There has been some emails to me asking about Fulbright scholarship for Indonesian. It seemed that some of the questions asked more about how the selection process for this scholarship is done in Indonesia. I think it would be useful if some of the things I know based on my own personal experience going through the selection process myself are recorded here. [Disclaimer: I will try to be as accurate as possible, but mistakes are possible. Any corrections are thus welcome].

Fulbright Programs and AMINEF

Fulbright programs in Indonesia are administered through a bi-national commission called AMINEF, which is an abbreviation of American Indonesian Exchange Foundation. In some other countries, Fulbright programs can also be administered by a similar commission or directly by the U.S. embassy or consular offices.

As expected from its name, AMINEF board consists of representatives from Indonesia and the U.S. with Indonesian Minister of National Education and U.S. Ambassador as the joint chairmen. AMINEF was established in 1992 and, based on what I’ve heard, historically has its root from USAID programs for Indonesia since 1950s. AMINEF’s basic missions are, quoting from its official website, to administer various scholarship programs for both Indonesians and Americans, and to give information about education in the U.S. as well as what opportunities are available to study there. Currently, AMINEF administers the following programs for Indonesians:

  1. Fulbright Master’s Degree Program
  2. Fulbright Freeport Master’s Degree Program
  3. Fulbright – DIKTI Master’s Program
  4. Fulbright Science and Technology Award for PhD
  5. Fulbright Presidential PhD Program
  6. Fulbright – DIKTI PhD Program
  7. Fulbright Doctoral Dissertation Research Program
  8. Fulbright – DIKTI Doctoral Dissertation Research Program
  9. Fulbright Senior Research Program
  10. Fulbright – DIKTI Senior Research Award Program
  11. Fulbright Foreign Language (Bahasa Indonesia) Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program
  12. Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program for Mid-Career Professionals
  13. Fulbright Visiting Specialist Program
  14. Fulbright Tsunami Relief Initiative Master’s Degree Program
  15. Community College Summit Initiative Program
  16. International Leadership in Education Program (ILEP) – Teacher Exchange Program
  17. Global Undergraduate Exchange Program
  18. Fulbright KEMLU Program: designed for employee/diplomats of Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Besides those programs, AMINEF also administers several programs for Americans for study and research in Indonesia. You can find details of those programs including their requirements in AMINEF’s website. What I am going to write in more detail here is related to the Fulbright Master’s and PhD scholarships selection process done in Indonesia (program #1 and #5 in the list above). Other countries may have different schemes for the selection, though some of the things may be applicable as well.

Selection Process for Fulbright Master’s and PhD Programs

As seen in the list above, Indonesian Fulbright scholarships for study at Master’s and PhD level are designed in several schemes.  Although I’ve obviously never gone through all those schemes by myself, I believe the selection process is similar. The difference between those schemes lies more on the eligibility criteria and the source of funding. Every Fulbright scholarships usually covers tuition fees, monthly stipends, health insurance, and airfares. In addition, for successful candidates, costs for TOEFL and GRE tests for placement in U.S. universities are covered.

Call for application is normally published in September – November of the previous year. AMINEF makes regular roadshow to several major Indonesian cities. These roadshow are typically held in major universities in the area. The call for application is also broadcasted via mailing lists, brochures, etc.

The deadline for submission of application is typically around April, from which the selection process starts. The selection process itself is divided into three phases:

  1. Document evaluation
  2. Interview
  3. Placement in the U.S. universities

In general, applicants are required to submit a completed application form (downloadable from AMINEF’s website), two essays: personal motivation and study/research plan, and reference letter. Other documents may also be required, e.g., curriculum vitae, copy of ID card, degree certificate and academic transcript from earlier level of education, etc. In the document evaluation, all the documents submitted are evaluated based on the completeness, eligibility, as well as applicant’s profile. The competition in this phase is particularly high. I’ve heard that the number of applicants may reach more than 800 for the master’s level. On the other hand, the number of applicants who will be invited for interview is possibly in between 60-100 applicants for Master’s level of which 20-30 Fulbright scholarship’s principal candidates will be selected. For PhD level, the competition is slightly less where around 300 applicants submit their applications, 60-80 are invited for interview and 30-40 are selected as principal candidates. Note that though, this number is an estimate based on what I’ve gathered from discussions with fellow Fulbrighters and AMINEF’s officers.

After the document evaluation, selected applicants will be invited for an interview session, usually in September or October. Since the applicants may come from any location in Indonesia, depending on the number of applicants in a particular region, AMINEF may hold interviews in several cities. This is done to lower the cost and logistics as they are all taken care of by AMINEF. Each interview will be for about 1 hour, and there will be 4-5 interviewers. In my case, I was interviewed by 3 Americans and 2 Indonesians. Judging from the questions by the interviewer, the interview generally aims to have an in-depth exploration about the applicant’s academic and research capability as well as applicant’s potential to have future impact in the society, scientific community and the increased understanding between people of both countries.

A couple of weeks after the interview, some of the applicants will be informed by AMINEF whether he/she is selected as a principal candidate or an alternate candidate for Fulbright scholarships. The corresponding applicant must confirm his/her selection as a candidate for Fulbright scholarship and whether he/she will continue to the next phase, i.e., placement in a U.S. university. A principal status means that the scholarship is basically granted, pending the placement in a U.S. university, whereas an alternate status means that the scholarship may be granted if there is a principal candidate that resigns from the selection, or more funding is available later.

After the interview phase, the selection process is continued with placement in U.S. universities. In this phase, an application plan is drawn for each candidate. This phase consists of preparing the required test scores: TOEFL, GMAT/GRE General, and GRE Subject (for specific subjects), improving essays for application (personal motivation and study/research plan), and adding more reference/recommendation letters (may need up to 4 letters). The TOEFL & GRE tests will be conducted, usually in October or November to catch up with the application deadline of most U.S. universities in December. International Institute of Education (IIE) that manages most Fulbright programs all over the world coordinates the placement with the help of AMINEF. Based on the test scores, the candidate’s academic interest and availability of suitable degree programs in the U.S., IIE suggests a list of universities to which a candidate’s application will be submitted. The list also takes into account the candidate’s personal preference and IIE will ask for the candidate’s approval before they go ahead with submitting the application. The good thing with this process is that the candidate needs not to pay the application fees which are typically charged by U.S. universities for the application. Such fees may reach USD 75 or more for each application which is quite expensive especially if we apply to more than one universities. For example, in my case, my application was sent to 6 universities.

After submitting the applications, the candidate only needs to wait for the results whether he/she is accepted to a U.S. university. This may take a few months because some U.S. universities sometimes decide the acceptance as late as June. If a U.S. university decides that the candidate can be admitted, it will send an admission offer, through IIE. Otherwise, the candidate is usually informed that he/she is not admitted to the university. After receiving some admission offers, a candidate can decide which offer that he/she would like to take. Around this time, AMINEF will also organize a Pre-departure Orientation as a preparation before leaving to the U.S. The candidate will also be asked to prepare for his/her passport, medical checkup and other documents related to his/her departure. IIE will also inform whether a pre-academic preparation is required/offered for the candidate in the U.S. This preparation can be either a couple of weeks of language preparation or a one-week gateway program, if the candidate’s English is already very good.

The candidate will also be asked to apply for a U.S. visa. There will be some help from AMINEF on visa application (preparation for DS-2019 form, guidelines, appointment for visa interview), but in general, the candidate will have to go through the application process by him/herself. This consists of document preparation, filling DS-160 online form, and visa interview. The visa application itself is free of charge for Fulbright scholars (and his/her spouse and children, if they come along), which is very nice because otherwise,  the candidate must pay around US$ 140, which is a lot. If there’s no problem with the visa, then usually in August, the candidate will leave to the U.S., starting the Master’s or PhD program from the Fall quarter/semester of the year.