Its not about the ending, its all about the journey – my Fulbright’s “(roller coaster)” story part one

Tell you what?! Let me quote myself (wait, can I do that??), well, anyway… “Applying for Fulbright scholarship will put you to an emotional roller coaster for a full year!”.

To begin my story, I need to make a confession that I made a stupid mistake that might cost me a fortune when sending my application to a wrong address, with only one day left before the deadline! but the luck still on my side and I still manage to send my application before the deadline. Moral of the story: no matter how good your application is, flawless essays, and completed all the required documents… if you send it to the wrong address, none of it will matter!

In this part one, I will share my preparation for applying the scholarship and share few tips and tricks that might help (specifically on how to write study objective, personal statement, and work/writing sample).

wait… I’ll start the story few weeks earlier before the deadline.

It took me several days just to finish the application form, needs a pair of good eyes to get it done without a single error detected. I would recommend to ask few friends to check your application before you submit it, small mistake like grammar or typo might’ve cost you the chance to get shortlisted.

There are items for checklist on the application, but here I’m going to focus mainly on the essays. Writing study objective and personal statement maybe were most difficult part of the application, i did change and revise my essays for almost 7-9 times before I finally satisfied with the result.

Study Objective (SO) and Personal Statement (PS) are written in 1 page max, single space, with 11 or 12 font. In this section, applicant must be able to explain in detail but concise the area of study they will choose and explain the reason to pursue the specific major. It’ll be better if the applicant is able to elaborate further the specific major that they choose and how it is relate, support and contribute to future career, educational background, and their expertise. There will be a mentor to help applicants to shape their essays before it is submitted to the university. From my experience, the SO is best structured into three parts; the first part is the explanation of area specific of study and the specialization (if any), the second part encompass the main reasons (it is recommended to write three reasons in three different paragraphs) why you want to pursue the specific field of study, what purposes does it serve to study your proposed major? last part, is explaining your future objectives and how your study plan will help you to achieve them.

Personal Statement (PS) to me is slightly more difficult to write than SO. Its about telling about ourselves in a professional way, but at the same time keeping it honest, objective and fair. The main part of PS is to explain the “why”, but also the how, and what. Writing a script about how we equipped ourselves and fit as a candidate plays an important part of PS. Applicant should also be able to elaborate “How they fit into the criteria”, it can be related to the educational background, area of interest, working (and organizational) experiences, and future career plan. The tricky part is to not repeat what has been written on your resume, so you have to built a comprehensive and solid argument (narratively) of your potential and motivation to continue study in US and how its related to above-mentioned elements. My mentor helps me to organize the essay by fragment it into several different parts: describe your (relevant) education; pointed out your practical experiences on particular area of interest; current and future career plan. The last two parts are the real challenge, since all applicant must elaborate significant factor(s) that have influenced their educational and professional development and argue on how long you have had these practical experience regarding your proposed field of study and why more education is still needed in that area. Quoted from my mentor “PS is supposed to give the reviewers more background about who you are as a person.  They want to know your personality, attitude, background, and strengths.  They want to know what you will contribute to others and how others can help you”.

I might’ve mentioned few tips and tricks for SO and PO (and maybe you can find it elsewhere how to write SO and PO), but I found very little source how to write a writing or work sample. It certainly will help if you do have a published paper or journal , but if you do not have it, you need to write something that should be considered appropriate to meet the scholarly requirement in terms of content and language specific. Writing or work sample is very important part of the application, since it will show the glimpse of your work and how it is relevant with your SO and PS. I put my own personal project of Regional Innovation System in South Kalimantan. I bring lots of effort to write an excellent timeline on how my interest, expertise, experience and all relevant things (such as trainings, scholarships and seminars that i received and attended) are aligned and supporting my SO and PS on my work sample. Writing the essay was a difficult task, require lots of energy, focus, determination, and also all the help you need (special thanks to my dearest friend Zahra Matthews for helping me with my writing).

Getting two recommendation letters were also intense. Fulbright requires all the applicant to provide two recommendation letter, but I got four (just in case). My first recommendation letter was from the Institution that provide me a Business Intermediary training (VDI GmbH, VDE e.V. in Berlin, Germany). The second letter was from the Head of South Kalimantan Research Council (He is also one of the Dean in Universitas Lambung Mangkurat). The third and fourth were my supervisor at my office. Bottom line is, I was trying get recommendation letters from several different sources; academic, work, and professional.

Am I done after i submitted my application? well… its far from finished, its just tip of the iceberg and the beginning of the roller coaster ride that all applicants will experience for the next 12 -16 months! its fun, thrilling, bring lots of excitement, frustration, at some point maybe depression…. just wait until the second part of this post, its gonna be LEGEN… (wait for it, hopefully I’m not too lazy to write my blog, coz the school starts in Monday, and I’m so not prepare for school, and I also a big fan of HIMYM, thanks Barney)…DARY!!!