Applying for grants and fellowships can be daunting on top of the typical graduate student workload. It is easy to convince yourself to delay the application process when faced with coursework, teaching, research, and meetings. Here are several motivating factors to consider if you are contemplating postponing your grant application process:
Develop perspective on the larger impacts of your research and methodology
For most grant/fellowship applications, you will need to explain your research to a broader audience. This audience may or may not be familiar with the structure or significance of your research. While this may seem intimidating, it can help you learn how to explain the impact of your research and relate it to the goals of a funding agency. These practices will be critical when writing and defending your dissertation, as well as applying for jobs/internships within or outside of academia. It will also help you in graduate school to get a better sense of why your methodology is important to your dissertation project and academic field.
Acquire critical experience/achievements for your future career
Your research and teaching experiences will be important for your future career, particularly if you continue down the academic path. However, it is under-appreciated how important grantsmanship is to career development, whether you choose to pursue an academic career or not. While some fields place greater emphasis on obtaining external funding than others, having applied for and received an external grant will make your resume stand out to future employers. In particular, in the life sciences it is essential that you get external funding to operate a university laboratory, and getting early experience in applying for funding will only make your career transition easier.
Give you more independence with your graduate research
Regardless of how much time I spent writing my NIH F31 grant, I will always say it was worth it because of the amount of time I now have to pursue my research interests. If you currently are on a TA appointment, you are well acquainted with the amount of time you need to spend away from your research to successfully teach a course. Not having to teach can make all of the difference to your research progress. In addition, obtaining a grant/fellowship can allow you to structure your research to fit your own interests and theories with more ease. Thus, external funding can provide you with numerous opportunities to gain more independence in graduate school and allow you to pursue your research uninterrupted.
Reduce the annual fears about funding
Even if your department often has numerous TA/GA appointments, it can be stressful to think about what/where you will teach, whether there are positions available, and/or how this appointment will fit with your other commitments in graduate school. External funding gives you more flexibility and allows you to worry less about changes in the source of your stipend.
Overall, grantsmanship is an excellent practice to develop in graduate school and can make all of the difference to your educational and professional development.