How to Nail the Timing of Fellowships

Feb. 12, 2020

One of the trickiest elements of applying for funding is the timing. For example, all of you reading this article know that the best time to apply for summer funding is right now. But, believe me, there will be other students contacting me in April to ask about funding for Summer 2020; there is not much I can do to help them. Here are three steps to nailing the timing of fellowship applications.

First, be sure to maintain a spreadsheet with details about funding opportunities to which you plan to apply. Here are some things to include on the spreadsheet.

  • Name of opportunity: Of course
  • Website: Include the source here, but also any links to websites with advice or insight on the opportunity
  • Notes on application process: Many opportunities have campus deadlines. Some applications need to go through sponsored projects. Be sure to find out about the application process well ahead of the deadline. Are you applying or is the institution (or your advisor) applying on your behalf?
  • Amount: Take note of how much you might be awarded through the fellowship
  • Eligibility: Do you need to have passed to candidacy before applying (or before accepting the award)?
  • Deadlines: Note preliminary application dates, campus deadlines, etc. Make a note of when to contact people who will write letters of recommendation or affiliation.
  • Funding period: What time period will the funding cover?
  • People who have received the award or who are willing to help: Awardees are often willing to share their successful applications. If you know people who have applied but not gotten the award, they may also be willing to share their insights.
  • Letters needed: As well as letters of recommendation, you may need letters of affiliation or statements by a sponsor. It helps to be aware of these ahead of time.

Second, break down the application process into small tasks. Some fellowships will be much more complicated than others. Include details like writing a rough draft and getting feedback, contacting key people. Read the application guidelines carefully and then go over the list of tasks with your advisor.

Third, add target dates to your lists of tasks and put those dates on your calendar.

The prospect of applying to fellowships, like any large project, is daunting. Keep track of the opportunities, break the process down, and give yourself deadlines.

My last bit of advice, and probably the best, is to find other people who are applying to the same or similar fellowships and to share the application process. Yes, you are competitors. But I have been helping fellowship applicants for over seven years and the most successful applicants are almost invariably the most helpful.