Here at GradFund, we have the privilege of serving the Rutgers graduate student community in a variety of ways related to the pursuit of external grants and fellowships. Our primary mode of service lies in our individual meeting format where Rutgers graduate students meet with our team of Fellowship Advisors and Peer Mentors, a cohort of PhD and postdoctoral students who are uniquely trained to assist with the planning and preparation of application essays to solicit external grants and fellowships. But we also conduct mentoring programs during the summer, where students take part in an intensive writing program culminating in the preparation and submission of a fellowship application. In addition to our summer mentoring programs, we offer workshops on various subjects related to funding, such as constructing diversity statements, fellowships and grants in the Humanities, and Proposal Writing 101. We are also invited by several program directors to meet with incoming cohorts during seminar-style presentations at the beginning of the fall semester. And let’s not forget our online presence, primarily through our website, where you can find loads of information pertaining to the funding landscape, alongside tutorials for a selection of specific awards, and our Fellowship and Grant Database. With all that we do, however, there are a number of things that we don’t do. But fret not! For there are other Rutgers resources that also serve you in your endeavors to apply for external funding.
The first resource is your research advisor. It is good practice to incorporate feedback from your advisor into your search for funding and in the construction of your application materials. Specifically, your advisor or advising team should be consulted for any disciplinary content. And since a significant portion of external funding is evaluated on the content of a research proposal, this feedback is essential for any competitive application. You will want to make sure that your proposed methodology is appropriate for the study you are attempting. So consider your advisor’s time and efforts as you plan your applications, and take advantage of their expertise.
The second resource you should be aware of is your Graduate Program Director (GPD). This faculty member is usually in charge of coordinating your graduate program. For many awards, an endorsement letter or form is needed to confirm status or eligibility. In some cases, you will need to actually be nominated by your GPD as part of your application package. You should carefully study award eligibility guidelines and procedures to ascertain whether or not your GPD’s involvement will be necessary. If it is, you should contact them as soon as possible to work out any logistical concerns.
Though not a Rutgers resource, each funder will likely have a primary point of contact for award-related inquiries. Most funders have a program officer listed with each fellowship or grant program. Or they may have a general inquiry pipeline via email or phone. These program officers will often be very helpful in answering any questions you may have about an award. Often, the eligibility requirements (or your position in relation to them) are difficult to completely parse. You may not have time to schedule a meeting with GradFund to answer these questions, so don’t hesitate to ask the funder directly. Just make sure that you have read the award FAQs before penning that two-page email. You want to make sure that your questions haven’t already been asked and answered enough times to make it onto this list.
Then, there is the Rutgers Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP). The folks at the ORSP provide direct logistical assistance with a number of awards. Specifically, awards that require University endorsement, such as the NIH F30/F31, are submitted through this office. Additionally, ORSP is usually your first contact for questions involving ethical research practices at Rutgers. Your program is likely assigned to one of their Grant Specialists. If you come across an award that requires ORSP involvement, you should contact your Grant Specialist for more information regarding the application process, as ORSP often has deadlines before the actual award deadline, so that they can properly ensure your application is complete and in order.
Finally, though at GradFund we offer feedback on the structure and organization of specific application components and essays, we don’t offer structured courses on basic writing mechanics. To fill that purpose, the Rutgers Writing Program offers a number of courses and programs ranging from writing for English Language Learners to specific courses on preparing fellowship and grant applications.
We are happy to help you in any way that we can. However, even our resources (especially time) are limited. Therefore, you should consider taking advantage of all of the pertinent resources available to you. Nevertheless, as always, if you are confused about anything regarding external grants and funding, we encourage you to explore our website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.