Applying for Grants and Fellowships


The summer is full of possibilities as a graduate student. If you're not taking classes and find yourself with some "free" time, tackle that grant writing project or fellowship application that's been on your To Do List. With an investment of time and energy, you'll be able to produce a great application and increase the odds of receiving an award.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Begin a Fellowship and Grant Database

Subscribe to listservs in your discipline and pay attention to the listing of grants and fellowships. Additionally, the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) maintains a listserv, and each issue of Graduate Connections contains a selection of grants and fellowships. Whether you're in your first or final year of your graduate program, consider maintaining a spreadsheet or database of all fellowships and grants that are of interest to you. Even if you won't be pursuing a fellowship this year, you might want to apply for it in a few years when you are at a different stage in your career. Keep track of the fellowship name, a link to the website, deadlines, a short description of the award, and the amount.

No Grant is too Small

Every grant on your CV indicates an ability to write grants and conduct research. Don't just apply for the large national grants. Start by applying for small grants offered through your department or college. When a grant committee sees that you have successfully obtained other grants and used them to further your research, they'll look at your application more favorably. By the time you are working on your dissertation, you'll be a good candidate for nationally competitive grants.

Draft Early, and Edit Often

Start working on applications due in the fall and spring over the summer. Writing grants requires good writing—and great editing. Give yourself time to edit your draft many times and get feedback from colleagues, postdocs, advisors, and grant specialists at UNL. Polishing your prose will help your ideas and research shine through. When you write your grant, avoid jargon, especially if an interdisciplinary panel will be evaluating your proposal. Jargon doesn't make you look smart; rather, it obscures meaning. Write simply and strongly.

Make a Good Case for Your Research

Background research goes a long way. When you apply to visit archives, see if you can use interlibrary loan to get microfiches of the material before you start the application. Find out exactly which resources you'll be drawing on to complete your project, and reference them clearly in your application. If you're applying for a grant, make a detailed list of how the money will be used. Will you be traveling? Look up the cost of plane tickets, and the airports you'll be using. Staying somewhere? Know the name of the hotel and list the rate. Include a list of the cost of specific tools you'll be using and materials you'll need to buy.

Pay Attention to the Language in the Call for Applications

One key to writing successful grants is an awareness of what the committee wants. Read the call for applications carefully, and make a list of the criteria. After you've drafted the proposal, review what you've written. Have you addressed every criterion on the list? Is your writing explicit, or have you hidden your intentions and you're asking the reader to uncover meaning? The best grant and fellowship applications clearly meet the reader's expectations.

The summer is a great time to work on grant and fellowship applications. Get a leg up on securing funding during graduate studies, and build your CV with an eye toward future job applications and research.