This is the second post in a series on navigating the world of external funding as a parent in graduate school.
Being a parent in graduate school brings with it a whole host of time-management challenges. Balancing coursework, research, teaching, and parenting can be overwhelming. And throwing grant applications into the mix might seem impossible.
But applying for external funding can be critically important for parents in graduate school. Below are some time-management tips to help you balance graduate school, parenting, and grant applications. It is, of course, important to remember that every individual is dealing with a unique set of circumstances. My hope is not that you will abide by every suggestion on this list, but rather, that it might spark some of your own time-management ideas and help to highlight the fact that you are not alone on this journey.
Schedule a weekly appointment (with yourself!) – No matter where you are in your graduate school career, begin to dedicate time each week to grant applications. This might mean researching grants, meeting with a GradFund advisor, writing a proposal, starting a writing group, etc. Choose a time that makes sense for you and pencil it into your weekly schedule. It may be one hour a week, or it may be several, depending on where you are in the grant-writing process. Either way, treat this time as if it were a doctor’s appointment: other meetings and work can be scheduled around it. Getting into the habit of scheduling a weekly appointment with yourself can give you a sense of control, and it’s a great way to ensure that you’ll be able to handle whatever the application season has in store!
Set long-term goals –What type of funding will you need a year or two from today? Whether you’re a first-year student or you’re wrapping up your dissertation, there are grant and fellowship opportunities for you. Take some time to research your options, understand the application timeline, and set overarching goals. Doing so will help you see the big picture – which fellowships are you applying for, and when are you applying for them? If you don’t know where to start, you can always schedule an individual consultation with a GradFund fellowship advisor. We’re here to help you navigate this process!
Set smaller goals for each week – Once you have an understanding of your long-term plan, it’s important to take smaller, concrete steps to help you achieve those goals. When are your application deadlines? What materials will you need to produce? How many (if any) letters of recommendation will you need? For each grant or fellowship you choose to apply for, it is critically important to read and become familiar with the funder’s guidelines.
Writing down exactly what work you need to do for each application makes it easier to schedule that work into your weekly appointments. When will you ask your advisor for a letter of recommendation? When will you write the first draft of your proposal? When will you revise that draft? Etc. Setting smaller, weekly goals for yourself can help to keep you on track and will make everything seem more manageable.
Find supportive faculty members – Do your best to find faculty members who are supportive of graduate students with children. This person doesn’t need to be a formal advisor or committee member, just someone who understands and is empathetic to the challenges that parents face in graduate school. Depending on the culture of your discipline or department, this may be a challenging task. If there are other graduate students with children in your department, ask them who they have been able to turn to for support. Having a faculty member in your corner can be helpful as you navigate the politics of graduate school.
Ask for help – Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You aren’t expected to do all of this on your own. Even if it might not seem like it, remember that there is always someone who is able and willing to help you — whether it’s a spouse, a colleague, a friend, a therapist, or a family member. Reach out to someone when things become overwhelming.
As parents, we have learned the importance of prioritizing. But when you think about all the work you have to do, remember that applying for external funding should not be at the bottom of the list. While individual circumstances differ, there are often ways to balance graduate school, parenting, and grant applications. I hope that these time-management suggestions will help you think about what might work best for your schedule.