Collectively, the Graduate College Office of Fellowships has approximately 31 years of experience with fellowships. In this last newsletter of 2016 I will pass along some bits and pieces we have learned along the way.
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“What I have found,” a graduate student recently told me, “is that I like rejections. They are a chance to learn, a path forward.”
Just to be clear, this student had had a few days to contemplate his most recent rejection; I imagine that this was not his first reaction to the news. Additionally, he had received a beautiful rejection with all sorts of accolades for his work accompanied by very concrete suggestions for improvement.
In our office, we find that many students feel lost when thinking about fellowships and appreciate an explanation of the basic landscape of funding. Georgia Ehlers, director of the Graduate College Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement, and I have put together a few of the basics about fellowships which might be helpful as you make plans for the new year.
What is a fellowship?
Did you know the National Science Foundation offers funding to graduate students?
Of course you did.
However, did you know that the Romance Writers of America also has funding for graduate students? As does the government of Ireland, the Slovak Academic Information Agency, and the Huntington Botanical Gardens.
But how could you possibly find a funding opportunity that is just right for you?
I’m about to tell you.
Finding funding is a challenge for any graduate student. But it is particularly difficult for international students studying in the United States. Here are a few tips and resources for those of you who are international students at the UA.
Consider starting your search for funding in your country of citizenship. Some of the best funding can come from a student’s home country.
Graduate students have a lot to do. On top of completing classes, passing exams, doing research, and writing papers, most graduate students plan to present at conferences, get papers published, teach, etc. When I encourage graduate students to apply for fellowships and grants, I realize this is one item on a long list.
So, when should students work on applications for funding opportunities and when should they focus on other things?
After receiving an acceptance to graduate school, one of the first issues on students’ mind is how to find funding. Most students return to this issue several times throughout their graduate education. Here are a few strategies to find sources of funding:
Talk to People
Let me tell you a story.
About a year ago, I received an email from a student in linguistics asking if I would review a draft of her proposal for the Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research. This was the first time I had heard of the Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research, or at least, the first time it caught my attention. With a little investigation, I found that the American Philosophical Society supports the fund and that several UA graduate students in geology have previously received the award.
The beginning of a new year is a good time to update your curriculum vitae (CV) and resume. As most of you know, the main difference between a CV (from Latin for “course of life”) and a resume (from French for “summary”), is length. Whether you have a CV or resume will depend on your discipline and your professional goals. I will refer to CVs in this article, but the ideas apply to both CVs and resumes. You should have a template version of the document that you keep current and adapt to opportunities as you apply to them.
Now that it is the middle of application season, we have gotten a number of questions about writing timelines for fellowship applications. Here are a few tips:
Letters of recommendation can be the determining factor in fellowship competitions. Because a good letter of recommendation is so much work to write, you want to do everything you can to make the process easy for your professors. With the help of Graduate College Dean, Andrew Carnie, and Graduate College Assistant Dean, Janet Sturman, I have outlined four tips to help you get the best letters possible.
1. Plan ahead:
You may have heard of a student who decided to apply to a fellowship two weeks before it was due, dashed an application together, and received the fellowship.
Sometimes this happens. But not often. Although it makes for a less interesting story, most successful applicants plan well ahead of the deadline, work strategically towards making themselves good candidates, and then systematically apply.
As summer approaches, consider putting together a plan for fellowships to which you might apply. Below you will find a general guide to help you think about process.
In the Office of Fellowships, we often read essays for fellowship applications that have been copied and pasted from dissertation proposals. While the copy and paste function is one that we ourselves utilize and view with great affection, the use of it can be a barrier to being awarded a fellowship. Below you will find some tips for revising a dissertation proposal, or any research proposal, into a proposal for a fellowship application.
Before beginning the narrative, consider the answers to the following questions:
Why do I love this project?
If the prospect of all the holiday social obligations fills you with unmitigated delight, you can stop reading this article now. Go ahead and click on another article.
Now that it is just those of us who feel at least some measure of anxiety anticipating social events we can discuss the topic at hand – holiday parties.
The most frequently asked question I receive from graduate students is how to find funding. Finding funding is like finding a job; it takes a mixture of work, perseverance, luck, and connections.
We have some basic information on funding graduate school on our website (https://grad.arizona.edu/ofce/funding-101). Further, here are a few strategies to keep in mind in your search for graduate funding:
1. Talk to People
With all of the fellowship opportunities in the fall, a graduate student could spend the semester writing fellowship applications. Don’t.
Your main goal as a graduate student should be to, as quickly as is reasonably possible, set yourself up for the next step in your career. Applying to a few choice fellowships can help you achieve this goal.
But how do you decide which fellowship application is worth your time?
Do your research. Ask yourself, how well do I fit this opportunity?
Last month I gave you five tips for getting your writing done. If you, along with most graduate students, have not gotten as far as you had hoped in your summer writing, don’t despair. Don’t feel guilty. Have a look at the tips here and continue writing – onward and upward!
When you are ready to have others read your fellowship applications, here are five tips for getting the best feedback possible.
1. Give your readers guidance.
When you send or post drafts for others to read, be sure to give them some context for what they are reading.
With approximately 1,600 annual awards, the Student Fulbright is one of the largest and best recognized national fellowships. I often talk with graduate students who think that they might be interested in a Fulbright but are not sure about the details. If you are one of those people, read below for insight from Emily Kotay, the Scholarship Advisor in the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships (ONCS).
Most graduate students have ambitious summer writing goals. If you are one of them, here are five tips to help you be successful in meeting those goals.
1. Find a daily time to write. This means putting words on paper. You also need time to read and do research, but you should schedule time to actually write. Whether it means brainstorming ideas for fellowship applications, outlining, or editing, you should touch your writing every day.
Elizabeth Stahmer, the Director of the Social and Behavioral Research Institute, has worked on applications for funding from multiple organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the State of Arizona, and dozens of private foundations.
In my recent interview with her, she gave numerous nuggets of excellent advice for finding and applying for funding. I share them with you below.
What do you do?
One of the lovely, and potentially challenging, elements of academia is summer. While summer often gives graduate students a change of pace, funding it can be tricky.
Many of you already have your plans solidified. For the rest of you, consider this a tap on the shoulder to begin, or to continue, thinking about how you will finance your summer.
Here are a few suggestions:
Money for graduate fellowships generally comes from the following sources:
As you search for funding, large fellowships of thousands of dollars will probably catch your attention. You should apply to the big fellowships, but also consider applying for smaller ones. Aiming for the small potatoes is worth your time for three reasons:
The more you apply for fellowships, the better you will get at it.
Smaller fellowships are usually less competitive so you are more likely to receive the award.
Finding funding is like finding a job. There is no one way to go about it and talking to people is usually your best strategy. However, an additional excellent strategy for finding funding is to sign up for funding alerts.
Yes, it is true, you can receive email alerts specially designed to fit your research interests! You can also receive funding alerts from organization that you think might be interested in your research.
You have done a lot in the past three weeks. Unless you are one of the lucky few, this has probably included managing some financial uncertainties. Hopefully you have most of your questions answered by now. But the University of Arizona is a big place and you might find that you have to run around in circles a bit before getting issues resolved.
Here are few suggestions for students trying to navigate the financial milieu of graduate school.
Last spring a student came into my office to discuss a specific funding opportunity. I found her research compelling and I looked forward to learning more about it when she sent me her essays. But when I began to read the draft of her fellowship proposal, I soon found my mind drifting to topics like snacks. I gave her comments and we are still waiting to hear the results of the competition.
As we approach the fall semester, I hope that many of you have plans to apply for funding opportunities.
However, in the busy life of graduate school, students often start to wonder if taking the time to apply for fellowships and grants is worth the effort. Graduate students are generally successful people, so after being rejected once or twice, some give up applying.
Librarians are treasure chests for graduate students. A few good tips from a librarian can provide a graduate student with just the right resources and save him or her hours of work. With this in mind, I interviewed University of Arizona librarian Jill Newby for a few tips on creating a bibliography for fellowships.
When looking for funding, do not forget to look in your own backyard. Your department and the university are one of your best prospects for funding. Also, remember you are most likely eligible for the funding available through your own Graduate and Professional Student Council. The GPSC provides the following four types of funding (the following summary and further information can be found on their website http://www.gpsc.arizona.edu/sections/funding/fundingPrograms.php):
Along with fellowship opportunities, I include some internship opportunities in the GradFunding newsletter. Internships can be invaluable for both the academic and professional life of a graduate student. For more information about internships, I contacted Jeff Patten, UA Career Services career coordinator and counselor, and Cynthia Van Driess Watson, the Assistant Director of the UA Career Services. If you are interested in an internship, their insights may be useful.
Why seek out an internship?
Few graduate students are familiar with Sponsored Projects. But if you plan on continued research, chances are that you will eventually need to know about this department. Lori Schultz, Assistant Director of UA Sponsored Projects, generously provided the following brief introduction.
What is the purpose of Sponsored Projects?
For a graduate student who is new to grant writing, or even a seasoned grant writer, an RFP (Request for Proposals) can be intimidating. Every organization arranges the document differently and the language used is often abstruse. Depending on the agency, there may not even be a single document but a scattering of information across webpages. This GradFunding article will help you navigate RFPs, in whatever their form, and get the information that you need.