Advice for Faculty Mentoring Working with their Graduate Student on Extramural Grant and Fellowship Applications

As a faculty mentor, you play a crucial role in the development of your student as a scholar and in writing a successful fellowship or grant application. Our graduate students have a much greater chance of success with their applications when their faculty mentors work with them throughout the process. Faculty involvement is essential in three ways ways: encouraging students to apply for extramural funding, providing feedback on the intellectual content of the proposed research and providing letters of recommendation.

Integrating Extramural Funding Applications into Graduate Study

The universal piece of advice that we offer to graduate students is to think about how to integrate applying for funding into their graduate career. This approach allows students to begin to think about grants and fellowships in a holistic way as an integral component of their overall scholarly development rather than a task that is tacked onto their endless to do list.  Applying for grants and fellowships successfully requires planning and time. Most competitions have deadlines once or twice a year. Students should plan to apply for funding the academic year before they plan to use the support and to invest time in the development of the project and application materials. Grants and fellowships, the activities they support and the windows of eligibility are typically defined by key stages of graduate study: masters, pre-dissertation, dissertation research, dissertation writing, postdoctoral research. As such, it is good to ask the student questions such as what are you working on now, what do you want to do a year from now and what is overall time line to complete your degree as you discuss with them applying for grants and fellowships. Finally, the answer to the question of what can a student apply for and when should they apply will vary from student to student and will depend on the program of study, stage of graduate study, research interests and personal background. It is not wise to advise a student to wait until they are out of package and then begin to research their extramural funding options. Rather, it is better to encourage your student early on to begin to understand their funding landscape and when it will be the best time for them to apply for funding, based on their scholarly plan and the moments when they have funding opportunities available to them. GradFund is here to help your students with this process. The GradFund KnowledgeBase is a great starting point to research grants and fellowships and a plan can be developed and clarified through a pre-application meeting with a the GradFund Fellowship Advising team.

After a student has developed a fellowship and grant application plan the next crucial step is to assist them with the proposal development process. We advise students to see proposal development as a long-term scholarly writing exercise. Time is a crucial element to crafting a successful application. A student needs time to research and develop an idea, to write about the idea and to receive feedback on their drafts. We offer proposal writing tutorials to help students learn about the proposal writing genre and to provide them with writing exercises that will facilitate proposal development.

Feedback on Proposal Drafts

A student who works with the GradFund fellowship advising team benefits from peer mentoring and guidance on best practices in proposal writing with an emphasis on structure, clarity and tone. We share with the students best practices for writing a competitive research statement, personal statement and additional support essays required by the funder. We help the student understand how to make the most compelling case that they are the best candidate for a fellowship or grant and that they have the potential to make an important, creative and innovative contribution to their field of study. Our feedback and guidance is designed to complement the work you do with your student. As you know, expert and non-expert reviewers will read most funding applications. We focus on how to present to the non-expert reader so you can focus on guiding your student on how to most effectively speak to the experts in your field.

Letters of Recommendation                                                                                                   

As you know, letters of recommendation play a crucial role in the evaluation of a fellowship or grant application. Many competitions require that the faculty advisor submit a letter on behalf of their student. As strong letter can have a tremendous, positive impact on the outcome of an application and a weak or lukewarm letter can sink an application. We encourage students to plan ahead and to talk with their faculty letter writers about their application plans and essays well in advance of the deadline. We also encourage students to have a conversation with their faculty about their work and the type of letter you will be able to write for them.

At any point while you are working with your graduate student on fellowship and grant applications, feel free to seek out GradFund support.  Whether you are seeking clarification on an application process, insights into a competition or ideas on which grants and fellowships might be the best match for your student, feel free to be in touch with us!

About Teresa M. Delcorso-Ellmann

Assistant Dean for Graduate Student External Support and Director of GradFund, Graduate School-New Brunswick, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
This entry was posted in Editing and Revision, Nuts & Bolts, Proposal Writing Advice, Seeking and Receiving Feedback. Bookmark the permalink.

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