Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship Application Tips

Fulbright-National Geographic competition is currently on hold.
Updated information for the 2019-2020 grant year is forthcoming, please check back.

Biographical Data
  • Award Name: Under Program Information, be sure to select “Fulbright-National Geographic Fellowship” in Question 3 on the Preliminary Information page as well as Question 22 on the Program Information page. Failure to indicate an Award Name may disqualify your application from consideration for the award.
  • Grant Category: Be sure to select “Academic” in the General Category question (question #23)  on the Program Information page. Then select the Grant Field of Study that relates to the theme or topic connected to your proposed project.
  • Complete all required fields: You should take care to accurately complete all of the required fields in this section.
  • Use proper capitalization and punctuation: This is a formal grant application and you are advised to follow the English language rules on capitalization and punctuation.
  • Provide an informative project title and summary: These sections are a quick reference for screening committees and other reviewers. They should be able to determine the basic who, what, when, where, why and how of your project by reading this summary. The project title should be informative and reference the National Geographic Theme to which you are applying as well.
Statement of Grant Purpose

Develop an intellectually-compelling and feasible project: Candidates for the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship should propose projects that focus on storytelling in one or more of the eligible themes. Storytellers are expected to explore their chosen theme(s) through research, observation, analysis and interviews, and relate their findings on the National Geographic blog.

Address the following points:

  • What do you propose to do?
  • With whom do you propose to work?
  • What is innovative about the project?
  • Who is your proposed audience?
  • What are the specific goals of your story?
  • What is important or globally significant about the project?
  • What contribution will the project make toward the Fulbright goal of promoting cultural exchange and mutual understanding?
  • When will you carry out the project? Include a detailed timeline.
  • Where do you propose to conduct your study or research? Why was this location(s) chosen?
  • Why do you want to undertake this project?
  • Why does the project have to be conducted in the country(ies) of application?
  • How will your project help further your academic or professional development?
  • How will you benefit from the mentorship provided by National Geographic editors?
  • What method of storytelling will be used?
  • How do you intend to share and promote your Fulbright experience and stories with audiences, both U.S. and global, during and after your Fulbright grant period abroad?
  • How will you engage with the host country community?
  • What will Americans and other readers of the blog gain from your story?
  • What are your qualifications for carrying out this project?

Design a feasible project: You must demonstrate that your project is viable, including its content and time frame. Address the following points:

  • How will the culture and politics of the host country(ies) impact the work?
  • Will the resources of the host country(ies) support the project?
  • Confirm you have met the affiliation requirement for the program: Have you developed a connection with a potential adviser/sources in the host country(ies)? Include names, host country institutions, contacts and sources you plan to utilize during your grant program. Indicate the level of contact which has been established.
  • Do you have the requisite background to undertake the proposed project?
  • Address your language skills capacity or, if you do not have local language skills, explain how you will accomplish your goals.
  • If you do not have local language skills, and they are not necessary for your reporting, but the local population communicates in a language that you do not understand, how will you engage the community or carry out your daily activities?
  • Are there any possible feasibility concerns that the project could evoke? If yes, please address.

Proposals for multi-country projects should set forth a strong argument for completion of the project in the proposed host countries to which the applicant proposes to travel.  While applications for two or three countries are allowed, proposed projects for more than one country must provide a detailed project description and meet a high standard in each country.  For multi-country proposals, countries should be strategically selected to show comparative and/or contrasting parts of a story or innovations in multiple countries.  Applicants must clearly outline their skills which would allow them to effectively and efficiently launch into their grant activities upon arrival in each country and address the following points:

  • Why is an exploration of the selected theme in all of these countries important? (i.e. What commonalities or differences do you expect to find.)
  • Why is it important that these commonalities or differences are investigated and reported?
  • What greater significance or impact could the findings have on the global understanding or response to the proposed topic?)
  • Do you have sufficient language skills to successfully complete the project in each country? How will your language proficiency or limitations impact your ability to successfully complete your proposed project?
  • What is your plan for settling into each country to allow for sufficient time to make contacts, do research, carry out the aspects of your project effectively?

Projects should be proposed to be at least three months in each country. Thus,

  • 3 country projects must be 3 consecutive months in each country
  • 2 country projects may be any combination of months per country as long as each country has at least three consecutive months.

Candidates applying through U.S. institutions are urged to consult professors in their major fields or faculty members with experience in the host country, as well as their Fulbright Program Advisers, about the feasibility of their proposed projects. At-Large applicants should consult qualified persons in their fields.

  • Be clear and concise.
  • The individuals reading the proposal want applicants to get to the point about the 'who, what, when, where, why and how' of the project. Avoid discipline-specific jargon.
  • Organize the statement carefully.
  • Don't make reviewers search for information.
  • We urge you to have several people read and critique the Statement of Grant Purpose, including a faculty adviser, a faculty member outside your discipline, a fellow student, and/or a colleague.

Adhere to the proper format.

  • Length is limited to a maximum of three single-spaced pages. Longer statements will not be presented to the screening committee.
  • Do not include any bibliographies, publications, citations, etc., except those that will fit in the three-page limit.
  • Use 1-inch margins and Times New Roman 12-point font.
  • At the top of the first page include:
    • On line 1: Statement of Grant Purpose
    • On line 2: Your Name, Country(ies) of Application, and National Geographic Theme
    • On line 3: Your Project Title as it appears in the Program Information page of the application
  • On the second page of the Statement, enter the same information or just Last Name, Grant Purpose, Page 2.
Affiliation Letter

Understand the affiliation requirements for the country to which you are applying: Affiliation arrangements vary by country, so you should carefully review the affiliation information provided in the country summary. All grantees must have an affiliation in each of the proposed the host countries.

Countries differ in the kinds of host affiliations that are acceptable. Examples of affiliations include universities, laboratories, libraries, non-governmental organizations, and so on. Pay special attention to the requirement in some countries to attend classes and/or affiliate with academic institutions.

Identify an appropriate affiliation for your project: The affiliation is your proposed host in the country to which you are applying. Fulbrighters have used a number of methods to contact potential hosts and solicit support for their projects. One primary method is to use the contacts and advisers that you already have. Ask current/former professors or employers to put you into contact with appropriate people in the host country. If the proposal relies on conducting interviews with members of the host community, you must have host country contacts that can support the project, provide access to required resources, sources and/or advise you during the grant period. It is your responsibility to identify, contact, and secure an affiliation from a potential advisor.

Potential avenues to identify an appropriate affiliation/host country adviser include:

  • Faculty at your home campus.
  • International students.
  • Visiting Fulbright Professors in the U.S. or U.S. Fulbright Scholars who had grants to your host country. Directories are available here.
  • Internet searches of potential host institutions with your interests, or organizations in the host country that work with issues related to your topic.
  • Other U.S. academics with expertise in the location/subject matter of the proposed project.
  • Contacts from previous experience abroad.
  • Educational Advising sections of Embassies or Consulates of your potential host country.
  • Non-governmental agencies or international organizations dealing with issues related to your project.

Start early: Obtaining an affiliation letter from overseas can be a time-consuming process and sufficient lead time must be given to receive signed affiliation letters before the application deadline.

Request the Affiliation Letter: After identifying the appropriate host institution and the individual at that institution best suited to serve as an adviser for the proposed project, make contact with the potential adviser to determine if he/she is willing to write an affiliation letter. Before requesting the letter, you should provide the author with a copy of the Statement of Grant Purpose. The affiliation letter should indicate the author’s willingness to work with you on the intended project and it should speak to the feasibility and validity of what is being proposed. The letter should also indicate any additional resources or contacts that the adviser can provide to support the work.

  • Affiliation letters must be printed on institutional letterhead and must be signed by the authors. Email correspondence is not acceptable.
  • Scanned versions of the original hard-copy letters with hand-written signatures should be uploaded into the application, and the letter writers can either send the original hard-copy letters or electronic copies to the applicants. IIE will not accept any affiliation letters via email or fax.
  • Since affiliation letters are not confidential, you will upload the letter yourself into the online application system. Affiliation letters written in a foreign language must be translated into English and both the original letters and the English-language translations must be uploaded into the application.
  • Instructions on uploading letters of affiliation are available in the online application system.
Resume and Digital Storytelling Portfolio

Applications must include a current, one-page résumé (strict one-page limit). In addition to a resume, applications must also include a storytelling portfolio, portfolio narrative and self-assessment of storytelling skills (strict two-page limit for digital storytelling portfolio and self-assessment).

Resume Format: Single-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins, not more than one page.

Digital Storytelling Portfolio consists of Digital Storytelling Samples, Portfolio Narrative and Self-assessment of storytelling skills: Single-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins, not more than two pages. Include examples of your multimedia work through URLs and functioning hyperlinks for each on sites that are not password-protected. You will be responsible for ensuring that your hyperlinks work properly and URLs are correct. In your portfolio narrative, you must answer the following questions:

  • Why did you choose each sample for inclusion?
  • What was the context for developing the sample (i.e., class project)?
  • What was your role in the production of each sample?
  • Which skill does your sample highlight?

Samples provided in your digital portfolio should be related to your proposed project, the media which you intend to use during the grant period and should demonstrate your ability to tell a story using multi-media for a blog.

In addition to the portfolio, you must provide a self-assessment of your specific skills related to digital storytelling. Along with the narrative, respond to the following:

  • Briefly describe your experience with Audio, Video and Still Photography;
  • List any other audio/video/mapping software in which you are proficient; and
  • List Still, Video and Audio equipment you currently use
Personal Statement

Make it Personal: This statement provides you with an opportunity to introduce yourself to the screening committee members on a personal level. The style is up to you, but the content should convey your background and your motivation for applying to the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship and how this background relates to the proposed project and your future goals.

Do not repeat information from other parts of the application.

Adhere to the following format:

  • Length is limited to a maximum of one single-spaced page. Longer statements will not be presented to the screening committee.
  • Use 1-inch margins and Times New Roman 12-point font.
  • At the top of the page include:
    • On line 1: Personal Statement
    • On line 2: Your Name, Country of Application, and National Geographic Theme
Foreign Language Evaluation
  • For Commonly-Taught Languages: The Foreign Language Evaluation should be completed by a professional language teacher, preferably a university professor. The language evaluator cannot be related to the applicant.
  • For Less-Commonly-Taught Languages: If a professional language teacher is not readily available, a college-educated native-speaker of the language can be used. The language evaluator cannot be related to the applicant.
  • Provide your language evaluator with the Instructions for Foreign Language Evaluators. You can print these out and discuss them with the person completing the form.
  • Please note that an email address can only be used for one type of online recommendation, that is, either a reference or a Foreign Language Evaluation. If you wish to have the same person complete both a recommendation and a Foreign Language Evaluation, the person must use two different email addresses. You will register the person once for the recommendation and once for the Foreign Language Evaluation.
  • In order to register your language evaluator and to have access to the Language Self-Evaluation , you must respond appropriately to the Embark Online Application Preliminary Information Question 5. If you did not initially request these forms, return to the Preliminary Information page to adjust your answer.


  • When choosing recommenders, select the three individuals who can best speak to your ability to carry out the proposed project.
  • It is advised that at least two of these recommendations evaluate the applicant’s ability to produce the type of storytelling proposed in the Statement of Grant Purpose.
  • Do not submit character references.
  • Provide recommenders with copies of your Statement of Grant Purpose and your Personal Statement so that they can write well-informed recommendations.
  • Give recommenders at least 3-4 weeks to complete the recommendations.
  • You must register the recommenders in the online application system so that they can upload their recommendations directly into your application.
  • Recommendations must remain confidential, so applicants cannot upload recommendations.
  • Recommendations should be printed on institutional letterhead, signed by the authors, and then uploaded into the online application system.
  • Provide your recommenders with the Instructions for Study/Research Recommendation Writers. You can print these out and discuss them with the person writing the recommendation.
  • If the original recommendation is not written in English an official English translation must be provided. The recommendation is confidential and cannot be translated by the applicant. The English-language translation should be printed on institutional letterhead and must include the name, title, and contact information of the translator, and it must be signed by the translator. Both the original recommendation and the English-language translation must be uploaded into the Fulbright application.


After the recommendation is submitted, it cannot be edited. However, if there is a significant error and the recommender/evaluator agrees to edit to a submitted recommendation, the following process must be followed. The recommender sends an email to Embark tech support (from the login page of the Embark Online Recommendation System, the same used to submit the recommendation/evaluation) and requests that the recommendation/evaluation for [name of applicant] be ‘unsubmitted.’ Applicants cannot make this request; only an email from the person registered for the recommendation/evaluation will be honored. Allow at least 48 hours for the request to be implemented. Once unsubmitted, the recommendercan make the edit and resubmit. Please note that national deadline for submission of references is October 9, 2018 at 5pm Eastern Time.

Applicants can follow the status of the recommendation/evaluation (not initiated, in progress, submitted) from the Recommendation/Evaluation page of the application. Additional details on the online submission of recommendations/language evaluations are available in the Recommendations/Evaluation section.

  • You must upload one unofficial academic transcript from each post-secondary institution from which a degree was received. Additional transcripts should be uploaded for coursework and grades not reflected on degree-granting transcripts.
  • Failure to provide a complete academic history of higher education will result in your being declared ineligible.
  • Graduate-level students who do not include undergraduate transcripts will be considered ineligible.
  • Candidates recommended for final consideration will be required to submit official copies of all college transcripts in March.
  • Consult the Transcript Upload Instructions page for more detailed information.
Ethical Requirements

Applicants proposing research involving human beings or animals as research subjects who plan to formally publish the results or to use the results in a graduate program should have their projects vetted by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at their home institutions. At-large applicants should conduct an individual ethics review ensuring that their proposed projects are consistent with ethical standards for research involving humans as research participants as outlined in the National Guidelines for Human Subjects Research (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health), in the National Guidelines for Animal Welfare at the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare or other applicable internationally recognized ethics guidance documents.

Human subjects research includes: clinical investigations (any experiment or study on one or more persons which involves a test product/article, whether a drug, treatment, procedure or device); social-behavioral studies which entail interaction with or observation of people, especially vulnerable populations (i.e., as minors, pregnant women, inmates, drug-users, the mentally impaired, displaced/refugee populations); and, basic scientific research to study the biology of animals, persons or organs and specimens thereof. The most fundamental issues in studies involving human research subjects include: valid scientific questions and approaches; potential social value; favorable risk-benefit ratio; fair selection of study participants and an adequately administered informed consent process.

Tips from Fulbright Storytellers
Read the article Tips for Fellowship Applicants (Paying It Forward)