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Office of Graduate Student External Grants and Fellowships | GradFund

“But What If It’s Just a Waste of Time?”: How the Process of Grant Writing Can Advance Your Career—Part One

by | Oct 8, 2018 | Advice, Building A Funding Plan, Seeking and Receiving Feedback, Success in Grant Writing

Grant writing might seem like a distraction or an extra burden in a workload already heavy with research, teaching, coursework, and other responsibilities. Since success isn’t guaranteed, it may feel like the time spent on a proposal could easily turn out to be wasted. But if you are strategic in how you approach the grant writing process, you can reap results that will push your career forward regardless of the outcome of the application. Here are a few pointers to help ensure that the time you carve out in your schedule to focus on the grant writing process is time spent advancing your career.
-First, make sure you’ve identified a funding opportunity that is the best fit available for you and your work. You can start your search in the GradFund database, and you can meet with a GradFund advisor to help you find more. Use your GradFund meeting to discuss your chances of success in the different opportunities for which you are eligible, and to help you prioritize them according to competitiveness and fit. Becoming aware of the landscape of funding opportunities as early as possible helps ensure that you’ll be prepared for future opportunities and have a realistic sense of how you might be able to support your work in the coming years.

-Bring your advisor into the process. Tell them that you’re applying for funding, and set up a time to meet with them. They may have guidance on the application process itself, and you should ask them to review drafts of your proposal. (Be aware that it is wise to set up a GradFund meeting as your first and your final step before submitting the application; while your advisor is the best judge of the content of your proposal, GradFund advisors will help you ensure that you have tailored your application to the funder you’re approaching.) Asking your advisor for feedback is not only a chance to strengthen your application, but also an opportunity to discuss your project in detail with your mentor, to relate to your advisor as a researcher, and to show your commitment to your project and your career.

-Reach out to other faculty members to discuss your project and give feedback on your proposal. Since review committees are often made up of people from outside your subfield or even your discipline, it’s important to have as diverse a group of readers as possible as you write and revise. And by asking faculty members who work in similar areas to yours for this kind of mentorship, you are building your network of scholars who are aware of and invested in your project. You are also demonstrating to your department that you are actively seeking outside funding; this effort can strengthen your position when it comes to opportunities within the department.

Part Two of this post offers more advice to help you make the grant writing process productive.

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