Applying for external grants and fellowships is an integral part of your graduate career. From providing financial support for your education and research, to the prestige of earning recognition for your project, being awarded external funding can have a transformative impact on your graduate experience as well as your future career. Given these long-term benefits, applying early in your career, beginning with early graduate fellowships and grants, is key. Read on for some of our most frequently asked questions from entering graduate students about applying for these early stage opportunities.
What if I don’t yet have an advisor or am rotating through different labs?
If you are just starting out with graduate study, you may not yet have a faculty mentor. Indeed, if you are in the life sciences, you will most likely spend the next year in lab rotations before you decide which lab you plan to work in for your dissertation research. Even if you do not yet have a faculty mentor or do not yet know which lab you will work in, you should still apply for early career fellowships. In your application, you should plan to describe the kind of research project you would like to work on and how you would execute it.
As you describe your project, discuss your preparation to undertake the work that you propose to do and why Rutgers is the best place for the work you propose to do. If at all possible, do reach out to faculty you would be interested in working with and inquire as to whether or not they would be interested in assisting you with your application materials. Your graduate program director is a good person to help facilitate an introduction.
What if my project is still in its early stages?
Funders that offer early graduate fellowships and grants understand that you are in the predissertation stage and that you are still narrowing your focus. Even if you have an advisor, you may be uncertain about the specifics of your dissertation research.
That’s OK! What they are looking for is a proposal in which you are able to articulate a feasible project, one that you can imagine undertaking given your previous research experiences and your interest in a specific research question.
What if my project changes?
As long as your project adheres to the funder’s mission then you do not need to be concerned if your project changes over time. This is to be expected, and organizations who fund early graduate education understand this. It is never too early to think about your dissertation project and the scope it may take on as you advance through your graduate studies. Even in your first and second year of graduate study, it is valuable to imagine what your project may be and to apply for early career research funds to help you test out an idea or gather preliminary data and information.
Great! How do I learn more?
If you would like to learn more about which funding opportunities may be available to you, we invite you to explore the GradFund Database. And of course, please schedule a planning meeting at GradFund. We’ll be happy to walk you through the process of applying.