News & Events
The Scholars Themselves: Seven current Fulbrighters share a few tips on getting a Fulbright scholarship
Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The article below originally appeared on Peter James Icalia’s (Fulbright-CHED ’18) blog titled “Experiment 4: Tips for Filipinos to Win a Scholarship to the US.” Minor edits have been made to the text.

PAEF Scholars Batch 2018-2019 during their Pre-Departure Orientation at the U.S. Embassy Chancery Ballroom

This is for Filipinos who wish to pursue their research or graduate study in the United States. I have solicited the best advice from other scholars, and included here their specialization to easily find the most fitting strategies for an applicant based on field of expertise or personality.


PJ with his high school classmate, Richelle, and 
family at their home in Elmira, New York

Name: Peter James C. Icalia
Degree: PhD
Specialization: Cell and Molecular Biology
School: University of Arkansas

I had my Glutathione shots prior to submitting my application documents to prepare my liver for the party in the USA. That is called OPTIMISM! Working out regularly was also a part of my conditioning to make sure I am fit and healthy in case I qualify for the interview. The sweat and sore body were all worth it, because I burned fats to leave space for enjoying the greasy American diet. This is a typhoon of optimism.

Seriously, you should know yourself before applying. I do better when I cram, and submitting my documents on the deadline was the best way for me to produce a good application (I never cram in making my blog entries, though). The interview decides your fate. Make sure you impress the panel with your make-up, scent, and outfit. Hide those wrinkles with a concealer and pout your lips (shining in a glossy red lipstick) whenever you speak. Hahaha! Kidding! Back to being serious. Well, you have to dress to impress but do not overdress. This is called BEGINNERS’ LUCK or FIRST IMPRESSION LASTS.

The first thing everyone will notice is your looks. It is not entirely about the attire. Rather, it is a combination of your gestures, facial expression and the way you carry yourself. Smile even when something is itchy. Smile even if your feet are hurting. Smile even if you are nervous. Your smile tells the panel that you are CONFIDENT.

Lastly, if you trust your genes and your genetic code tells you that American education is for you, proceed with your application. Otherwise, seek for divine intervention and still proceed with your application. Are you wondering whether I trusted my gene or prayed? Ask me and I will tell you.

Jemuel with the iconic Statue of Liberty 
in New York City 

Name: Jemuel Jr. Barrera-Garcia
Degree: PhD
Specialization: Critical Dance Studies
School: University of California-Riverside

Dance your way through the application process with consistency, vision, and passion. In your interview, go above and beyond by bringing up your meaningful experiences. After everything is said and done, pray that His will be done. I danced too. Yes, you might be asked.

Sherwin Reyes and his fiancé at the University of Miami

Name: Sherwin Reyes
Degree: PhD
Specialization: Infectious Diseases and Molecular Biology
School: University of Miami – Miller School of Medicine

Winning a Fulbright award requires will, patience, and eagerness. ALSO, do not forget, guts. If you feel that you have what it takes to be a Fulbrighter, head-on gather all the requirements and submit your credentials to the PAEF office. Even though you feel like you will not qualify, don’t lose hope. Submit your credentials and let them do the screening. Who knows, you just might have what it takes to be one. Trust me. Do not forget to pray and follow these three simple steps: ASK, BELIEVE, AND RECEIVE. Whatever you ASKED FOR IN PRAYER, BELIEVE AND YOU WILL RECEIVE.

Jose bringing out his kiddie heart in Lubbock, Texas on a snowy winter day

Name: Jose Santos Ardivilla
Degree: PhD
Specialization: Fine Arts
School: Texas Technological University

(1) Make sure you pick references that will write glowing letters about you; (2) Attend to the most difficult required documents first, like the NBI Clearance; and (3) Pray the Novena for St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint for desperate situations.

Excel with the painted Cowboy mascot of her university

Name: Excel Rio Maylem
Degree: PhD
Specialization: Animal Science
School: Oklahoma State University

Pray. Plan. Prepare. I prayed hard on what I really want to be, not when I grow up, but before I grow old. I want to be an animal scientist. So, here’s the plan: pursue studies and work experiences that are related to that field. Expose yourself in that specific industry, and keep track of all those your activities. Focus on your dream, but have a balance of your wants too. Travel, fun, and love! It’s cool to be spontaneous, but it is also smart to plan ahead. Finally, prepare. Find where your mind and heart really fit. Encourage your overall self in living the American dream (yes, that quick!), because when you already get the vibe, you are ready for the fight!

Joan believes that nothing would define her stay in the U.S. more than snow

Name: Joan Dizon
Degree: PhD Researcher
Specialization: Media, Society, and Politics
School: Michigan State University

Dream. Believe. Survive.

No excuses. Dare to dream, dream big, ask this of the Universe. Believe that as you ask, the same Universe that lets you dream will conspire to bring it to you at the right time. Now, turn this dream to reality and survive, nay, more than survive, enjoy and be passionate of the things you do. And as a Fulbrighter, remember that this is done not only for the self. Kinabukasan at Bayan!

Jon posing at the facade of his university

Name: Jonathan Flores
Degree: MS
Specialization: Biological and Agricultural Engineering
School: Washington State University

Emphasize your intentions on why you want to study in the US and connect these to your long-term goals. When you get to the interview, sincerely answer the committee’s questions, and find an opportunity to make them smile and show your character. In my case, I remember asking them if it is possible for us to pause for a while because I was shivering. I pointed to the chilling room temperature and hid my “obvious” anxiety from their questions. I thought of this as the reason why I got in.

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