The U.S. government is making a big effort to expand the number of Americans going abroad and learning foreign languages. Fulbright is one of the best known fellowship programs for Americans to study and research abroad, but it’s certainly not the only one. I’ve studied abroad many times — first as an AFS exchange student during high school, several times during college to combine studying/volunteering/and working abroad, and also as a recipient of the Fulbright and Boren awards. I submitted the above featured video to IIE’s Generation Study Abroad Voices Video Challenge to highlight my study abroad experiences and help show Americans how important study abroad is. This post is intended to share information and insights about the Fulbright and Boren programs, and I hope it may be useful for individuals who are considering applying to them.

Fulbright vs Boren, in a nutshell:

The main difference is that Fulbright is not limited to current students and it does not have a government service requirement. The Boren program is only for current students and there’s a 12-month minimum government service requirement. Related to the award amount, Fulbright offers a standard stipend based on your region of study, while Boren bases the award amount on your draft budget.

A more robust comparison of Fulbright vs Boren:

WHAT IS THE FULL NAME OF THE AWARD?Fulbright U.S. Student Program or The Fulbright ProgramBoren Awards for
International Study
WHAT IS IT EXACTLY?Fulbright provides grants for individually designed overseas study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistants to gain teaching experience in a country outside the U.S.Boren Scholarship -- promotes long term linguistic and cultural immersion. The scholarship will fund your study abroad program.

Boren Fellowship -- supports language and other classroom study, overseas research, overseas academic internships, or any combination of these elements.

-Study/Research Grants
-English Teaching Assistant (ETA)
-Fulbright-Clinton Fellowships
-Fulbright-mtvU Awards
-Fulbright-National Geographic Digital
Storytelling Fellowship
-Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Award
-Supplemental Grant: Critical Language Enhancement Award
Only one option and it depends if you’re an undergraduate or graduate student:

Boren Scholarship -- for undergraduate students

Boren Fellowship -- for graduate students
You need to hold a B.A. or its equivalent before the start of your grant. (I applied At-Large two years after graduating from college.)
(I was in grad school for only 4 months when I applied… it was kind of a mess, but it was my one and only chance to apply.)
Several countries do not participate in the Fulbright program so it’s not possible to accept an application for those countries.
Preference is given for countries, languages, and fields of study critical to U.S. national security. Basically, that means you can apply anywhere outside the U.S., Western Europe, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand.
Multi-country proposals are allowed in many cases and can include up to 3 countries within the same region. On the other hand, there are several countries where multi-country proposals are not allowed (eg. anywhere in Western Europe). Also, you cannot propose a multi-country grant across regions. Basically, you need to check if your proposed project and countries are eligible.
Preference is given to applicants applying to study in one country. (There was a student in my school who applied to do a comparative research study in two countries. Boren really liked his proposal, but they made him choose one country.)
You can apply to an English-speaking country, and there is no requirement to study a foreign language.
All Boren Scholars/Fellows must study a foreign language appropriate to the host country. You don't need to speak the language beforehand, but you do need to study it as part of your program. The application even includes a 3,000 word essay about specific goals for language study, desired level of proficiency, and there's a language test at the end of the program. So yeah, foreign language study is important for the Boren.
WHAT IS THE PROGRAM LENGTH?There are long- and short-term grants.

Long-term grants are typically one academic year -- between 9 and 12 months -- and they begin at the start of the host country's academic year.

Short-term grants are typically 4 to 6 months and begin at the start of the academic semester.
You propose the length of study.

Boren Scholarship -- study abroad proposals for 2 or more semesters are encouraged. Summer-only programs (8 weeks) are only available to STEM students.

Boren Fellowship -- minimum 12 weeks, maximum 24 months. Preference is given to applicants proposing a program of 6 months or longer. However, applicants proposing 3 to 6 months in the STEM fields are encouraged to apply.
WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM AWARD AMOUNT?Depends on the country and the type of grant.

Fulbright U.S. Student Program gives a set amount of funding for each country, and this award amount differs by country. For example, students going to France on a Fulbright will receive a higher award amount than students going to Bolivia because the cost of living in France is more expensive.
Depends on the individual application. The maximum award amounts are as follows:

Boren Scholarship
-$8,000 for a summer program (special initiative for STEM students only - 8 weeks minimum)
-$10,000 for a semester
-$20,000 for a full academic year

Boren Fellowship
-up to $24,000 for overseas study
-also can provide limited funding for domestic language study that will supplement the overseas component
-maximum award for a combined overseas and domestic program is $30,000
HOW IS THE AWARD AMOUNT CALCULATED?Fulbright gives you a set amount of money depending on the country -- don’t worry, it’ll be plenty.You propose the award amount.

In your application, you submit an itemized budget based on how much money you think is necessary to complete your proposed project. My award was exactly the amount of money I stated in my itemized budget.

Boren may offer you less than what you proposed in your budget, but they won't offer you more or give you a cushion. It's really important that you think of everything you could possibly need and put it in your budget: round trip airline tickets on a U.S. carrier, cell phone, bike, a week in a hostel while you find an apartment, etc.

If you underbudgeted or were hit with unexpected expenses, you can submit a revised budget to Boren at any time during your program.
Fulbright will take care of visa support, which is pretty cool.
Boren does not assist with visa arrangements. Make sure to inquire early whether or not you will need a visa to enter your country of study and what the visa renewal process entails.
WHERE DOES THE FUNDING COME FROM?The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State.Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP).

If you’re considering applying for one or the other or both, check out my Tips for Applying. I’m not claiming I ‘know’ what makes a competitive application (the websites tell you that anyway — click on the following links for Boren ScholarshipBoren Fellowship, and Fulbright), but I do mention some of the strategies shared by my professors, what I think I did well, and what I wish I had done differently.

More helpful links on funded opportunities to go abroad or study languages:

Feel free to comment below or shoot me an email at with any questions.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Jeremy Freedman Reply

    Hi, We have just spent a lot of time and effort compiling an up to date list of 50 Scholarships & Grants you can apply to for international travel, as well as an Ultimate Guide to successfully applying. Check it out here –

  2. admin Reply

    Thanks, Jeremy – we added your list to our ‘helpful links’ in the post

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