The unique Fulbright application process and why it matters


At Fulbright University Vietnam, the undergraduate application package is designed so all applicants have a chance to express themselves with utmost authenticity, while the admission process eliminates the significance of the traditional selection method, based on merit achievements . Each profile is assessed fairly and comprehensively, taking each student’s background and culture in consideration.

There are over half a million students applying to college annually in Vietnam. Universities, public and private, have various admission policies. The students’ competency is often evaluated based on their high school transcript, international certificates, standardized tests, and national high school examination results. Most Vietnamese students take the latter, where they can choose among predetermined combinations of three test subjects, such as Math – Physics – Chemistry, Math – Literature – Foreign language, Math – Chemistry – Biology or Literature – History – Geography.

The traditional Vietnamese admission procedure allows the students to have a wide range of options. They are also more mentally prepared and focused on studying for the exam right from the beginning, where an estimated score threshold is a fixed goal to secure them a spot at their institution of choice.

However, if scores are the only tool to assess student performance, future opportunities are solely dependent on test results. With bad luck or serendipity, students face disheartening risks in the single most crucial juncture defining 12 years of efforts and aspirations.

Comprehensive admission, appreciative of personal identity

Fulbright’s admission process is inspired by prominent American institutions, but mindful of the Vietnamese cultural, social and educational background. Fulbright University has designed an application package that is unique and exciting. It allows every student to demonstrate who they really are. Fulbright’s evaluation process is also designed in a way that every student is considered fairly, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid for Fulbright’s undergraduate program

Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid for Fulbright’s undergraduate program asserted that Fulbright’s admission process is comprehensive: a student’s academic performance is only one of many facets of a student’s potential. Comprehensive admission requires careful observation of different insights into a student’s profile, without subjecting applicants to a rigid formula based on their scores.

“Your academic performance is important, but it is not predominant. Fulbright guarantees our students a solid academic foundation to excel in our highly demanding academic environment, yet the comprehensive admission gives us an in-depth look at applicants, from aspects that test results cannot reflect. At Fulbright, we read every application individually, so be assured that even if you do not possess an outstanding high school transcript, you can still convince us with other qualities and strengths, making them shine through your application.”

According to Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram, the admission board looks for three main virtues in their prospect students. These are:

  • Intellectual Curiosity
  • Pioneering Spirit
  • Responsibility and Compassion for others

Over the course of three months, instead of wearing themselves out with excessive cramming, students can spend time preparing the story they want to share with Fulbright. During those three months, applicants can redo and edit their application as many times as they’d like, until they are confident that they have the best application to present to the admission board.

“It means in order to stand out in our selection process, you have to really look into yourself. Think about who you are, what you are passionate about, what your life values are and even what you are concerned about”, said Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram.

Spend time thinking about who you are before applying to Fulbright

In Fulbright’s application package, the personal essay or original piece of work is often viewed as a possible game-changer. Prospective students are required to submit an essay or product that they created – this is a chance for them to freely and creatively express themselves. Should the applicant opt for an essay, they will be given five topics to choose from.

Otherwise, they must present a product that best embodies their personality and abilities. There is no limitation on categories and forms. A YouTube podcast station, a song, a short story, a painting, a musical recording, a cooking blog, a self-made 3D printed drone, a short film on classroom violence, a handbook for high school physics, or even academic research – these eccentric, unique projects have all been submitted by current Fulbright students.

“This section in the admission package supports the students’ claims, and gives us a clearer view on their personality, thoughts and talents. You should present a product that is as original, authentic and as true to yourself as possible – even if it’s unrefined or imperfect. What matters is how you present your thoughts, your feelings, and your passion for it”, Ms. Le Nguyen Thien Huong – Senior Admission Associate added.

Ms. Le Nguyen Thien Huong – Senior Admission Associate
Why doesn’t Fulbright require a minimum GPA or English proficiency certificate?

In recent years, we have traveled the country and been to remote, isolated, rural areas to get to know the characteristics of each region’s education environment. One of the greatest realizations we have come to during this journey is that Vietnamese students are all talented, motivated, capable and ambitious – no matter where they come from. However, the geographical and financial obstacles have created a discrepancy in their approach to English training, especially in remote regions.

“We understand that preparing and taking international standardized English tests such as the IELTS or TOEFL can put a financial burden on some families. If Fulbright required these certificates, students living in remote, rural provinces might not be able to meet this requirement. Our admission process focuses on equal opportunity; therefore, Fulbright does not want to create any barriers. Nonetheless, we will assess your English proficiency in individual and group interviews, as well as in our specially designed test”, explained Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram.

“Fulbright’s academic environment demands a very high level of English proficiency. However, students are encouraged to apply to Fulbright even if they are not yet confident in their English skills. Your capabilities, personality, dreams and ambitions are what Fulbright cannot give you, but we can help you improve your English so you can thrive in an international academic environment”.

“We have a 3-level system of English assessment for students who have been accepted into the program. If your English proficiency is significantly inadequate, you will receive an admission letter contingent on your progress. It means you will be given one year to improve your English before you can officially enroll at Fulbright.

If you only miss our standard by a little, you will be admitted into our Bridge Program, a program aimed to help equip you with English and academic skills. This 2-month long program takes place right before our Fall term. You will also receive extra support in the following year. And of course, if you have satisfactory English proficiency, you can enroll immediately”, said Ms. Le Nguyen Thien Huong.

One of Fulbright’s events in Central Vietnam

Despite requiring substantial academic knowledge, Fulbright doesn’t set a minimum GPA threshold for applicants. As explained by Ms. Le Nguyen Thien Huong, the application form includes space for students to clarify why they couldn’t obtain gratifying marks for certain subjects, if any.

“We understand there are differences among the grading systems of specialized high schools, normal schools, schools in urban and rural areas; as well as the fact that many students only focus on their selected exam combination and neglect other subjects. We cannot make a fair and complete evaluation of the students based solely on academic results.”

One of the common misconceptions is that students need to obtain a high school diploma before applying to Fulbright. On the contrary, the school’s application form is open early, when students begin their first semester of grade 12. Therefore, twelfth-graders only need submit their transcript for grades 10 and 11. After that, they can proceed to finishing their high school curriculum and take the National high school examination. It is only after admittance at Fulbright that students are prompted to submit their threeyear transcript, exam results and high school diploma.

Students attending Fulbright’s admission fair in Hanoi
“Your only competitor is yourself “

When an application is taken under consideration, so are the student’s family and social backgrounds. Fulbright believes that this approach is fairer, as students are brought up under different conditions. Therefore, their achievements cannot be considered without regard to their obstacles or privileges. The Fulbright application package allows students the space and opportunity to express their personal qualities, as well as time to revise and improve until they are satisfied. The only person each student ever competes against is none other than themselves. “Remember: Don’t compare yourself to others while filling in this application. Be yourself.”, Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram emphasized.

Xuan Linh

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