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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Students beat national average for Fulbright

The UA ranked among the top 20 institutions with the highest number of Fulbright scholars in the country for 2009.

Along with some of the most prestigious universities, the UA has one of the highest proportions of awards by number of applicants, according to the Institute of International Education.

Receiving a Fulbright — one of the most coveted scholarships in the world — requires a long and exhausting application process. For some applicants, it begins a year before it’s due.

Nationally Competitive Scholarships director Karna Walter works with each student’s application to the Fulbright and other scholarships, like the Rhodes and Truman. Walter said most students start researching grants and thinking of their projects a year before the fall deadline.

“”Waiting until the beginning of the academic year is pretty stressful to pull together (an application),”” she said, although there are some “”late”” students who succeed.

Danielle Van Dobben’s project started a year before she applied to Fulbright, one of five other grants pursued by the anthropology and near eastern studies doctoral student.

She took advantage of her Turkish culture and language to strengthen her Fulbright application, hoping to conduct field research in Turkey for a year.

Getting a Fulbright means all expenses are paid, including housing and transportation.

“”Also, I heard the way the application process is done on this campus is very good,”” said Van Dobben, “”and I had several friends who applied last year and got it.””

A panel in the U.S. and a panel in the country the student plans to travel to evaluate the application. For Van Dobben, the hardest part was making it accessible for anyone.

“”I had to make it stand out as something special and unique without using any jargon,”” she said.

The Fulbright is a popular scholarship among anthropology students, and several of Van Dobben’s colleagues also applied.

“”We worked together, we got together and had a grant writing group, and we read each other’s narratives and helped each other. I think that’s the way to go, because that’ll make us more successful I think,”” she said.

This year, the UA nominated a record 62 students for the Fulbright. Unlike other awards, where a panel selects applicants before they are nominated, the university is required to nominate all those who apply to the Fulbright.

Most students who apply are in the fields of anthropology, international studies, history and geography. For other disciplines, there are only a handful of applicants each year, Walter said.

Thirty-one of the students who applied in 2010 were graduate students, and the other half were seniors or recent graduates. The Fulbright is the most sought after scholarship because it has the highest number of awards available, Walter explained.

Environmental sciences senior Travis Borrillo-Hutter became interested in the grant two months before deadline. After participating in an overseas program in Australia, he said he wants to pair his love for the country and its cutting-edge research on reclaiming water quality working with groundwater studies.

In the two months he spent working on his application, Borrillo-Hutter had a hard time getting the sponsorship required from the university in Australia he plans to attend as a graduate student.

“”Trying to persuade them when they haven’t seen your application can be tricky. I recommend (future applicants) to get that done as soon as possible,”” he said.

He said he worked on his application for 60 or 70 hours total, including time spent talking with the Australian university and getting UA letters of recommendation from professors.

The UA has an success rate of between 25 to 30 percent with Fulbright applicants, higher than the national average of 20 percent.

“”I guess we have a good system in place to help students put together applications. But it starts with the students themselves being competitive,”” Walter said.

Receiving the scholarship is like a lottery, and not even the brightest applicants are sure to get it. “”I never think anyone is a slam-dunk, because we’ve surprised in the past,”” she said.

Still, the university is at the top with Ivy League schools in terms of success.

“”The best students here can compete with the best students anywhere,”” Walter said.

 

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