Office of Graduate Student External Grants and Fellowships | GradFund

Proposal Writing 101

Welcome to the GradFund Proposal Writing 101 Resource Page. We have developed this page to provide you with general assistance with the development of a proposal for a funding application. By using these resources, you will learn the mechanics of proposal writing and best practices in grantsmanship while you develop an outline of your funding application, including the research proposal, supporting materials, and the application form(s).

We encourage you to complement your work here with individual meetings with a GradFund fellowship advisor. We are able to provide individual consultations to graduate students who are applying for external funding. While we are unable to offer individual consultations for internal awards, feel free to use the resources on this page as you develop your Graduate School-New Brunswick pre-dissertation, special opportunity, or Bevier Fellowship applications.

Understanding Your Funder


What are they looking for?

What is the mission of the funding agency? What is the goal of this award competition? Considering the funder’s goals for this fellowship or grant, in what ways are you a competitive fit for this award?

What does this fellowship include?

What impact would this award have on your graduate career? How would these resources shape your trajectory in a way that is a fit with the goals of the funder?

Who is eligible to apply?

Carefully research your eligibility to apply before you craft your application materials. If the award’s website and other documents don’t bring you clarity, contact the program officer.


When should I apply?

Many awards target a specific stage of study, and you may need to apply up to a year in advance of funds being disbursed to you, should you win. Work with your advisor to decide when it makes sense to begin working on your application.

Ready to write your application? Scroll down for GradFund Resources.

If you need to look for other funding opportunities, use our award search.

GradFund Resources for your Funding Application

Keep in Touch

Sign up for the GradFund newsletter for important news about funding opportunities and new resources to help you apply for them. Our blog is also a great source for fresh advice and news about graduate funding.

Step-By-Step Workbook

The GradFund Proposal Writing 101 tutorial will take you step-by-step through the process of writing your fellowship or grant application. From getting to know your funder to completing the last piece of the application, this guide will get you there.

Forums & Chat

Use our forums to exchange ideas with your peers and GradFund staff about applying for external fellowships and grants. We also offer an online chat service called ‘Ask a Fellowship Advisor,’ where you can ask quick questions about our services, your scheduled meetings, or application procedures.

Meet with Us

Meet with a GradFund Fellowship Advisor for a Help with a Funder or Application Essay Conference meeting. Learn more about our meeting types and other services here.

Proposal Writing 101 Tutorial

We have developed the Proposal Writing 101 tutorial to assist you in the development of any merit-based fellowship, grant, or scholarship. Our tutorial is designed to teach you best practices in proposal development, to understand how to get to know your funder, and to help you with the task of writing a competitive application.

Proposal Writing 101

Articles & Advice

One Project, Many Frames (and Many Awards!)

Framing your research Most grad students have had at least some practice writing about the major disciplinary contributions of their dissertation. Indeed, a dissertation proposal defense requires in-depth knowledge of how your project speaks to major research...

Do I Have to? Motivation to Apply for External Funding

Applying for grants and fellowships can be daunting on top of the typical graduate student workload. It is easy to convince yourself to delay the application process when faced with coursework, teaching, research, and meetings. Here are several motivating factors to...

Make the Case That Your Project Will Contribute to Your Field

From a funder’s perspective, your passion for your project isn’t enough. Funders want to know that you have designed a project that does more than simply exercise your own intellectual curiosity. Even when it is not explicitly stated among the priorities listed in the...

Developing a Relationship with your NSF Program

*This blog is in preparation for GradFund’s upcoming Applying to the NSF workshop The National Science Foundation funds graduate students every year in a wide array of disciplines, from cultural anthropology to biomedical engineering. Awards are available for almost...

Strategies for Revision Series (Part 2)

Have a draft of a research statement or personal narrative for your fellowship application? Feel like it’s in pretty good shape, but not sure how to give it that top-level shine? This post suggests a strategy of revision for seeing each part of your essay in a new...

Strategies for Revision Series (Part 1)

Have a draft of a research statement? Sometimes get a sneaking suspicion that it’s not quite hanging together? This post suggests a strategy for revision that’s quick, straightforward, and yet often effective in shedding light on structural problems. I can’t claim...

Procrastinating on your Proposal? Recover Your Motivation for Your Project (Post 3)

One thing reviewers look for in an application is your excitement for the project you’re proposing. But sometimes, it’s hard to access your own excitement. Grad school is a long haul, and even the most passionate researcher on the most interesting project will...

Procrastinating on your Proposal? Try These Tips To Jump-Start Your Writing Process (Post 2)

Some applications have so many different parts, each with its own guidelines, that the process can feel overwhelming. But remember: you only have to work on one piece at a time! Research statements and personal statements are required components in most grant...

Procrastinating on your Proposal? Try One of These Tips To Get Started (Post 1)

We all procrastinate from time to time. The high standards and minimal structure of many graduate programs can make procrastination especially likely for even the most capable students, and when we slip into feelings of guilt or shame, it can become even harder to...

How to Identify What Reviewers Want?

At GradFund we always say "you need to know the funder". But, why is this important? And how do you do it? Reviewers for graduate grants and fellowships are usually interested in both short-term deliverables (i.e. what training or research you will undertake for the...

Proposal Writing Workbook

Once you’ve watched Proposal Writing 101, dive into our Proposal Writing Workbook. The workbook will take you step-by-step through the development of a funding application.

[uo_show for=’loggedin’][course_content course_id=”27616″][/uo_show][uo_show for=’loggedout’]

Login for Access!

In order to access the step-by-step guidance found in our Proposal Writing 101 Workbook, please log in to our website using your Rutgers Scarletmail credentials.


GradFund Forums

Use our forums to ask questions about your application and exchange application tips!

Stay in Touch!

Sign up for the GradFund Newsletter to get up-to-date news and advice on fellowship and grant competitions.

* indicates required

Meet with Us!

Introducing A New Booking System!

We look forward to meeting with you!  Effective May 2017, we are using a new meeting booking system to manage GradFund appointments.

Whether you are a new or returning user, if you have not yet used our new meeting platform WCOnline, please click on the first time user link to set up an account so you can log into the system.

First visit? Click here to register. Returning? Log in below to book a meeting.

Email Address:


Join the Conversation!

[uo_show for=’loggedout’]
Please log in to add topics or leave replies.

[bsp-display-topic-index forum= ‘27827’ breadcrumb=’no’ search=’no’]