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By: Muhammad Bilal Butt
With thousands of accredited colleges and universities in the United States, how do you find the one that is right for you? Despite tonnes of information online and numerous educational consultancies in Pakistan, students end up, sometimes, going to a wrong place. Either the institutions aren’t reputable enough, or there are visa issues, or simply the consultant students went to for guidance was a fraud. But, you need not worry now as the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP) has got you covered. Considering the fact that studying in the US could be extremely costly, every year USEFP helps hundreds of Pakistani students secure scholarships and travel to the US to further their education and career.
The United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP) has recently invited Pakistani students to apply for the prestigious 2020 Fulbright Student (Master’s and PhD) and Fulbright-Higher Education Commission (HEC) PhD Program, which fully funds Master’s or PhD study at top universities in the United States. In 2018, as many as 156 Pakistani Fulbright Scholarship recipients went to the United States to pursue advanced studies and research.
The Fulbright Scholarship is considered one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world. It entitles you to the membership of an Alumni network that in itself is almost 70 years old. With 8000 grants worldwide annually and around 150 grants for Pakistan alone, this in itself is a huge networking opportunity, if nothing else.
The Fulbright Master’s and PhD Program funds graduate study in the United States for a Master’s or PhD degree. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), these grants cover tuition, required textbooks, airfare, a living stipend and health insurance. USEFP also assists with the visa process.
The Fulbright Program in Pakistan
The Fulbright Program in Pakistan is the biggest and highest funded, with around 150 students granted scholarships each year in various disciplines. Somewhere around 1300-1500 students apply each year.
Who should apply?
All disciplines are eligible except clinical medicine. Applicants studying energy, water, agriculture, public health, education, social sciences, journalism, mass communication, arts and culture management, including heritage conservation and museum studies, urban and regional planning, environmental science/studies, security/peace studies, and data science disciplines are strongly encouraged to apply.
What about the applicants?
This is a national program. However, women, people with disabilities, and individuals from FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan, Northern Sindh and Southern Punjab are highly encouraged to apply.
When to apply?
The application form is available online at www.usefpakistan.org, and the application deadline is May 15, 2019.
How to apply?
A complete application package includes:
1. An application form;
2. Three reference letters;
3. Your GRE score report; and
4. Scanned transcripts, including an explanation of the grading scale of the university issuing the degree should be uploaded.
Please note that HEC-attested documents are preferable with the application but degree and transcripts attested by the issuing authority will be acceptable at the time of application.
Pakistani citizens, residing and working in Pakistan, with strong academic histories in all disciplines except clinical medicine can apply.
Master’s degree program
For the Master’s degree program, eligible candidates will have either a four-year Bachelor’s degree or a Bachelor’s and Master’s combination totalling 16 years of formal education from an accredited university. Recent graduates are strongly encouraged to apply, except for MBA applicants, who require 3 years of work experience.
PhD degree program
For the PhD degree program, eligible applicants will have a Master’s, MPhil or comparable degree (a minimum of 18 years of formal education) from an accredited university. It is highly desirable that candidates have work experience in teaching, research or the public sector in Pakistan.
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for all applicants. Under the new scoring system, minimum scores of 138 in the verbal section and 136 in the quantitative section are required. Applicants must also possess a high level of fluency in spoken and written English.
If you are short-listed for the interview, you are required to register yourself for TOEFL. It is a pretty simple English Language test, and if you have done well in GRE, it is highly unlikely that you won’t do well in TOEFL.
Short-listed applicants will be required to bring proof of TOEFL registration with them to the interview.
Who are ineligible?
- Persons with a dual US/Pakistan nationality or those having a spouse, parent, fiancé or child over 18 years of age who is a US citizen or permanent resident.
- Employees of the Fulbright organization or US Department of State and their spouses, fiancés, siblings, dependents, children and parents. For programs funded by their agencies, employees of USAID or the HEC and their spouses, fiancés, siblings, dependents, children and parents.
- As a general matter, preference for Fulbright student opportunities will be given to candidates who have not previously received a Fulbright student grant.
- Persons already studying in the US. or on a work/residence visa in any country.
Interview panel consists of 4 -5 people, one of them a psychiatrist who just sits there and notices how you conduct yourself during the interview. One of them is charged with asking ‘technical’ questions about your area of interest. Two of the rest are generally officials from US Fulbright organization and these are mainly the ones who will be talking to you most of the time. Remember, this is a cultural exchange scholarship, keep in mind the goals of this scholarship while answering questions.
The interview can last anywhere around 10 min to 45 min and is not a very technical one.
Interview is mostly about convincing the panellists that you will be able to conduct yourself well in a foreign environment and will be a good ambassador of your own culture. The more it reflects in the interview, the better for you. So, prepare accordingly, make sure you know what you wrote in that application 3 months back and make sure you know your life story, inspirations, goals, etc.
Statement of Purpose
The Study Objectives/Research Proposal and Statement of Purpose/Personal Statement are the make-or-break point of your application, USEFP organizes a lot of workshops very frequently (and free) on how to write your SoPs. Make it a point to attend a couple of those. Make sure to get yourself registered as an advisee on the USEFP website, that way they will keep you updated about these workshops.
Work and rewrite these essays again and again, and make sure they are as good as you possibly can write. Be truthful; don’t make things up that you can’t factually back up later on in the process.