Top Candidates Who Got Rejected By Fulbright
I write a lot about the applicants who get accepted to the Fulbright program each year; their scores, profiles, interview experiences, nature of work experience and much more. This time around I have decided to talk about those top candidates who got rejected by the Fulbright – some even without an interview.
The purpose of writing this is not to demoralize you but it is to highlight the fact that it is not just the scores or the exceptional candidates that always get accepted. As a matter of fact Fulbright is more about your goals and your ability to achieve them than it is the GPA, GRE or years of work experience. Make sure you have a well-rounded application with clearly laid out future plans that are not only realistic but also achievable by you.
As one successful Fulbright student, Zubair, from 2015 puts it in his own words: There is another thing that most of the top scoring students forget while applying for Fulbright and they end up with rejections. Fulbright demands that we should have a very clear goal after returning to Pakistan. Its manifesto is to help build the people of Pakistan who could, in future, add directly to the development of their nation. Believe me! If your personal statement and study objectives are exceptional in every way, but do not reflect your role in development of Pak, your chances of getting rejected gets very high.
Even when i was being interviewed, the panel wanted me to clarify the link between my study goals and development of Pakistan.
Just as Talha keep telling, THINK HARD before writing your personal statement!
Do note that you must keep ur statement balanced. Don’t get too patriotic. Otherwise you may win Fulbright award, but end up getting rejection from Universities :).
Fulbright application process can be extremely tedious, lengthy and costly (around Rs. 20,000 just for GRE exam) that can end up in disappointment for most of the applicants. The applicants are so competitive that many top candidates get rejected even before an admissions interview. Despite that I still stress that Fulbright is the only scholarship for Pakistani students that has the highest probability of getting selected – only around 1300 applicants each year and over 200 get selected eventually. No other scholarship in Pakistan has that high of an applicant to selection ratio.
For Fulbright, many applicants come from top Pakistani schools, have GPA in the range of 3.5 to 4 and GRE scores that are among the top 10% of all global test takers i.e 325+ out of 340. They have worked or are working on amazing projects and have put in a lot of effort on their Fulbright personal statement and Study Objectives. They work hard to apply and then wait for months before being rejected – for some after an interview and for others after the interview which is more heartbreaking.
Bilal for example is a top mechanical engineering graduate from UET and wasn’t even called for an interview last year. At the time of his application he was working for ICI for almost a year and had an undergraduate GPA of over 3.5 and a GRE of 319. During his summers he had interned in an EPCC firm and had recommendations from both academic and industry leaders.
Aneela had been working for the education ministry in Peshawar for almost 4 years and belonged to the backward area of Bannu – she had a GRE score of 321, a 93% undergraduate record and a lot of voluntary work in war torn areas of Swat and FATA. To her dismay she wasn’t called in for an interview either. Another applicant, Kanza was a 29-year-old MBA (in Non profit management) applicant with 6 years work experience in various international NGOs, a GRE score of 327, a 3.77 undergraduate GPA and 1 international research publication. For the past few years, she had been working on improving the education disparity in rural students. An executive in the NGO and two leading faculty members wrote his recommendations. She got rejected after the interview.
Okay so maybe Fulbright does not admire very experienced and academically accomplished people – but what about this former UN employee who scored a meager 302 on the GRE, 2.93 GPA, not a top school graduate, no extra-circulars and no bright reference letter? She too got rejected before an interview. Her personal statement was well written and had a great grip over English Language – she fluently communicated her thought process but to no avail.
Does this mean that the Fulbright process is totally random? For some it may seem to be but it is not. These students along with another 43 rejected students from last year shared their profiles with me in the hope that I may be able to tell them what went wrong. Reasons for rejections included a poor personal statements or study objectives, impractical goals after returning to Pakistan and great GPA from from a less competitive university etc. For others the reasons are subtle – maybe Fulbright ran out of funding or space to fill them in or maybe they were just too qualified for Fulbright? God Knows!
In USEFP’s own words, “one of the major goals of Fulbright programs is to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and Pakistan, in addition to academic work, persons selected for Fulbright programs are expected to share information about Pakistani life and culture with their U.S. colleagues and with community groups in the U.S. On returning to Pakistan, Fulbright grantees are expected to share their U.S. experiences with colleagues and community groups in Pakistan.”
– Fulbright definitely uses this vision and principal while making application decisions along with the fact that these applicants can positively contribute towards the socioeconomic landscape of Pakistan.
For those of you applying for an MBA through Fulbright please read this.
Note: Names of the above students have been changed in order to maintain privacy.