Faculty Resources for the Fulbright US Student Program

Campus Contact

Email Prof. Douglas Casson, Co-Director of External Fellowships and Scholarships, for more information about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program at St. Olaf.

Letters of Recommendation and Foreign Language Evaluations

Due September 2019

To ensure that applications are complete by the campus deadline, please submit your recommendation or language evaluation online no later than September 25.

The following links outline guidelines specific to the various types of recommendations and evaluations:

Research/Study Letters: Content

Letters should include the following information (not necessarily in the order listed):

  • Length of time you have known the student, in what context(s) and the level or degree of your involvement with the student
  • The importance/significance of the student’s proposed project/plan of study, as well as its feasibility in terms of the time frame (and any other relevant considerations)
  • Evaluation of the student’s character, ability to work independently, ability to adapt to different setting/new culture
  • Specific, detailed evidence to support your assessment of the student (e.g., the student’s distinction project, a paper he/she wrote for your course)
  • If possible, identify a particular comparison group (e.g., senior economics majors, former Rhodes/Fulbright/Marshall recipients) and place or rate the student within it (e.g., “she is among the five best English majors we have graduated in the 25 years I’ve taught at St. Olaf” or “he is the best-prepared student to apply for advanced study at Oxford whom I’ve encountered”)

Research/Study Letters: Length

The length of letters is important.  A one-paragraph letter, even if filled with superlative adjectives, will not persuade selection committees.  Letters need to be at least one full page single-spaced, and preferably slightly longer (note guidelines on websites).  It is important to provide specific details to support your evaluation of the student (e.g., the title of his/her distinction project, what was involved, conceptualization, implementation, summer research, internship or other off-campus experience, leadership positions held, etc.).

It is essential to proofread carefully.  This is especially important now that Fulbright has electronic submissions; there is no opportunity for corrections once the “submit” key is pressed.

Preparation of these letters of recommendation requires considerable reflection and work.  Our experience has shown that letters that fail to provide adequate evidence to support the overall evaluation of the recommender do not serve the interests of student applicants. Faculty who do not know the applicant well or who are unable to devote the time and effort necessary to write such letters are encouraged to suggest to students that they seek another recommender.

ETA Letters

The ETA letter is different from the Research/Study letter because it is not a letter, but instead a short-answer questionnaire. In completing the reference form, keep in mind that the applicant will be serving as a cultural ambassador representing the United States and that personal suitability, as well as academic excellence, is an important criterion to be considered.

How do I submit my letter of recommendation?

After the applicant for whom you are writing enters your name and email address into the Fulbright Embark Application system, you should receive instructions and log-in information in an email from Embark, which will provide further instructions for submitting your letter.

How do I support a student interested in applying for a Fulbright?

There are several formal and informal ways of supporting St. Olaf students interested in applying for a Fulbright Grant. The following is a list of ways in which you may support students. Italicized items are formally recognized as service to the college toward tenure and promotion:

  • Join the Fulbright Advising Team: The Fellowships Advisor, along with several faculty members, are involved in evening help sessions through the month of September. Help sessions occur every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening from 6 – 8 PM through the month of September. If you would like to be involved, please email Dr. Heather Campbell.
  • Join the Fulbright Campus Committee: The Fulbright Campus Committee is charged with reviewing St. Olaf Fulbright applications, interviewing the candidates, and writing Campus Committee Evaluations, which make up part of the applicant’s official Fulbright dossier.
  • Recommend that your interested students talk to the Fellowships Advisor in the Piper Center regarding their suitability for various fellowships.
  • Provide feedback on application drafts. The Fulbright Tips page provides helpful resources for critiquing statements.

What are the eligibility criteria for the Fulbright US Student Programs?

  • A student may apply in the fall of their senior year or any year after as an alumni – there is no age limit. Some programs have specific age limitations and preferences.
  • The U.S. Student Program is not open to International Students. Applicants must be U.S. citizens at the time of application.
  • Applicants must hold a Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent before the start of the grant.
  • Applicants may not hold a doctoral degree at the time of application, but may hold a J.D. degree.
  • Applicants must be in good health. Grantees will be required to submit a satisfactory Certificate of Health from a physician.
  • Applicants should have sufficient proficiency in the written and spoken language of the host country to communicate with the people and to carry out the proposed study/research. Such proficiency is especially important for students wishing to undertake projects in the social sciences and the humanities.
  • Preference will be given to those applicants whose higher education was undertaken primarily at educational institutions in the United States. Foreign study during the junior year or other periods of undergraduate study that are integral parts of the curricula of American institutions will not be considered a disadvantage.

What makes for an ideal Fulbright candidate?

The Research/Study Applicant

  • Research/Internships/Field Experience aligning with their future research/study interests
  • Currently a junior, senior, or alumni
  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • Academic merit
  • History of public service
  • Campus and community involvement
  • Leadership skills
  • Well-roundedness
  • Ambassadorial potential; willingness to participate in cultural exchange
  • Interest in other cultures

The English Teaching Assistant Applicant

  • Coursework in linguistics or education, including any of the following:
    • Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate (a concentration in the Education Department)
    • ED 245: Teaching & Learning of English Grammar
    • ED 246: Issues in Education — English Language Learners
    • ED 250: Second Language Acquisition
    • ED 260: Foundations of Education
    • ED 290: Educational Psychology
    • ED 353: Teaching of World Languages (with permission of instructor)
    • ENG 250: Introduction to Linguistics
  • Junior, senior, or alumni status/standing
  • Experience in the Fulbright educational setting
  • Tutoring, teaching or other work with English learners
  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • Academic merit
  • Public service experience
  • Leadership skills
  • Ambassadorial potential; willingness to participate in cultural exchange
  • Interest in working with people from a variety of other cultures

What is the Fulbright Timeline of Support?

April to August: Identify and encourage potential Fulbright applicants. Provide support in the form of research advice and statement critique to applicants from your department.

September to Beginning of October: Join the “Fulbright Advising Team.” Four nights a week, faculty gather to help students with their Fulbright statements.

Beginning to Middle of October: Join the “Fulbright Campus Committee.” There are two options, which include the Research/Study or ETA Fulbright Campus Committee. In both cases, faculty will interview and evaluate candidates, complete campus committee evaluation forms, and work to uphold the credibility of our institutional process.