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Collectively, the Graduate College Office of Fellowships has approximately 31 years of experience with fellowships. In this last newsletter of 2016 I will pass along some bits and pieces we have learned along the way.

Graduate students have a lot to do. On top of completing classes, passing exams, doing research, and writing papers, most graduate students plan to present at conferences, get papers published, teach, etc. When I encourage graduate students to apply for fellowships and grants, I realize this is one item on a long list.

So, when should students work on applications for funding opportunities and when should they focus on other things?

Now that it is the middle of application season, we have gotten a number of questions about writing timelines for fellowship applications. Here are a few tips:

You may have heard of a student who decided to apply to a fellowship two weeks before it was due, dashed an application together, and received the fellowship.

Sometimes this happens. But not often. Although it makes for a less interesting story, most successful applicants plan well ahead of the deadline, work strategically towards making themselves good candidates, and then systematically apply.

As summer approaches, consider putting together a plan for fellowships to which you might apply. Below you will find a general guide to help you think about process.  

In the Office of Fellowships, we often read essays for fellowship applications that have been copied and pasted from dissertation proposals. While the copy and paste function is one that we ourselves utilize and view with great affection, the use of it can be a barrier to being awarded a fellowship. Below you will find some tips for revising a dissertation proposal, or any research proposal, into a proposal for a fellowship application.

Before beginning the narrative, consider the answers to the following questions:

Why do I love this project?

With all of the fellowship opportunities in the fall, a graduate student could spend the semester writing fellowship applications. Don’t.

Your main goal as a graduate student should be to, as quickly as is reasonably possible, set yourself up for the next step in your career. Applying to a few choice fellowships can help you achieve this goal.

But how do you decide which fellowship application is worth your time?

Do your research. Ask yourself, how well do I fit this opportunity?

Elizabeth Stahmer, the Director of the Social and Behavioral Research Institute, has worked on applications for funding from multiple organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the State of Arizona, and dozens of private foundations.

In my recent interview with her, she gave numerous nuggets of excellent advice for finding and applying for funding. I share them with you below.

What do you do?

Last spring a student came into my office to discuss a specific funding opportunity. I found her research compelling and I looked forward to learning more about it when she sent me her essays. But when I began to read the draft of her fellowship proposal, I soon found my mind drifting to topics like snacks. I gave her comments and we are still waiting to hear the results of the competition.

As we approach the fall semester, I hope that many of you have plans to apply for funding opportunities.

However, in the busy life of graduate school, students often start to wonder if taking the time to apply for fellowships and grants is worth the effort. Graduate students are generally successful people, so after being rejected once or twice, some give up applying.

For a graduate student who is new to grant writing, or even a seasoned grant writer, an RFP (Request for Proposals) can be intimidating. Every organization arranges the document differently and the language used is often abstruse. Depending on the agency, there may not even be a single document but a scattering of information across webpages. This GradFunding article will help you navigate RFPs, in whatever their form, and get the information that you need.