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Final Thoughts on Getting That Grant!

A round-up of GradHackers' advice at the end of Grant-Writing Week.

September 25, 2014

This week, GradHacker has put forth some great grant-writing articles from Lesley, Hanna, Michelle, Erin, and Justin. These ranged from NSF applications to the Fulbright and are full of useful information. Sometimes though, the best advice on grant writing transcends the specific application and becomes more broadly applicable. Below, some of our authors share their best advice for successfully completing a grant application in graduate school:

Katie Shives (NRSA F31): Know submission deadlines for campus offices. When compiling a grant for submission to major federal organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, there is a good chance that you have to submit through some version of a grants and contracts office on your own campus. Be warned, these people often have different (and earlier!) deadlines than the actual application guidelines on the award information page state. Be sure to check with any campus offices that you have all of their submission dates well in advance. Nothing would be worse than losing all of that work due to an obscure deadline!

Lesley McCollum (NRSA F31/NSF): Enlist the help of others. Talk to students who have received the grant and ask for a copy of their application. Seeing the content and formatting of a funded application can spark ideas for your own. Find out if there is a scholarships office at your university that can help with proposal preparation. Discuss your experimental design with your mentor or members of your thesis committee. And find someone who likes you well enough to agree to read your application. A fresh pair of eyes can find obscure jargon you may have missed or typos that you gloss over from staring at the words for too long.

Hanna Peacock (NSERC): You are rejected from 100% of the grants/scholarships/fellowships you don’t apply for. Even if you think that your publication list is too short, or your grades from undergrad aren’t good enough, still apply for anything you are eligible for. Ignore the fact that the “Golden Child” from the next lab over is also applying and focus on your application. Just as a committee’s decision to reject an application can be mystifying, their reasons for offering the award can be equally opaque. Take the time to craft a well thought-out and clearly written application to give yourself the best chance of impressing your reviewers. Because you never know ...

Michelle Lavery (NSERC/NSF): Don’t let lack of success stop you. Despite my incredibly wise advice this week, I’ve never held an NSERC award (much less an NSF grant—I’m Canadian). That being said, I keep coming back for more pain and rejection every year and, in the meantime, I apply for every other grant I can find. Contrary to how it may feel, you aren’t losing anything by applying for a grant that you don’t receive. If anything, treat it as practice; the more you apply, the more refined your applications will get. I always tell myself that a “runner-up” credit is better than no credit on my CV ... As long as you are doing worthwhile and rigorous research, it will eventually be recognized in some form or another. My mother always says that “persistence is the stubborn mother of success.”

Justin Dunnavant (Fulbright/Ford Foundation/NEH): Save all edits and cuts from your grant proposal in a separate document. Grants have different mission statements and only allow a finite amount of space for the personal statement and/or statement of grant purposes. In that case, it’s a good idea to save any sections that you may cut from an essay, as you never know when you can use them in another grant proposal.

Notice something about this advice? None of it has to do with a specific field or grant application, but how we approach the application process itself. Putting together a grant application will challenge your abilities as a scholar and is a great experience to have during graduate school, whether or not you are pursuing a tenure-track position after graduation. So don’t be intimidated, and go for that grant!

Share your experience with grant applications in graduate school in the comments section below!

[Image courtesy of Flickr user josephleenovak, used under Creative Commons permissions]


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