Applying for the Fulbright Scholarship in Pakistan: A Timeline
We wanted to share with potential applicants some information about the world’s largest Fulbright program that may be useful in this regard.
For the sake of clarity, we will break the timeline into two calendar years; Year 1 and Year 2.
Year 1 is the year in which you will submit the application for this scholarship.
Year 2 is the year in which you will proceed for your studies once you receive the scholarship. Remember that the entire process takes around 12-18 months from the time of applying to the time you depart for your studies. If you apply for 2019 cycle, you don’t actually begin your program until Fall 2020.
Dec – Feb
In this period you should be thoroughly researching which schools and programs you wish to study in. If you are a student in your final semester (undergraduate), this time is critical because this is your last chance to bring up your CGPA, which will later become a factor in your application. Whether or not you are enrolled as a student, if you have not taken the GRE already, or are planning to retake the test, you should spend at least these 4 months going over the format and working on your weaknesses.
During this time it is a good idea to also approach professors or others who you will later be asking for recommendations. You can tell them about your plans for higher studies and get them to agree to write strong recommendations for you. It is advisable for fresh graduates or current students to have 3 professors or academic supervisors write the recommendations. Also, start gathering your academic documents and other documentation that will be useful later on.
Documents to have ready:
- Original recently completed University Degree (HEC attested degrees aren’t required initially but Fulbright will ask you to get them attested in case you are selected. It is also okay if you get your degree by September of the year you are applying)
- Scans of Official University Transcripts
- O Levels, A Levels, F.Sc, Matriculation certificates’ scans
- Get a passport that is valid till at least until your Higher Studies will conclude (This will be needed for TOEFL and GRE exams too)
- A CV (updated with correct email address/phone numbers, LinkedIn profiles) (Management sciences such as MBAs and financial degrees require at least 2 years of prior work experience at the time of application)
- 3 letters of recommendations (either 2 professional, 1 academic OR 2 academic and 1 professional)
- Two Essays: Statement of Purpose (SoP) and ‘Study Objectives’ Essay.
During this period, you have to submit your application. Once you’ve got your Statement of Purpose and Research Objectives proofread and polished to perfection, it’s time to submit the completed application along with the required documents online.
It will be very helpful at this time to find other individuals who are applying for the Fulbright scholarship in Pakistan and keep in touch with them. I found other applicants via a GRE preparation website and we all joined a Facebook group.
Taking the TOEFL is optional at this point but it will help your case if you have a good score. If you are shortlisted for the interview, USEFP contacts you and asks you to take the first available TOEFL exam and share your score. The GRE is mandatory for the Fulbright application. Your aim for scores should be strongly commensurate with your preferred university and program choices (management sciences and engineering majors, for example, require overall higher GRE scores whereas humanities and clinical medicines demand higher verbal scores).
June – October
Once your application is submitted, the waiting begins. Don’t expect to hear back from USEFP until September. Around mid-September, USEFP starts contacting applicants via phone (or Email) about their interview schedule. Also around the same time, they send rejection letters to applicants who did not get shortlisted.
The interviews are only held in the Islamabad office of USEFP and your travel to the venue and accommodation in Islamabad has to be arranged at your own expense. Expect the interview to be preceded by a short essay based on a prompt. The interview itself is usually between 3 and 20 mins long and is meant to judge if you will contribute positively to cultural exchange between Pakistan and USA as well as your academic readiness.
November – December
Once the interview is over, the next period of waiting begins. Results are usually announced via email in early October. Having contact with other Fulbright applicants is useful in this waiting period as you can get updates from them about their results and news. At this time there are three possible outcomes; Rejection, selection as Principal candidate or selection as an Alternate candidate. Alternate candidates will be able to go for their studies if some principal candidates back out of the process or additional funding becomes available.
Once selected as a Principal Candidate, you are required to sign some documents and return them to USEFP. You are also assigned a Program Officer who will be your primary point of contact in Pakistan for the remainder of the process.
You are asked by your Program Officer to confirm which universities and programs you want IIE to apply to on your behalf. This list is just a suggested list and USEFP has the right to select the universities they apply to. Your Program Officer will share the final submission list with you as a matter of information.
January – June
Applicant sometimes finds that the deadline for the application at their universities has passed by the time they get the final submission list. Don’t worry if this is the case since IIE (Institute of International Education, your primary sponsor with USEFP) applies to universities using a different process from individual candidates.
Between January and April, you receive notifications of Admission results from the universities in your submission plan. In most cases, your PO will communicate these decisions to you directly instead of letting universities contact you.
Your final placement is announced between March and May. In some cases, it can take even longer. Along with the final placement email, you also get a medical form to be filled out by a registered doctor. This may require you to get some vaccinations or blood tests. The key to successfully completing this in a short time is to have a completed medical history already saved along with childhood vaccination records.
In May-June, you will also get an emailed invitation to the Pre-Departure Orientation which is held in Islamabad.
July – September
The Pre-Departure Orientation is held in June/July each year. It is a great chance to meet other Fulbrighters and the staff of USEFP as well as various people who are involved in the Fulbright experience in one way or another. Fulbrighters can hear tips and tricks to make the most of their experience in the US and how to transition to the new culture. At this time you can get help in finding accommodation in the city where you will be studying by asking for contacts of senior Fulbrighters in the US.
After the Pre-Departure Orientation, your focus should be on getting everything ready for the visa application and fulfilling the remaining formalities. The USEFP will share the Terms of Agreement outlining your stipend and other important information. This is needed to obtain the DS-2019 from the IIE. An undertaking has to be printed on Rs. 100 stamp paper and signed and returned to USEFP for Masters Students. The DS-160 form has to be filled and submitted online and you need to sign the DS-2019.
The visa interview may be held in July, August or September, depending on your start date. Once you obtain the visa, your PO will make the necessary travel arrangements and inform you.
Sometimes flights can be booked at very short notice, so Fulbrighters should be ready to travel around the time of their Visa interview.
The final step in the process in to fly to your destination in the US, inform your US Program Adviser of your arrival and start getting your stipend. Talk to your international student office for assistance in billing, health insurance, and other academic issues.