Katherine Hazen '18
Smith College maintains its rank near the top of institutions receiving Fulbright Awards for the 2014-2015 school year, second only to Pitzer College. Of the 42 applicants, 15 were offered Fulbright fellowships, five were named finalists, three were declared alternates and eight are still awaiting to hear their status, totaling an impressive 41 percent success rate, which is slightly lower than in years past. The application rate remains consistent with what it has been in recent years, and is tied with the record-high of 2012. In addition to the work of the applicants themselves, 250 Smith faculty and staff members supported the applicants as Faculty Fulbright Mentors, Consultants, Foreign Language Evaluators and in other positions.
The Fulbright fellowship consists of a monetary gift to sustain a student’s studies or English-teaching assistantship in a foreign country for one year. The State Department created the Fulbright fellowship program to send young Americans to foreign countries, exporting a positive image of America to the world via grassroots diplomacy. The funds for the fellowship are provided by Congress, but the funds and opportunities available depend on the country of application. The most popular locations for this year’s Smith Fulbright applications were the United Kingdom, Germany and South Korea.
Ryan Lewis, associate fellowships adviser, attributed a great deal of the success to Smith’s engaging academic atmosphere that fosters mentor relationships between students and the faculty, in addition to the fact that Smith students are generally motivated, high-achieving and committed to fixing the injustices of the world.
The Fulbright application process starts early, Lewis explained. “We start reaching out as soon as students get [to campus], encouraging them to start thinking of ideas, which we can start to refine in their sophomore and junior years,” he said.
In her senior year, an applicant finally starts her application, writing and rewriting until it is free of any grammatical errors and attains an “economy of words” to reflect the applicant’s experience in the briefest way possible, which Lewis admits is often difficult with such accomplished individuals.
“All of the applications we send are as nearly perfect as possible,” Lewis said.
Applications undergo two selection processes attended by panels of experts in the respective fields and regions of the application. After the final selection process, fellowship winners are notified of their success and alternates hear of their status. Alternates are waitlisted until either more funds become available for their region of choice or a fellowship-winner denies her award. There are still those with “pending” applications awaiting to hear their fate, and finalists whose applications made it through the first round but not the second.
Still much is left unknown for this year’s applicant pool, as Lewis said, “At present, the only percentage we know for certain—for competition year 2014-15 and Fulbrights to be awarded for 2015-16—is the 74 percent success rate for applicants to finalists.”