also share with other relevant people for feedback.

Early August: Look for online info session–date TBA.
Early September: Talk with those you would want to write letters of recommendation for you, just giving them a heads up. Note: letters are only needed IF you are nominated! But you do want to start the conversation with those you would ask.
By September 15: Have some local contacts in countries in place.
September 17: Submit your application for Watson nomination. And yes, this is right after the start of classes.
Late September/early October: We will hold Watson interviews for a subset of applicants. Dates/times TBD.
Early November: Watson foundation application deadline
For the most part, deadlines above are not absolute, but guidelines intended to help you organize the different parts of the application and get everything done so that you are ready to go by the September deadline. Note: the campus submission and foundation deadlines really are hard deadlines.

A few important notes about the Watson:

  • Really read through (and think through) the Watson website, especially the eligibility section.  There are lots of good questions for you to ask yourself and your project idea to see if this is a good fit.
  • Your application should really reflect YOU. This is not an academic fellowship. It’s about a deep, abiding personal interest you have and it’s also about you as a deeply curious, independent, courageous person. The Watson foundation is looking for fellows who are independent, imaginative, resourceful, responsible, bold, and self-motivated. Your project is just that—your project and should embody, reflect a passion you have. It does not have to be unique to you but definitely can be. It should grow organically from your life—things that you’ve done, explored, studied, wondered about, are inspired by—and should be personally significant to you. Watson priorities are person first, project second.
  • Selecting countries for visiting: you should be choosing places that are new to you (the stretch factor). You may have been inspired by a period of study abroad or travel in a certain place, but depending on the amount of time you spent there (more than 4-6 weeks typically), you should not include that country/area on your project list. (And often there are ways to adapt a particular interest to a different set of countries/areas). Also, some countries are of such a broad and diverse scale, you may be able to justify a visit to a different part of that country. China or Russia might fall into the latter category. The Netherlands would not.  For some of you, this is an area we may need to discuss further and think about how you might adapt your proposal. And any country on the US state department warning list (NOT travel advisory),  you may not include that country on your list. And as you develop your proposed  travel itinerary, keep in mind, this may be ideal and you should have back up plans. Sometimes things won’t work out, or the money won’t stretch that far—all possible. I don’t expect you have figured out everything with respect to the feasibility of all components for the nomination process, but I do expect you’ve given serious consideration to different ideas and are prepared for some shifts in your plan. The list of countries ultimately may change between application for nomination, application for Watson, Watson interview  and departure, and actual fellowship year. Any country on the US state dept warning list may be listed provisionally in case it changes (and of course, countries may also shift in the other direction too).
  • Contacts abroad may take some time to identify and connect with, so definitely allow for that. What you want from them may differ according to your project, but they should provide a resource and a kind of grounding for you in the community/country/project focus. You may also be contributing to them as well—but make sure that your mission, your project is still your own.
  • When thinking about recommendations—if you are nominated, you will need 2-3. If two, both can be from Middlebury or one from Middlebury and one external. If three, one must be from Middlebury, one external. If you are nominated, I will talk with you further about what is most helpful in these letters for the Watson selection committee.
  • Language ability: you will definitely propose going places where you do not speak the language—and you should. But do think about how you will conduct the work of the project in these spaces. Guides/interpreters may be essential in some cases.
  • In thinking about your blended personal/project statement for the nomination application, you want to describe the following: Your plan for the 12-month fellowship year, including a description of your project and details about how you intend to carry it out. (In addition to focusing on a topic you are passionate about, the project should be personally challenging (yet feasible), independent, and sustainable over 12 months.) Discuss why you chose your topic, how it developed out of previous interests or experiences, and how it represents a new challenge. You may also want to describe your background, your college years, your professional goals and aspirations, and your reasons for seeking a Watson Fellowship.
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