Foreign Student Program Frequently Asked Questions

We have compiled a list of FAQs regarding Fulbright Awards for South African citizens. If you are looking for information, please check the FAQs first. If you cannot find the information you are looking for please contact the Fulbright Office at:

A: If you are a non-SA national living in SA without SA citizenship/permanent residency, you do not qualify for a US-SA Fulbright Award.

A: No. In general, we do not expect new graduates to have much (if any) work experience, but if you have done any work (paid or voluntary) which is relevant to the subject you propose to study, you should include it. You should also check the requirements of the university program you are applying to as they may require or give preference to candidates with a specified amount of work experience.

A: Yes.  As long as you received the equivalent of a four-year undergraduate degree/your first degree (for postgraduate grants only), from an accredited university outside of the US, you are eligible.

A: Yes, you may apply for either a master’s or doctoral degree. Final transcripts should be received in the year of application. Successful candidates are expected to commence their studies in the U.S. about 16 months after application.  All successful applicants need to ensure that they have a plan for that interim period.

A: No preference is given to any one field of study. During the selection process, the Fulbright selection committee does seek to select a cohort which is diverse in terms of discipline. The competition is tough particularly in Journalism, communication, business administration and the STEM fields.  High GRE/TOEFL test scores in these fields as well as for Ph.D. candidates in any field are crucial.

A: You should apply in the application cycle in the year prior to when you will start your program in the US.  For example, for courses beginning in September 2018, you should start planning in December 2016 and be ready to apply by the application deadline of February, 1, 2017 – April, 17, 2017.

Fulbright awards are only given for the academic year following the application cycle, and Fulbright awards cannot be deferred.  If you are offered an award you must begin your program of study the following academic year, and if you do not, you will not be given the award and you will have to re-apply for an award should you chose to study in the US in a subsequent year.  Start planning well in advance.  One to two years ahead is not too early.  Applications for Fulbright Awards run on a similar timeline to applications for postgraduate study at US universities.

A: Yes, you can apply, but if you are offered an award it will be on condition that you have completed the required degree.  In your application you must submit your transcripts and a copy of your official diploma.

A: No. Fulbright Awards are offered for a specific academic year. They are not deferrable, even if you defer your place at university. You will have to reapply. The results of your prior applications will have no influence on your future applications.

A: Application deadlines cannot be extended for individual applicants or to accommodate personal circumstances

A: No. Application deadlines are strictly adhered to and no late applications or supporting documents will be accepted after the closing date

A: Only short-listed applicants will be contacted.  Due to the large number of applications we receive, we cannot contact each person individually.  If you do not hear from us within 30 days of the closing date, please assume that your application was unsuccessful.

A: Read the webpage for the award category to which you intend to apply, for Award Terms and Conditions

We also recommend that Postgraduate Candidates make full use of the free, Education Advisory Service as they do their research to choose which US university to apply to:

A: Yes, There are SA-specific instructions which you must follow carefully to ensure you complete the application correctly. You must follow these instructions closely. Make sure that all elements of your application – including references – are typed. None of the questions are “trick” questions; we just want honest answers to the questions we ask. Read the questions carefully and fill in the form according to the application instructions. Not every section will apply to you (e.g. ‘publications’ or ‘teaching experience’). If it does not apply then write “Not Applicable” or ‘N/A’ so that we know you have not overlooked it.

A: The Research/Study Objectives and Personal Statement are your opportunity to explain to the selection committee why you want to go to the U.S. If your statements are unclear and/or vague, it is unlikely that you will be offered an interview.(add handout)

  • Explain why a course in the U.S. is an advantage over doing a similar course in SA.
  • Explain how a year or more in the U.S. fits in with your long-term career goals.
  • Include other reasons for wanting to spend time in the U.S.
  • Explain the wider significance and impact of your work or program of study.

A: You should ask people who know you very well, and preferably those who can comment on your academic ability as well as your leadership, character and interests. Draw your referees’ attention to the guidelines at the top of the form on Embark.  We also recommend that your referees read your Statement of Purpose.  The selection committee wants evidence that you have attained a high academic standard and, where applicable, evidence of excellence in the workplace is also useful. Where possible one reference should come from a supervisor of your academic work, and another should come from a supervisor of your non-academic work (e.g. employment, extracurricular activities or volunteering).  References must be typed and contain contact details of the author.

Your 3 references must be submitted by the application deadline or your application will be deemed incomplete and will not be considered.  Make sure to contact your referees early and make them aware of the deadline with plenty of time to submit. References will be submitted through Embark only and there are instructions on how this is done in the SA specific application instructions.

A: As a general rule the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) examination is required for entrance onto postgraduate courses at American universities, however, there are many exceptions. Please review our guidance on admissions exams

A:  You should not contact the Fulbright Office before completing your application. You may proceed with your application.  Normally, this message is intended to ensure that you meet the minimum eligibility requirements, have read the Terms and Conditions of the award category to which you are applying, and understand the application process.  If you follow the SA Country Specific Application Instructions whilst making your application, you should not need to contact the Fulbright Office.

A: Your application is reviewed for completeness and eligibility. Your application is then passed on to reading panels for further review.  The Fulbright Office will contact you a couple of weeks before the interview date to let you know that your application has been shortlisted, and invite you to an interview.

A: Yes. If you choose to apply again, your application will be evaluated against the pool of applicants in the new cohort year.  You will have to register a new profile with a different email on the application site and submit a revised application.

A: Candidates will be considered without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin,  disability, political affiliation, marital status, status as a parent, protected genetic information, or sexual orientation.

A: Basic Fulbright Funding Packages can cover tuition fees and provide a living stipend for one academic year. Successful Ph.D. candidates may be eligible to receive further funding from the National Research Foundation to cover living expenses in the U.S.  Fulbright funding cannot duplicate any other funding. If cost-sharing provided by the host university or other scholarships, duplicate any funding provided by Fulbright, the Fulbright stipend will be adjusted accordingly. The living stipends are determined by the US Department of State and vary from location to location depending on the local cost of living. Some Awards may offer additional benefits depending on the subject involved and the sponsor supporting the award.

A: In recent years South Africa has been allocated 15-20 scholarships; this can vary from year to year, depending on U.S. Government budget allocations.