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On January 7, 2017 at 7:54 AM, boren1718 said:

Hey everyone!

Is anyone planning on applying for the Boren Scholarship/Fellowship for the 2017/2018 year?

Hey there! I'm applying for Boren Fellowship. I was surprised that no one here talked about Boren. Anyways, how's the process going for you? What country are you applying for?

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People don't be shy to post things here :) The deadline is January 31st: I'm sure with our pool of common knowledge (and common sense) we can all submit solid applications.

About me: grad student in my first year applying for a year long language study in South Korea. 

Good luck, all!

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I'm also applying for a Boren Fellowship to spend a year in Ukraine (or Kyrgyzstan given Ukraine becomes off-limits this year) to study advanced Russian and international relations. I'm starting with a domestic Summer Language Workshop in intermediate-advanced Russian.

I'm interested in knowing the background of others applying to get an idea about who we're up against.

I'm a graduate student of International Relations & Comparative Politics. I'm graduating (magna cum laude) this year with two Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (International Relations) and International Security & Diplomacy. Throughout I've focused on US national security and foreign policy in Russia and post-Soviet states. I'm an alum of the State Department's Gilman Scholar program where I studied at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and interned at the Russian International Affairs Council--both of which are directly affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Hey everyone, I'm also applying for the Boren Fellowship this year for Thailand. Where are people at in terms of essays and recommendation letters?

@kylall77 It sounds like you have a great background and that your interests align directly with the Boren Fellowship. Also, your country choice will be an important one as America reevaluates our priorities in Central Asia and Russia relations.

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Hello everyone!

I'm applying for the Boren Scholarship AFLI program to study Swahili in Tanzania. I'm in undergrad majoring in Biology/Environmental Science with French/Spanish minors. I've never studied Swahili before, so I'm a bit nervous since most people have studied their target language before even though I know there is no language requirement for Swahili.

Does anyone have any tips for the essays for AFLI? Or does anyone have any tips for writing the essays in regards to environmental degradation/climate change? I'm hoping to study Swahili so I can go to graduate school for limnology to study Great Lakes biology (both in the U.S and in Africa), with hopes of working in the government in the East African region to combat degradation of the lakes and streams in the area by working with local communities. 

 

Thanks!

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We have to wait until April/May to hear back from this program? It seems with funding starting at the beginning of June, there should be an earlier notification.

For those who weren't aware, the application system went down earlier today so they're giving until 9am to submit. I'm polishing my essays now and will submit in the next few hours. Good luck to everyone!

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This is what the website said for the 2011 cycle so I'm assuming it's somewhat similar for subsequent years/this year.

"All Boren applications are reviewed in a two-tiered process. This month, the applications are reviewed preliminarily based on world region. Each regional merit panel recommends a set number of applications to be reviewed by the national nominating panel. In mid-late April, the national nominating panels for the Boren Fellowships and the Boren Scholarships will meet to review the results of the regional panels and make final recommendations. 

IIE will send out notification letters to all applicants during the first week of May."

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They did have an "update your budget" email that they will send out sometime in the next couple months, though GradCafers found out that it was an indirect "finalist" email, and we think that because so many email recievers contacted them about it that now they do it ubiquitously so that we don't know where we are in the process until the notification date.

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Hey everyone, I've been following the Boren Fellowship threads for a couple years now. Just submitted my application for the Fellowship. I have been studying Indonesian, and am writing my master's thesis on counterterrorism cooperation in Indonesia and SE Asia, so I positioned my application for language study and research there. I will say that I'm glad that the system went down and they gave us another 18 hours to get the application in – my last recommender didn't submit until 5:05pm EST on deadline day!

@kbui I have seen your comments on this forum for quite a while now. I had a few questions that you might be able to help me with: 

  • What weight does the Boren committee put on on-campus evaluation? I worked with my on-campus rep to revise my essays and get my study plan together, but some unforeseen circumstances prevented me from getting my application into my university's Boren committee for evaluation by the on-campus deadline. I do believe that all the work with my campus rep and research advisor helped me to put together a strong application, however. 
  • Does adding a language proficiency evaluation recommendation give an added benefit to the Fellowship application? 
  • Do you know if minority status gives Boren applicants any kind of z-score or added benefit?

Thanks, kbui. I totally understand if you don't have definitive answers to these questions. Good luck on your Fellowship application! 

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4 hours ago, SwissMister said:

Hey everyone, I've been following the Boren Fellowship threads for a couple years now. Just submitted my application for the Fellowship. I have been studying Indonesian, and am writing my master's thesis on counterterrorism cooperation in Indonesia and SE Asia, so I positioned my application for language study and research there. I will say that I'm glad that the system went down and they gave us another 18 hours to get the application in – my last recommender didn't submit until 5:05pm EST on deadline day!

@kbui I have seen your comments on this forum for quite a while now. I had a few questions that you might be able to help me with: 

  • What weight does the Boren committee put on on-campus evaluation? I worked with my on-campus rep to revise my essays and get my study plan together, but some unforeseen circumstances prevented me from getting my application into my university's Boren committee for evaluation by the on-campus deadline. I do believe that all the work with my campus rep and research advisor helped me to put together a strong application, however. 
  • Does adding a language proficiency evaluation recommendation give an added benefit to the Fellowship application? 
  • Do you know if minority status gives Boren applicants any kind of z-score or added benefit?

Thanks, kbui. I totally understand if you don't have definitive answers to these questions. Good luck on your Fellowship application! 

Hi @SwissMister, congratulations on submitting an application! I think it was a really intensive process and we get to learn a lot about the country that we're applying to when preparing and writing, so either way it will be a rewarding experience. (Hopefully we'll get to carry out those plans in the actual country!)

And I'll answer what I think/know about the process:

  • I don't believe that the on-campus deadline or the committee evaluation plays a large role in the process. I do assume that the form that the evaluators use are similar to what the Boren committees will be using to judge the applicants, and so it may've helped to have your home school ask you questions to clarify your purpose and intentions before actually submitting. With that, if you've answered all of the questions clearly in your essays, you'll be fine.
  • I think that my language evaluation was one of the most valuable part of my application because Thai is a very difficult language to learn, and so having someone comment on my progress and achievement in the language was key for me to separate myself from other applicants. I am not sure how the committee will weigh the letter, though because the purpose of the Boren is to increase America's language capacity, I would assume that it is a heavy factor when considering prospective fellows.
  • During one of the webinars I asked something along the line of "Can disadvantaged students write about their background in the essay?," and they said as long as you answer the questions in the essay then yes. I would imagine they want to have as much "diversity" as possible, and that some groups are given more of a chance than others (e.g. East Asian Americans may not have special considerations automatically but Native Americans would). This is all just speculation though.

How was your experience preparing for the application? What are your feelings now, now that you've submitted it?

Edited by kbui

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Though I would say that when I was applying for the Boren Scholarship, my language evaluation for Chinese must've been terrible because I did not have a strong grasp on the language, so Boren may be more understanding if it's a less commonly taught language (and that definitely includes Bahasa).

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@kbui Thank you for taking the time to address my questions. My experience with the Fellowship application was good, overall. However, I think it could have been better if my campus representative would have had a couple years of Boren experience under their belt – it was this person's first year. I spent a lot of time researching and thinking about my first draft of the essays before submitting them to my campus representative for review. Because I'm focusing on Indonesia's counterterrorism cooperation for my master's thesis, I thought that I could leverage the opportunity to conduct research. I wanted to give a fairly clear outline of of my research plan, but it turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated, and sucked a lot of time going back and forth with my research advisor. This and few other factors caused me to miss on-campus deadlines, so I ended up leaning on my campus representative's advice and info gleaned through the webinars and this forum.

Indonesian is a fairly easy language to learn; however, it's difficult to find formal training in the US. I ended up having to study it through an extension program, and I only got one semester in before submitting the application. I felt like taking an Indonesian course and submitting the language evaluation were key to showing my commitment to studying the language. Additionally, I locked down some letters of affiliation for the study-abroad program and the host university, so hopefully that goes even further in showing my commitment... we'll see. 

Overall, I feel like I submitted a strong application. With all the research and work I put into it, I honestly don't know what else I could have done to make it stronger. That being said, if I don't receive it, I won't be heartbroken. I won't likely be able to apply again, given that I don't have a lot of coursework left in my degree program. If I don't receive it, I may try to apply for the CLS for next summer, though. I will be at the tail-end of my thesis, but should still be matriculated.

How do you feel about your submission? Thailand would be a fantastic place to study, and I wish you the best of luck. 

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Overall, I feel like my application was strong enough. Though I'm having doubts because I didn't have anyone edit my second essay, and I don't actually know how effective it was. I'm not going to worry about it at the moment, though I just got rejected from another program that I applied to a couple weeks ago. I think there's just nothing else I can do at the moment for my application, except pray. Haha.

Judging from your responses on here, it seems like you are very passionate about the language and have a great argument for why you should get the Boren. I'm sure they'll see the work that you've put in it and that you'll have a high chance of success. Especially because Bahasa is becoming a more important language as the U.S. reconsider our political position in the Asia Pacific.

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@kbui I'm sorry to hear that you didn't get accepted into the other program you applied to. I have been rejected from a few programs and scholarships that I thought I was perfect for, too. Yes, I think Southeast Asia is becoming more important to U.S. interests. You know, I went back over my essays after my post yesterday, and I think I could have made a stronger argument for why my research ties into national security, but it's too late at this point. I would really like to read past Boren awardees essays to see how they make their arguments. Have you ran across any? 

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The only essays I have are from previous fellows who I contacted during the process and who were kind enough to send me theirs. As for ones online, I haven't found any really. I do have one posted on my Boren blog that may help, but that was for a scholarship.

What did you write were your plans for federal service? That is one thing that they need to know explicitly, so I made sure to put that in early.

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3 hours ago, SwissMister said:

@kbui I'm sorry to hear that you didn't get accepted into the other program you applied to. I have been rejected from a few programs and scholarships that I thought I was perfect for, too. Yes, I think Southeast Asia is becoming more important to U.S. interests. You know, I went back over my essays after my post yesterday, and I think I could have made a stronger argument for why my research ties into national security, but it's too late at this point. I would really like to read past Boren awardees essays to see how they make their arguments. Have you ran across any? 

I submitted my application for this Boren cycle a few days ago as well. 

I had an essay that I felt was solid and well written. An essay that had managed to say something in just 800 words about all of the things they wanted to hear. Then I put that essay aside for about two months and came back to it two weeks ago after listening to a couple webinars and talking to professors who were former Boren fellows. It just screamed vague and too birds eye view. One of the things I heard repeated from all the former borens and the staff in the webinars was don't just tell us in general terms why (your country) matters, tie your own studies/research plan/experience (I proposed a pure language study program) to a specific thread of national security that you want to dive into working on post Boren. The last part being where and with what agency you expect you can do that. They also all mentioned not being too specific or too grandiose in your NSEP plans. If you are expecting to find yourself as a consular officer working for state out a very specific consulate solving a very specific problem apparently that's a negative thing application wise as they want to see flexibility in your destination and your value as a Boren fellow. This is hyperbole, but "I plan to be the US ambassador to Laos.", probably not a realistic goal at this stage. 

After letting my essay sit all that time I went in and made it more specifically about the research I am doing now as a part of finishing my masters, my educational background and work experience more broadly, how those all prepare me for getting in the door with any federal agency that is involved in navigating that bilateral relationship, and that the one skill that could use shoring up is the language component. I listed some specific agencies and job titles based on my ideal destination, but left room in my explanation for an understanding that I'm flexible in where I end up. 

 

Of of course it's all just a waiting game now, but it's difficult not to dwell on it. I have about 2-3 weeks to wait to find out if I'm a finalist for CLS and that is distracting me as well. Told myself I would just fire and forget my applications but that is easier said than done it seems. 

 

I havent found any of those essays online either. I studied at a language school in the fall where there current borens studying and they had all "lost" their Boren essays. Not sure if that was an excuse to not show them to me or if they are told not to. I think they make an effort to avoid having "examples" online. They would probably just receive a barrage of essays that use those as templates, I'm sure that's not what they are looking for. 

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On 2/2/2017 at 3:00 PM, kbui said:

Though I would say that when I was applying for the Boren Scholarship, my language evaluation for Chinese must've been terrible because I did not have a strong grasp on the language, so Boren may be more understanding if it's a less commonly taught language (and that definitely includes Bahasa).

Kbui, are you trying to get back to China for your Boren or to one of the parts of "greater China"? I think I saw some of your posts in the CLS thread but don't remember what your area of interest is. 

I applied for China with CLS and Boren, Fulbright wouldn't send me back as I spent too much time in China on my own of late. 

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2 hours ago, UnawareInGeneral said:

I submitted my application for this Boren cycle a few days ago as well. 

I had an essay that I felt was solid and well written. An essay that had managed to say something in just 800 words about all of the things they wanted to hear. Then I put that essay aside for about two months and came back to it two weeks ago after listening to a couple webinars and talking to professors who were former Boren fellows. It just screamed vague and too birds eye view. One of the things I heard repeated from all the former borens and the staff in the webinars was don't just tell us in general terms why (your country) matters, tie your own studies/research plan/experience (I proposed a pure language study program) to a specific thread of national security that you want to dive into working on post Boren. The last part being where and with what agency you expect you can do that. They also all mentioned not being too specific or too grandiose in your NSEP plans. If you are expecting to find yourself as a consular officer working for state out a very specific consulate solving a very specific problem apparently that's a negative thing application wise as they want to see flexibility in your destination and your value as a Boren fellow. This is hyperbole, but "I plan to be the US ambassador to Laos.", probably not a realistic goal at this stage. 

After letting my essay sit all that time I went in and made it more specifically about the research I am doing now as a part of finishing my masters, my educational background and work experience more broadly, how those all prepare me for getting in the door with any federal agency that is involved in navigating that bilateral relationship, and that the one skill that could use shoring up is the language component. I listed some specific agencies and job titles based on my ideal destination, but left room in my explanation for an understanding that I'm flexible in where I end up. 

 

Of of course it's all just a waiting game now, but it's difficult not to dwell on it. I have about 2-3 weeks to wait to find out if I'm a finalist for CLS and that is distracting me as well. Told myself I would just fire and forget my applications but that is easier said than done it seems. 

 

I havent found any of those essays online either. I studied at a language school in the fall where there current borens studying and they had all "lost" their Boren essays. Not sure if that was an excuse to not show them to me or if they are told not to. I think they make an effort to avoid having "examples" online. They would probably just receive a barrage of essays that use those as templates, I'm sure that's not what they are looking for. 

@UnawareInGeneral, I appreciate your talking about your process for drafting your essays – I approached mine in a very similar manner. I recall in the essays webinar about avoiding the "birds eye view" in the first essay. When they ask you to explain why your region/country has significance to national security, I honestly didn't know how to avoid some type of bird's eye view explanation in the beginning. I took a top-down approach, where I briefly explained the significance of the region/country in broad terms, as far as which U.S. interests are being affected, then I went into specific detail about how one of those specific factors (terrorism) was tied to future U.S. interests in the region and to my study plan (language study and thesis research). I tied my study plan into my desired career goals working for the federal government (in a national security role) without listing a specific organization, but still listing a career title, functional area (counterterrorism), and region of expertise (Southeast Asia) in which I would like to work. So, in effect, I started at a bird's eye, then walked the reader down through my logic, until I ended with a prospective career.

I was as concise as possible, trying to avoid redundancy and vagueness. I went from 850 words in my first draft, to 600 words in my final draft. It felt strange not using the available word-count limit, but I answered the questions, made my points, and didn't have anything else to say. 

Yes, I can imagine that Boren would want winning essays floating around. Honestly, they wouldn't do me any good at this point anyway – it's just my curiosity itching to know what a selected applicant's essay looks like. Good luck on your applications, both CLS and Boren. 

Edited by SwissMister

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17 minutes ago, SwissMister said:

@UnawareInGeneral, I appreciate your talking about your process for drafting your essays – I approached mine in a very similar manner. I recall in the essays webinar about avoiding the "birds eye view" in the first essay. When they ask you to explain why your region/country has significance to national security, I honestly didn't know how to avoid some type of bird's eye view explanation in the beginning. I took a top-down approach, where I briefly explained the significance of the region/country in broad terms, as far as which U.S. interests are being affected, then I went into specific detail about how one of those specific factors (terrorism) was tied to future U.S. interests in the region and to my study plan (language study and thesis research). I tied my study plan into my desired career goals working for the federal government (in a national security role) without listing a specific organization, but still listing a career title, functional area (counterterrorism), and region of expertise (Southeast Asia) in which I would like to work. So, in effect, I started at a bird's eye, then walked the reader down through my logic, until I ended with a prospective career.

I was as concise as possible, trying to avoid redundancy and vagueness. I went from 850 words in my first draft, to 600 words in my final draft. It felt strange not using the available word-count limit, but I answered the questions, made my points, and didn't have anything else to say. 

Yes, I can imagine that Boren would want winning essays floating around. Honestly, they wouldn't do me any good at this point anyway – it's just my curiosity itching to know what a selected applicant's essay looks like. Good luck on your applications, both CLS and Boren. 

I don't think your approach is a poor approach. Fluidity and actual essay structure are important as well of course so it may very well work! I did start out with a bit of potentially unnecessary macro language then bring it into my specific are of interest. I'd say I don't care if I get one of these things I've applied for, and that would've been mostly true before the hiring freeze. Their value in delaying going looking for work went up when that was officially signed and lots of job offers and job openings were pulled off the the table. 

I am in my final semester of graduate school, I had to drag myself back from 6 months spent in China studying language and doing graduate work at the same time. I was in the place I want to get back to, and being back now it's been hard to focus on my work this last semester with job/fellowship applications that would get me back there all up in the air. I wish the CLS people didnt do semi final notifications, I would like to understand their rationale behind getting people's hopes up. 

Good luck to you as well, was it Bahasa you wanted to study? I don't think I've ever seen that on offer at a school in the US (any school I ever considered going to anyway). How do you get started on something like that? 

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I had the same problem @SwissMister. I went from 1,200 words to 700, then back to 800, and I felt like I lost such an important part of my essay. I edited out an entire story that introduced why I was interested in public health, but it was probably for the better because 3/3 people told me to shorten/take it out--but somehow, a little voice inside me told me to keep it. I ended up writing more about why Thailand is important for U.S. national security and how this is the right time for a Boren in my education. I talked about how it's almost impossible to learn Thai back in Minnesota or here at my graduate school, and the highest level they offer is intermediate.

I was a part of a small fellowship admissions committee and was able to read approximately 20 applications from first and second year undergraduate students. One of the biggest things that made their essays less captivating and interesting to read was when they tried to impress me, putting in research data without telling me why these particular issues motivated them to solve it. I was really looking for a personal statement, something to tell me about their lives and what challenges they had to overcome to be here. In the fellowship essay I really tried to tell the committee a little bit about myself and my upbringing before going into the national security argument. I hope the committee appreciates that.

And @UnawareInGeneral I'm applying for Thailand for the fellowship. I was talking about when I was applying for a scholarship to Taiwan and had to get a language evaluation. At that point my Chinese was terrible, and I'm not even sure what my Chinese teacher wrote in my letter because I rarely spoke Chinese to him.

Seems like both of you are in your second year of graduate school. That may work in your favor since this is the only year that you can receive it. But I hope that doesn't work in my disfavor... haha.

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@UnawareInGeneral Thanks. Yes, it is Bahasa that I have studied and hope to study through Boren. It was difficult locating an in-class programs that taught Bahasa. I found a distance program at the University of Hawaii, so I took beginning Indonesian last semester. They do offer Indonesian classes for free, however, at the US-Indo Society in D.C.. 

@kbui I think a personal statement is a nice way to humanize the essays a little more; however, I didn't really delve into that. If I could rewrite the first essay, I would integrate a short personal statement – I think you did a smart thing. Yes, I am in my second year of grad school, so I won't have enough runway to apply again. However, I may have enough left to try for the CLS next summer. 

How does the CLS application process compare to the Boren? I have only looked it over briefly, and would like to hear someone's personal experience with it. 

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