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Writing for fellowships hard. Writing is hard.




Travis Sawyer, a graduate student who has worked with us in the Office of Fellowships, has had great success both in obtaining fellowship proposals for himself and in assisting other graduate students in writing their own fellowship proposals.


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?

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?

Last month I gave you five tips for getting your writing done. If you, along with most graduate students, have not gotten as far as you had hoped in your summer writing, don’t despair. Don’t feel guilty. Have a look at the tips here and continue writing – onward and upward! 

When you are ready to have others read your fellowship applications, here are five tips for getting the best feedback possible.

1. Give your readers guidance.

When you send or post drafts for others to read, be sure to give them some context for what they are reading.

Most graduate students have ambitious summer writing goals. If you are one of them, here are five tips to help you be successful in meeting those goals.

1. Find a daily time to write. This means putting words on paper. You also need time to read and do research, but you should schedule time to actually write. Whether it means brainstorming ideas for fellowship applications, outlining, or editing, you should touch your writing every day.

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.