Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship Application Components

Fulbright-National Geographic competition is currently on hold.
Updated information for the 2019-2020 grant year is forthcoming, please check back.

All applicants must complete and submit an application via the Embark Fulbright Online Application. The Embark system will allow you to enter data, upload documents, and register your recommenders and foreign language evaluators. The following items comprise the components of the Fulbright-National Geographic application:

Biographical Data

The first pages of the application ask for basic personal information, such as name, contact information, birth date, etc. Applicants must provide details of academic background, occupational experience, extracurricular activities, publications, and previous foreign experience. Here, on the Program Information page, applicants must include a project title and summary of the Statement of Grant Purpose, along with a brief explanation of future plans upon completion of the award and return to the U.S. You must indicate that you are applying for the “Fulbright-National Geographic Fellowship” for Question 3 on the Preliminary Information page and for Question 22 on the Program Information page.

Statement of Grant Purpose

This document of no more than three (3) pages should outline who, what, when, where, why, and how of your Fulbright project proposal. Developing a strong, feasible and compelling project proposal is the most important aspect of a successful Fulbright application. This aspect of your application is reviewed not only for the content that it conveys, but also as the various review committees’ first impression of your writing style and ability as a storyteller to convey a story about the Fellowship that you envision carrying out.

Candidates for the Fulbright-National Geographic  Storytelling Fellowship should propose projects that focus on storytelling related to one or more of the eligible themes (listed below). Storytellers are expected to explore their chosen theme through research, observation, analysis and interviews, and relate their findings on a dedicated National Geographic blog utilizing one or a combination of storytelling tools and media, which may include text, photography, video, audio, graphic illustrations, and/or social media. Projects may be based in in one, two, or three countries.

The National Geographic Society believes in the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to change the world.  The broad themes of this year’s competition fall under National Geographic's three lenses: The Human Journey, Our Changing Planet, and Wildlife& Wild Places.

The Statement of Grant Purpose must include:

  • A detailed project description within one or more of the approved themes;
  • A description of methods of storytelling that will be used for the purpose of posting on the National Geographic blog; and
  • A detailed timeline that clearly describes activities and proposed destinations within all host country or countries.

The project description should be creative, feasible, well-written, and innovative. Applicants should describe in their Statement of Grant Purpose the story, problem or set of questions they will set out to understand or answer as well as the methods and tools (text, photography, video, audio, graphic illustrations, and/or social media) that will be used to present the story on the National Geographic blog. Also, applicants should briefly address why the story should be told in their proposed format. Proposals should describe the applicant’s background knowledge or experience working on the proposed issue or in the proposed destinations as well as any skills (i.e. languages), academic or professional contacts, or other resources the applicant may have or expect to leverage.

All proposals should make a strong case for the chosen topic and proposed country/countries (i.e. Why is this story important? Is this story underreported? Is this story timely? Are there unique or compelling factors that characterize the environment surrounding this topic in all proposed countries?). All proposals should make a strong argument for completion of the project in the proposed host country or countries to which the applicant proposes to travel.  While applications for two or three countries are allowed, proposed projects for more than one country must provide a detailed project description and meet a high standard in each country.  Applicants must clearly outline their skills which would allow them to effectively and efficiently launch into their grant activities upon arrival in each country. In the proposal, applicants must provide a clear plan for how they propose to successfully carry out their grant in each country, including securing affiliations, providing a plan for settling into each country which allows for sufficient time to make contacts, do research, carry out the aspects of their project effectively.  For multi-country proposals, countries should be strategically selected to show comparative and/or contrasting parts of a story or innovations in multiple countries.

In the Statement of Grant Purpose, applicants should address how they will benefit from the mentorship provided by National Geographic staff.   National Geographic Society mentoring draws from a range of experts in many disciplines, including researchers, explorers, regional specialists, and storytellers. The mentoring program for this fellowship is an extended version of the Society's storytelling bootcamp, as part of the dedicated Fulbright Pre-departure Orientation, in which experts in photography, videography, writing, social media, exhibits, and public speaking share best practices and tips for effective communication of complex science. There are also opportunities for consultations with National Geographic's scientists, educators, explorers, photographers, cartographers, writers, and filmmakers.

Applicants should describe how they intend to share and promote their Fulbright experience and stories with audiences, both U.S. and global, during and after their Fulbright grant period abroad. All proposals should indicate a clear commitment to and description of engagement with a community or communities within each host country during the award period as well as any benefit that the local, U.S., and global communities will experience as a result of their participation in this project.

Affiliation Letter
Fulbrighters undertaking study/research awards affiliate with host country universities or other types of host country organizations. For the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, it may be more useful for a project to affiliate with an organization that can provide support in the areas of the topic that you wish to pursue. Local media outlets, National Geographic Offices, and U.S. Embassies or Fulbright Commissions are not options for affiliations. Affiliation requirements vary by country, so before starting the application you should note the specific requirements for the proposed host country (ies). The affiliation letter must be provided for each country that you propose to travel and should come from the institution/individual in each host country with whom you are proposing to work. Each affiliation letter should be printed on the organization’s official letterhead and should be signed by the author. Copies of e-mail correspondence will not be accepted. Affiliation letters must be included at the time the application is due.
Resume and Digital Storytelling Portfolio

Applications must include a current, one-page resume. In addition to a resume, applications must also include a  storytelling portfolio which consists of work samples, a portfolio narrative and self-assessment of specific skills related to digital storytelling (strict two-page limit for portfolio narrative and self-assessment). The portfolio must include URLs and hyperlinks to samples of your multimedia work or other examples of  storytelling and a portfolio narrative which indicates why each sample was included, the context for developing each sample (i.e., class project…) and your role in the production of each sample. Include work that is relevant to your proposed project and demonstrates your ability to tell a story using multi-media for a blog. All applicants for the Fulbright-National Geographic  Storytelling Fellowship must submit two to three examples of their work in digital storytelling or similar medium.

In addition to the portfolio narrative, an applicant’s self-assessment of specific skills related to digital storytelling is required that addresses the applicant’s experience with Audio, Video and Still Photography; any other audio/video/editing software proficiency; a list of Still, Video and Audio equipment the applicant currently uses. In your narrative, indicate which skill is highlighted in each sample.

Personal Statement

This one-page narrative will give the reviewers a picture of the applicant as an individual. It is an opportunity for the applicant to tell the committee more about the trajectory that he/she has followed and what plans he/she has for the future. Whereas the Statement of Grant Purpose focuses on what the applicant will be doing in the host country or countries, the Personal Statement concentrates on how the applicant’s background has influenced his/her development and how that relates to the Fulbright opportunity.

The statement can address personal history, family background, intellectual development, and the educational, professional, or cultural opportunities to which the applicant has or has not been exposed and explain the impact. This should not be a reiteration of facts already listed in the Biographical Data sections or an elaboration of the Statement of Grant Purpose.

Foreign Language Forms

While foreign language skills are not strictly required for the Fulbright-National Geographic  Storytelling Fellowship, the ability to communicate effectively is critical to success in any country to which Storytellers will travel on this program. In some countries and for some subjects, language skills are necessary to function effectively and successfully complete a project. Applicants with relevant language skills may receive preference in the application review process. Project feasibility assessment will be based, in part, upon applicant language capabilities. In cases in which applicants propose to work in a language that they do not have proficiency, they must address how they will be able to successfully carry out their proposed project, in the project statement of the application.

Language requirements vary by country, so before starting the application you should note the specific requirements of the proposed host country(ies). You must possess the necessary language skills or have a feasible plan to successfully complete the project you are proposing.

For programs where language skills are Strongly Recommended, you must submit both a Language Self Evaluation and a Foreign Language Evaluation Form, which is completed by a professional language teacher. Submission of both forms is mandatory, even if you have advanced skills or native-speaker ability. Failure to submit the forms may affect your eligibility.

For programs where language skills are Recommended or Not Required, if you possess some language skills you should submit both a Language Self Evaluation and a Foreign Language Evaluation Form. It will be advantageous to have your language ability documented, even though it is not required. Remember, even if a country indicates that English will be sufficient for carrying out the proposed project, for purposes of Community Engagement, at least a basic level of language skill should be obtained prior to leaving the United States for the host country.

For programs in countries where English is one of the national languages, you do not need to submit any foreign language forms unless a foreign language is required for your project.

If you have little or no knowledge of the language, you may discuss your plans to study the language prior to beginning a grant in your Statement of Grant Purpose. You should not submit a Language Self Evaluation or a Foreign Language Evaluation.


Applicants must submit three recommendation letters as part of the application. The writers should be the three individuals who can best speak to the applicant’s ability to carry out the project being proposed; they should discuss the applicant’s intellectual and professional preparation, and his/her ability to represent the U.S. abroad. Applicants should provide the recommenders with a copy of their Statement of Grant Purpose before requesting the recommendation letter. The recommendation should NOT simply be a character reference, as this will not allow reviewers to assess the applicant’s ability to complete the proposed project. All recommendations must be written in English. If the original recommendation letter is written in a language other than English there must be an official English translation. Because the recommendation letter is confidential the translation cannot be done by the applicant. Both the original recommendation letter and the English-language translation must be uploaded into the Fulbright application.

For the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, it is recommended that at least two of these recommenders evaluate the applicant’s ability to produce the type of digital storytelling proposed in the Statement of Grant Purpose.


The application must include a complete academic record of the applicant’s higher education experience. Transcripts must be received from all undergraduate and graduate institutions from which the applicant received degrees, or studied and received credit for coursework. Specific instructions on the submission of transcripts are provided in the Embark Online Application. Failure to submit any required transcripts will result in the application being declared ineligible.