The first month (or even year) of graduate school can be both exciting and overwhelming. Looking back, for me that time was a blur of new faces, new places, and new ideas, all rushing past at NJ Turnpike speeds. The idea of tackling the process of applying for grants and fellowships in the midst of all this may seem like just a bit too much, but having benefitted throughout my graduate program from a fellowship application I wrote during my first semester, let me encourage you that sooner you get started, the further you’ll end up!
In our previous blog post, we addressed Early Graduate Study Fellowships, which are perhaps some of the most lucrative and, at the same time, most under-applied-for graduate student awards. If you missed that post, we suggest you go back and check it out, since these fellowships are available to some students only in the fall application season of their first year. Beyond this, your next set of funding opportunities will be pre-dissertation research or language study awards, which will be discussed in an upcoming post.
Beyond basic types of awards, there are certain pieces of advice that everyone should know when it comes to external funding applications. First, and perhaps most importantly, it’s never too early to start- even if you aren’t eligible for (or immediately in need of) any awards right now, the process of applying for and receiving external funds is a long-term process (it can sometimes take two years from application planning to success). Integrating the process into your overall plan for graduate study takes careful planning and discussion with your faculty advisor. This leads us into another “never too early” statement: Work with faculty in your program as soon as possible to begin honing your research ideas. Even if you haven’t officially settled on an advisor, discussing research topics, questions, and relevant literature with an expert in your field is the best way to work toward fellowship and grant applications (which nearly always require you to at least pitch a possible plan for graduate research).
In truth, it would take more than one blog post to really explain the lay of the external-funding land and how to craft your own detailed map to success: Options are different for every student, and grantsmanship is a culture and a way of writing and pitching your ideas that takes time and practice to master. Luckily, GradFund has mastered the tips and tricks of the trade for graduate students: Our Fall 2012 GradFund Conference on Friday, September 28 will include lots of advice on external grant and fellowship application writing from a variety of perspectives. In particular, early graduate students may benefit from attending the 9:15 am workshop, “Introduction to Merit-Based Graduate Funding: Awards, Timelines, and Strategies.” To pre-register for the conference, visit GradFund Central. Check back later this week for more insights into the world of graduate funding!