Bird’s Eye View – A Timeline for Applying for Funding

Because research funding is cyclical, it’s good to be thinking in advance, often far in advance, about what your next funding move should be. This post is an overview of the funding process. Our blog has more in-depth discussions of many of these topics, so feel free to click through as you go along.

Stage One: First steps 


  • Assess what you will need to do the project (skills, language training, access, contacts, data, preliminary work, etc.) and what you need to do to acquire these skills and resources. Develop a plan for putting these resources in place in time for your funding applications.
  • Cultivate the skills and expertise that you need to do the work, and build a scholarly track record as a researcher. Do your CV and transcript demonstrate that you are making wise choices to help cultivate your expertise?
  • Recognize that the skills needed for different projects will likely evolve over the course of your career, whether it’s language skills, coding skills, interview skills, etc.


  • Schedule regular meetings with your advisor.
    • Are you making good and timely progress through your degree requirements?
    • Ask for help developing a preliminary list of literature to support your research.
    • How is your research question and project developing?
    • Are you building your research network and skills to do your project?
    • Are you encountering any problems?
    • What will your problem-solving solutions be?
    • Is there any need to re-adjust the course at this point?
    • Schedule pre-application meetings with a GradFund Fellowship Advisor to learn about potential funding options.
    • Meet with your graduate program director. Learn what impact applying for external funding will have on your existing funding.

Stage Two: Networking and Project Development

  • Look for small or preliminary research grants that you can apply for in the near future to support a pilot study and help you begin to build a good funding track record.
  • As you narrow down your funding options, begin to understand the funders, why they exist and what goals they seek to accomplish.
  • Speak with the program officers. Learn as much as you can about the application and review process by asking the program officer a series of questions such as:

▪ What are the goals of this funding program? ▪ How competitive is this program? What percentage of applications are funded? ▪ What are you looking for in a competitive application? ▪ What does your review process like? ▪ Will an expert in my field, another field, or multiple fields review the proposal? ▪ When will you notify applicants of the results? ▪ If I win a grant or fellowship, how soon can I use the money? ▪ May I hold more than one grant or fellowship with your award?

Stage Three: Preparing the Application

Begin to write drafts of the proposal. Give yourself enough time to make sure you can get a few rounds of feedback from GradFund Fellowship Advisors, your faculty advisor, and other colleagues and graduate students. As you draft, consider:

  • Why is your research is important or novel? Why your work is significant?
  • How is it in conversation with the literature of your field?
  • Are your research methods well formulated and clear?

Supporting documentation:

  • Learn which documents are necessary for this proposal. If your application requires a CV or personal statement, begin to draft the document, keeping in mind the funder’s goals and their profile of a successful applicant.
  • Identify your recommendation letter writers and schedule appointments them. If they raise any concerns, discuss those and develop a plan for solving problems and how to keep on track to apply for funding.
  • If your proposal requires one, begin to work on your budget. Keep in mind that there should be continuity between your proposal narrative and your budget.

Stage Four: Prepare for Submission

  • Make sure you have prepared all of the pieces of the application requested in the solicitation.
  • Should the application be mailed, submitted online, or emailed?
  • Applications often have short answer questions on the online system, so make sure you access the application itself well in advance of the deadline so you have a chance to get feedback on all the components of the application.
  • Will the application be submitted by you or by the university? If the application will be submitted by the university, contact the Rutgers Office of Sponsored Research (ORSP) (or whomever is in charge of submitting it) at least one month before the deadline!
  • Go through one final edit to make sure the writing comes across as polished as possible, enlisting the help of colleagues, friends, and family for fresh eyes.

Stage Five: Submit the Application!

Unless your program limits the number of times you can apply, submitting a less-than-perfect application can yield valuable reviewer comments that help to shape future submissions, or can even result in an unexpected win. Therefore, even if you’re nervous about the state of the application, it’s important to submit anyway!

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