Artboard 1 apply Artboard 1 copy 2 Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB give Artboard 1 copy 3 info link Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB Artboard 1 Artboard 2 Artboard 1 visit

Compete Ferociously: Workshop on Fulbright and Gilman Scholarships

Mount St. Mary’s University's Center for Student Engagement and Success hosted “Exporting Your Goodness,” a Tools for Academic Success workshop for students to learn about Fulbright and Gilman scholarship opportunities. Associate Professor of History Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D., and Professor of Spanish Christine Blackshaw, Ph.D., both representing the Office of Competitive Fellowships, offered information, insights and expertise about studying and teaching abroad.

blackshaw-fulbright-in-text.jpgThe information session focused on Fulbright U.S. Student Program’s English Teaching Assistant (ETA) programs and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship—both sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Office of Competitive Fellowships assists students and alumni with the application process for competitive and distinguished awards, such as the Fulbright, Gilman, Marshall, Rhodes, Goldwater, and Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

The Fulbright ETA affords students who just graduated the ability to spend the next year as a local English teacher in a foreign classroom for 9 to 12 months for 20 to 35 hours per week, depending on the destination. More than 170 countries around the world participate.

Germany, Italy, Spain and France are among the most popular and competitive. Gianoutsos, who serves as director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships, suggested that students consider balancing their desired country with the statistical likelihood of being accepted to that program. For example, less familiar countries might have better odds.

Gianoutsos showed students the Fulbright website where participating countries outline their specific desires for applicants, including area of expertise, foreign language proficiency and duration of the grant.

The highly regarded academic ambassadorial exchange program is interested in diverse, mature and qualified applicants. Fulbright applicants should be college seniors and have a solid GPA of 3.5 or higher and have leadership, internship, teaching and work experience, Gianoutsos said.

Fulbright's general list of requirements for applicants includes the following:

  • Be a U.S. citizen with a university degree and in good health.
  • Have a good reason to be in a particular country with a willingness to learn about the country, study its language and get to know its people.
  • Possess a desire to teach English abroad.
  • Be a good fit with the particular country description.
  • Maintain a desire to engage with your host country outside of the classroom.
  • Have demonstrated maturity, professionalism, grit, flexibility and ambassadorial qualities.

 “The Fulbright is something you want to think about doing following graduationm and the Gilman is something you would think about doing during your time at the Mount,” Gianoutsos stated.

Fulbright applicants write two statements of 1,000 words. The statement of grant purpose reflects what students would bring to the classroom, ideas for teaching and how to reach students from a different culture. The second is a personal statement. “This is a narrative describing who you are,” Gianoutsos said. “It should not be a biographical piece. It’s more like giving snapshots or vignettes about who you are as a person, what motivates you, what you’re passionate about and what your long-term goals are.”

At this point in the most difficult part of the process, you would be challenged by Gianoutsos and Blackshaw, associate director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships, to write six to nine drafts. “It’s a long process; it’s hard to describe yourself in 1,000 words. It’s an exploration process,” Gianoutsos added. Fulbright applicants should be college seniors and have a solid GPA of 3.5 or higher and have leadership, internship, teaching and work experience. Applicants also need three letters of recommendation.

For younger students, Gianoutsos emphasized collecting relevant teaching experience now: “Sign up to be a tutor, a note taker or a peer mentor. Volunteer at vacation bible school.” She recommended reading domestic and international news, working on GPA and seeking volunteer and leadership experiences.

The Office of Competitive Fellowships is in the process of creating an online Canvas course that will walk individuals through the initial steps of the Fulbright application. Interested students should email Gianoutsos for timelines, qualifications and general questions at

Blackshaw discussed the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Established in 2001, the scholarship program enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad. “They are very interested in applicants who represent a different slice of America—including first-generation and minority students,” Blackshaw said.

The Gilman recipient should be a U.S. citizen and a past or present federal financial aid grant recipient. They should also choose a program with academic credit of a minimum of three weeks (21 days) tied to it. The country where they want to study should have an overall travel advisory level of 1 or 2. Additional scholarship dollars in the form of a critical need language award are available to students who have a critical need to learn a language for their intended destination.

Similar to the Fulbright application, students write two essays. The first is a personal interview which is a statement about who you are, what you hope to become, your academic, professional and personal goals, and challenges you’ve had and overcome in your career and personal trajectory. “In this statement of purpose, they’re looking for people who have a unique story to tell,” Blackshaw said. Students in good academic standing, or who are on an upward trajectory, with the personal and intellectual curiosity to experience studying abroad are preferred candidates.

The second essay is a complementary service project. “They really want to get people who cannot study abroad for financial reasons and who would not be able to do this otherwise,” Blackshaw said. “They want to know how you will give back to your specific group and community.”

Criteria for evaluating essays include:

  • Academic preparedness
  • Student impact
  • Diversity of background and experience
  • Choice of program and destination
  • Commitment to proficiency and critical need language

Students interested in studying abroad and applying for the Gilman scholarship should email Blackshaw at

More information on the Office of Competitive Fellowships can be found at