Which Fellowship Application is Worth Your Time?

Aug. 16, 2016

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?

In order to understand who and what an organization wants to fund:

  • Study the mission statement of the organization that supports the fellowship.

  • Study the goals of the particular fellowship you are considering.

  • Look at the lists of former fellows and/or projects the organization has previously funded.

If you do your research and feel you are a perfect fit for a fellowship, then it is certainly worth your time.

Consider how applying will benefit you.

Getting funding will help you finish your program more quickly. But the process of applying, even if you do not get the fellowship, can also achieve the same goal. Applying to fellowships will do the following:

  • Force you to lay out your research project in detail. Many students have told us that creating a detailed plan for a grant proposal has made doing the actual research a snap (okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration).

  • Help you consider your project within a larger context. When you write for an audience beyond your professors and colleagues, you will find yourself considering the importance of your work on a larger scale and in a different way.

  • Encourage you and your advisor to work together. Everyone is busy. The application process will create space for you and your advisor to have a few quality conversations.

  • Get your professors to write letters of recommendation for you. Eventually, your professors will have to write letters for you and the more they write, the better they will be (hopefully).

  • Give you practice in grant writing. This is a valuable skill! Regardless of what you do after graduation, practice in grant writing is a handy skill to have in your pocket.

Ask yourself what applying will cost you.

Giving time to one thing will mean that you do not spend that time on another thing. If applying for a fellowship means that you will have to skip a few workouts or miss a few choir practices, it may be worth the cost. If applying for a fellowship means that you do not complete revisions on a paper for publication, then it is probably not worth it.

Make a schedule

After creating a list of several fellowships to which you will apply, make a schedule. Try to apply to at least one opportunity each semester. You might want to apply to two large competitions this fall and to a small grant, like the GPSC travel grants, in the spring.

Looking at lists of fellowship opportunities can be overwhelming. Take some time to choose a few that are relevant to you and apply for them. If you do this consistently, you will find that the process will get easier and easier. You will not get everything you apply for but you also will not get anything that you do not apply for. Good luck!

The GradFunding Newsletter is a service of the University of Arizona Graduate College, Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement. You may reuse this article but please acknowledge Shelley Hawthorne Smith and the University of Arizona Graduate College Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement.

To subscribe or unsubscribe to the newsletter, send an email to list@list.arizona.edu (link sends e-mail) with "subscribe (or unsubscribe) gradfunding FirstName LastName" in the subject line. You may send opportunities for posting or questions to address to the newsletter editor, Shelley Hawthorne Smith (shellh@arizona.edu)