Graduate students at Rutgers have the option of consulting GradFund for advice on external funding, and their first interaction with GradFund will likely be on our website. The GradFund website offers a wealth of resources, but it can sometimes be difficult to focus on what you need. The purpose of this blog post is to help you get started with using GradFund to identify or apply for funding. The advice is organized as the answers to three main questions: What can I apply for and how can I search for awards? How can I get more information on a specific award? How can I improve my application?
One common theme with the answers to these questions involves scheduling a meeting with GradFund to gather information or get feedback. The process for scheduling a meeting with us is described below for reference as you read the rest of the post.
Scheduling a meeting with GradFund
- – The meeting booking platform for GradFund is: rutgers.mywconline.com
First, you need to visit the website and register an account.
- – When you log-in, select the schedule that is marked “GS” for graduate students (or “PD” for post-docs).
- – The available appointment slots are marked by a white block, and all appointments are booked in 1.5 hour increments. You may need to book your appointment a week or two in advance!
- – Meetings can take place either via Skype or in person at 25 Bishop Place, New Brunswick, NJ (College Avenue Campus).
- – You’ll need to confirm your meeting by submitting the relevant materials by 9:00 AM two days before your meeting (depends on the meeting type).
What can I apply for and how can I search for awards?
The first question students visiting gradfund for the first time (or after a long time without having met with us) usually have is: what awards are out there? Some awards are open for a wide applicant pool. For instance, two common awards that early graduate students can apply for are the National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship (all STEM, including folks in the social sciences) and the Ford Foundation predoctoral fellowship (open for most disciplines, check here to see all eligible fields). Other awards are much more niche. However, the purpose of this blog post is not to list potential awards. Rather, to empower you to seek out the awards that are the best fit for your situation. A great place to get started is the Fellowship & Grant Database, accessible from the GradFund website. The database is located under the ‘Fellowships and Grants’ tab as the first option. You can think of the database as a search bar specifically for awards that graduate students are eligible to apply for. However, like other internet search engines, keep in mind that refining your search may be necessary to get the best results. Try different key words for what you’re looking for, and you can filter the results by your stage of study, citizenship, and activity, among over options.
If the Fellowship & Grant Database seems overwhelming, or you’re just wondering what else is out there, you can schedule a “What can I apply for?” meeting with GradFund. One of our fellowship advisors will search for awards that fit your particular situation and print a personalized list for you along with a short description of each award. The fellowship advisor will talk through the various awards with you and help you form a plan of action. Just remember that the list they will provide you with will be based on the information you wrote on your meeting form, so the more information you provide, the more accurate will the list be. Also, do not assume that the list will include everything you can apply for. It is a list to get you prepared for award season during different stages of your graduate career, thus make sure you keep an eye for other awards that may be available for you beyond that list.
How can I get more information on a specific award?
Imagine that you find a highly relevant award that you want to apply for. After you have made the decision to apply for the award, you begin to think: Where do I start? After reading through the award website, many students are still unsure of the best approach to begin writing. Fortunately, you can use GradFund resources to learn more about the funder (the organization funding the award) and the purpose of the award. The GradFund resource pages provide a wealth of information on a few commonly targeted awards. These resource pages elaborate on what the funder is looking for and who is eligible to apply for the award. Additionally, there are workbooks which outline a series of steps to take as you craft your application. The GradFund resource pages can be found under the “Learn” tab by clicking on the relevant award.
If you’d rather talk through the process of applying for an award with a fellowship advisor, you can schedule a “Help with a funder” meeting. During these meetings, we will discuss in-depth guidance for a specific fellowship or grant competition. You will learn strategies for writing a competitive application, discuss the application procedures and components, and develop a plan for writing and revising your application. Further, you can gain insight into the funder’s review process and how you can best craft your application materials to meet the funder’s goals.
How can I improve my application?
The best way to improve your application is to get feedback and revise! You should start your application essays early and plan to go through multiple rounds of revision before the application deadline. Your advisor, committee members, and/or academic peers are all great sources of feedback for improving your application.
Meeting with the fellowship advisors at GradFund can also give you a valuable outside perspective on your application essays. While GradFund does not critique the value of the research itself, we can provide feedback on proper content, organization, flow, clarity, and meeting the guidelines and goals of the funder. Schedule an “Application essay conference” meeting with us to go through your application essays in real time with a fellowship advisor. After you submit your application materials in advance, a fellowship advisor will read through your essays from the viewpoint of a reviewer and develop a critique. During the meeting itself, the fellowship advisor will share their critique with you, and you both can discuss any questions or concerns you have about the application.
Finally, GradFund also offers written feedback in the form of an “Application review: written feedback session.” After you schedule this meeting, we will review your application essay(s) and offer you written comments and suggestions on how effectively and clearly you communicate your ideas, how to most effectively present your essays to your funder and their mission, and how to make your materials more competitive. This session is not a typical face-to-face meeting, and you will receive written detailed feedback and guidance through the WCOnline system. Just keep in mind that it may take up to 2 weeks for your materials to be reviewed, so plan well in advance!
We hope this post helps you get started with identifying and applying for funding. Start early, and let us know how we can help!