Fulbright Bulgarian Leaders Grant


For self-placed graduate students – MA and PhD programs

Application deadline: 1 February, 2024

Join our free webinars for updates and tips from program alumni regarding this grant to the USA.


Elite institutions in the USA


Up to 7 grants per year


Excellent English language skills


Up to $100,000 per grant


Apply by 1 February, 2024

Candidates should note that US university deadlines for AY 2024-25 MA and PhD programs vary, with most falling between October 2023 and January 2024; candidates are responsible for applying to US universities on their own in order to be eligible for “Fulbright Bulgarian Leaders” grants.

Thanks to a recent funding increase from the Bulgarian government, Fulbright Bulgaria is offering grants to top US universities to support Bulgarian MA and PhD students who will return to Bulgaria to build the country’s capacity in the academic, public and private sectors. Bulgarian students who apply independently and gain acceptance to US universities ranked in the top 15 graduate programs for their academic field by US News and World Report will be eligible for Fulbright Bulgarian Leaders Grants.  

Grants offer up to $100,000 in funding for tuition, fees, living expenses, travel and health insurance, and can be spread across multiple academic years, depending on the length of the program. Grants are valid for all disciplines except clinical medicine and dentistry. Selected candidates will be required to sign an agreement to return to Bulgaria for three years after the completion of their degrees. 

Up to seven grants will be awarded yearly in open competition supervised by binational selection committees. 

Fulbright application deadline: February 1, 2024

Deadline for submitting applications for the academic 2024-25: February 1, 2024

The interview dates are fixed and are not subject to changes or additional options.

Why should you apply


Get funding for your tuition


Earn a degree from an elite US university


Educational and cultural exchange


Networking opportunities with top specialists in your area of expertise


Excellent career prospects

Compare the two Fulbright graduate student grants

How many grants are awarded? Up to seven
When is the Fulbright application deadline? February 2023 (for a fall start in the same year)
Maximum grant amount $100,000
What eligible expenses does the grant cover? Tuition, fees, living expenses, travel, health insurance
Home Residency Requirements after completion of grant Three years in Bulgaria
Which universities are eligible? The top 15 universities in your academic field according to US News and World Reports Grad Study rankings.
How do I apply? Independently, using the individual universities’ application platforms to apply directly to the graduate programs of your choice.
How many US universities can I apply to? As many as you wish, but you must pay any application fees.
Will I receive support in applying to US universities? Fulbright offers general webinars on US grad school admissions, but cannot offer individualized support to Future Leaders applicants.
Do I have to take standardized tests such as TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, etc.? You are responsible for taking any tests required by the universities you choose to apply to at your own expense.
Other grant benefits N/A

How many grants are awarded? Up to seven
When is the Fulbright application deadline? May 2023 (for a fall start in 2024)
Maximum grant amount $60,000
What eligible expenses does the grant cover? Tuition, fees, living expenses, travel, health insurance
Home Residency Requirements after completion of grant Two years in Bulgaria or EU
Which universities are eligible? All accredited US universities on the territory of the US (4,000+ universities).
How do I apply? Fulbright and IIE guide your application program and apply to four universities on your behalf; you do not apply to US universities directly.
How many US universities can I apply to? Together with Fulbright and IIE, you will decide on a list of four universities. You will not pay university application fees.
Will I receive support in applying to US universities? Selected nominees receive extensive support from Fulbright and IIE during every step of the university application process.
Do I have to take standardized tests such as TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, etc.? Fulbright requires all applicants to take the TOEFL, and GRE/GMAT or other tests if the universities on your submission list require it. Fulbright provides test preparation support and test vouchers are provided to grantees.
Other grant benefits Test preparation support, free TOEFL and GRE vouchers

Frequently Asked Questions

Which program should I apply to – Fulbright Bulgarian Leaders or IIE-Placed Academic Grants?

If you are primarily interested in applying to top US schools (Ivy League or top-tier research institutions) that will provide world-class professional preparation and whose name recognition will help in career advancement and networking, the Future Leaders grant is for you.  

If you are less concerned about the name recognition of your host institution, but want to find a strong program that best fits your academic interests and offers personalized attention, the Fulbright Graduate Study Grant may be the better option. Also, if you are not sure which schools might be the best fit for your academic interests and would like more guidance during the university application process, the Graduate Study Grant is ideal, as the Fulbright Commission and IIE have years of experience helping students select the best programs to fit their interests and aspirations.  

Why are the stipend levels different?

The Bulgarian Future Leaders Grant offers a maximum stipend level of up to $100,000, since programs at top-ranked US universities tend to be more expensive and financial aid is often not sufficient for international students. The Fulbright Graduate Study grant of $60,000, while considerably smaller, should cover most expenses in many US graduate programs. An added benefit of the Graduate Study Grant is IIE placement support – with 100 years of experience helping foreign students find strong schools that offer international students robust tuition waivers, IIE can help you identify options that fit your budget with minimal out-of-pocket expenses. 

Can I apply to both programs for the same academic year?

Yes, with certain restrictions. If you apply for the Fulbright Graduate Study Grant in May and are not selected as a finalist, you are welcome to apply to US universities independently and to apply for the Fulbright Future Leaders Grant in February. However, if you are selected for a Fulbright Graduate Study Grant in May, you cannot independently apply to Future Leaders in parallel – your Fulbright funding can only be used towards the four schools on your IIE submission list. However, if one or more of the schools on your IIE placement list fits the Future Leaders criteria (ranked in the top 15 for your academic field) and you are admitted, you can submit a request to the Fulbright Commission to be considered in the “Future Leaders” competition for the larger stipend of $100,000. Please note that you will once again be evaluated by an independent selection panel, and there is no guarantee you will be approved for the larger amount; in the case that you are not selected for “Future Leaders, you will retain your $60,000 stipend under the Graduate Study Grant. If you are selected for the Future Leaders Grant of up to $100,000, you will be subject to the program’s three-year home residency requirement if you choose to accept it  

Sophia Kleinsasser
Grant Coordinator, Fulbright Bulgarian Leaders

Sofia, 12 Vitosha Blvd

Other grants and scholarships

Scholars and researchers

Five grants are supported each year. You can apply by December.

Doctoral Students

For young researchers at advanced stages of their PhD studies.

Non-profit organizations

Three-to-five-month grant for research activities on issues related to civil society.

Thanks to Scandinavia

The grant is especially for Bulgarian students (holding at least a BA) and is a token of appreciation from the Jewish community to Bulgaria because of the Jewish salvation in the WWII period.

Grant for Scholars in Mathematics

This grant is for scholars in the field of Mathematics. Applicants need to have acquired their PhD no longer than 10 years ago.

Skip to content