Applying for a fellowship can be a solitary experience. Here are some tools to make the process less so.
We have been doing some remodeling (latest update: 5/17/23). Many grant-writing materials have been moved to a separate page. We have added a new tab for current undergraduates considering grad school and added more opportunities for international students.
- Imagine the reader as you write. I’ve always liked to picture the reader as a friendly, well-educated aunt — she hasn’t seen you in a while, and doesn’t know exactly what you do, but she’s interested.
- Find the right mix of facts and stories. [Funding agencies] vary in what they seek in terms of the right mix of vignettes and numbers.
- It’s not just a grant, it’s an investment. [Funders] have limited resources, and want to show … the larger community that they’ve put their money where it will make a difference….
(From Carlson and O’Neal-McElrath, Winning Grants Step by Step, 3rd ed. Jossey-Bass, 2008, pp. 7-8.)Exec. Dir., Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky|
I aspire to become a faculty member/researcher/alt-ac professional. What funding is available to me? Heading link
While creating the next generation of college and university professors is not the only goal for Chicago’s public research university, it is a longstanding goal.
Below is a curated list of funding opportunities for someone wishing to stand on the shoulders of their college and university mentors.
I am still an undergraduate
As you ponder graduate school, whether STEM or humanities, you might want to be maximize your waning undergraduate days by doing a deep dive. A positive experience may shape your future; a not-so-positive or “meh” experience may help you to strikethrough a potential career trajectory.
The old man in me has one response: “Get a job!” It’s true. A school-year and/or summer job pays the bills but it can also deepen relationships outside of the classroom, strengthen your work ethic, open your eyes to previously unforeseen careers, and/or reinforce your desire to finish your degree in order to do something else.
There are other options. A summer internship or language immersion experience could prove beneficial in the short- and long-term.
- National labs (like Argonne and Fermi) often have internship and fellowship opportunities. Fermilab’s Summer Internships in Science & Technology (SIST) program offers undergraduate sophomores and juniors majoring in physics, engineering (mechanical, electrical and computer), materials science, mathematics, and computer science the opportunity to conduct research with Fermilab scientists and engineers. The 12-week paid internship consists of a work assignment, an academic lecture series and a final report presented orally to Fermilab staff and submitted to the laboratory in writing. There are no grades or quizzes. Deadline: January.
- Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) connects the most talented and diverse college students, recent graduates, postdocs, and faculty to STEM internship and fellowship programs closely aligned with the interests of a variety of research facilities, including those managed for the U.S. Department of Energy and more than a dozen other federal agencies. These STEM internship and fellowship programs are key to the recruitment and preparation of the next generation of our nation’s scientific workforce.
- The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex. We are a community of learning and the opener of doors. SI internships are workplace-based guided learning opportunities that provide participants with hands-on experience in a wide range of fields, from history to STEM education to CS.
- Many universities have a Summer Research Opportunities Program. These are paid, summer-long research endeavors. UIC has both an SROP and a post-baccalaureate research education program (PREP).
- The National Endowment for the Arts and many museums offer internships.
- Currently, the Critical Language Scholarship program offers a virtual language experience in one of three languages and an in-person, in-country immersion in one of fourteen languages. One CLS summer should equate to one year of regular study.
- The Boren Scholarship permits 8 to 52 weeks of language immersion throughout the world. There are both “plug-in” structures and the opportunity to “build your own adventure.”
- The Fulbright US Student Program is the flagship cultural exchange program. You could be an English language teaching assistant in one of ~75 countries, or you could study or do your own research in one of ~140 countries. You cannot apply before your senior year of college.
I am currently applying to UIC. Which funding sources should I consider?
As you are applying to UIC, you might consider:
- The Graduate College’s recruitment fellowships. The Access to Excellence Fellowship seeks to increase the number of students from historically underrepresented groups in graduate education who wish to enter careers as researchers and college faculty. The University Fellowship simply seeks to recruit outstanding students regardless of background. The Pipeline to an Inclusive Faculty Program is for the crème de la crème of our future faculty. (Deadlines are circa February 1 for fellowships to start in August of the same year.)
- The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind and it has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines as well as STEM education who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Undergraduate seniors and bachelor’s degree holders may apply before enrolling in a degree-granting graduate program. Graduate students enrolled in a degree-granting graduate program are limited to only one application to the GRFP, submitted in the first year or at the beginning of the second year of their degree program. The competition opens circa August 1st and closes mid-October.
- *NEW* The NSF CSGrad4US Fellowship program selects, recognizes, and financially supports early-career individuals with the demonstrated potential to be high-achieving computer and information science engineering (CISE) researchers and innovators; and it broadens participation among groups underrepresented in CISE disciplines. June deadline.
- The Ford Foundation’s Predoctoral Fellowship is for individuals who, in the judgment of the review panels, have demonstrated superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level in the U.S., show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students. Applications are due in December for funding to start the following August. This program is winding down with 2024 slated to be the last competition.
- *NEW* With the William D. Clarke, Sr. Diplomatic Security (Clarke DS) Fellowship you will embark on a career path that will take you around the world, providing protection to U.S. personnel, facilities, and information, while supporting diplomacy. Funded by the U.S. Department of State, this two-year graduate fellowship is designed for individuals who want to pursue a master’s degree and a career as a Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Special Agent in the Foreign Service.
- Leakey Foundation, Franklin Mosher Baldwin Memorial Fellowships are intended for students with citizenship in a country where there are limited opportunities for advanced training and education in fields of research related to human origins. This program makes it possible for scholars to pursue education or training from an institution outside of their home country (MA or PhD). Max. two years of support, $15,000 per year.
- Asian Cultural Council (ACC) Graduate Scholarship. ACC gives scholarships to students who have been admitted to a graduate degree program in the U.S. in an eligible field [mostly in the arts]. This funding may be used for travel and living expenses, but it will not be sufficient to cover full tuition costs. Applicants who have not yet received an admissions offer are welcome to apply, but ACC must receive proof of admission before funding can be awarded. Priority is given to applicants who choose to study abroad because comparable programs are not available in their home country, and to those working in fields that are underrepresented in their home country. Applicants may request up to three years of funding in their initial application.
Internal funding mechanisms
Congratulations on joining the UIC community of graduate students!
There two avenues of funding at this stage. We will call those competitions run through UIC as “internal” funding mechanisms. These consist of smaller “awards” (i.e., no tuition and fee waiver attached) as well as waiver-bearing “fellowships.”
- The Award for Graduate Research (AGR) funds travel, summer stipend, and materials/supplies. Fall and spring competitions.
- The Provost’s Graduate Research Award (PGRA) is conceived as a pilot grant or seed money for dissertation research; leverage this into an external fellowship. Fall competition.
- The Provost’s Graduate Internship Award (PGIA) incentivizes graduate students to independently identify summer internship opportunities that might lead to employment following graduation. Spring competition.
- The Access to Excellence retention fellowship (AF) seeks to increase the number of students from historically underrepresented groups in graduate education who enter careers as researchers and college faculty. One-year fellowship. Spring competition.
- The Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois Fellowship (DFI) is part of the state’s effort to diversify the faculties and professional staffs at Illinois higher education institutions. Spring competition.
- The Dean’s Scholar Fellowship (DS) is a one-year writing fellowship to help you over the finish line.
External funding options
Some of these will look familiar as you were eligible for them before you even joined UIC. This list is suggestive and not comprehensive.
- The Fulbright US Student Program provides grants to over 140 countries for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. Individuals may apply up until they have a graduated with a PhD. (September campus deadline; if interested, contact the Fellowships & Awards Coordinator. Citizenship restrictions. Info for 2023-24 competition.)
- The AHA Predoctoral Fellowship seeks to integrate research and clinical training for future scientists and physician-scientists who seek to improve global cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and brain health. (Early September deadline.) Slides.
- The USDA AFRI Predoctoral Fellowship is America’s flagship competitive grants program that provides funding for fundamental and applied research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. (September deadline.)
- The Presidential Management Fellows Program is the federal government’s flagship leadership development program for advanced degree holders across all academic disciplines to develop a cadre of future government leaders from all segments of society. A two-year, full-time, paid fellowship at a Federal agency. The initial appointment is at the GS-9, 11, or 12 (or equivalent) with possible promotion to GS-13 by the fellowship’s end. (September deadline.)
- The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Undergraduate seniors and bachelor’s degree holders may apply before enrolling in a degree-granting graduate program. Graduate students enrolled in a degree-granting graduate program are limited to only one application to the GRFP, submitted in the first year or at the beginning of the second year of their degree program. Students from STEM disciplines and STEM education are encouraged to apply. (Applications are due in October for funding to start the following August.)
- The internationally renowned Maria Goeppert Mayer Fellowship funds outstanding doctoral engineers and scientists on the brink of promising careers to work at Argonne. (October deadline.)
- The American Association of University Women funds dissertation fellowships for American and international women in science. (November deadlines.)
- Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowship is a new initiative for students who are done with coursework but who are not ABD.
- The American Educational Research Association (AERA) Minority Dissertation Fellowship in Education Research provides support for doctoral dissertation research, to advance education research by outstanding minority graduate students, and to improve the quality and diversity of university faculties. (November deadline.)
- The Institute for Citizens & Scholars (formerly Woodrow Wilson Foundation) administers the Charlotte Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for dissertators studying ethical or religious values in all fields of the humanities and social sciences, the ethical implications of foreign policy, the moral codes of other cultures, and/or the religious or ethical issues reflected in history or literature as well as the WW Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies for original and significant research about women that crosses disciplinary, regional, or cultural boundaries. (October-November deadlines.)
- Department of Energy Science Graduate Student Research (DOE SCGSR) Program funds ABD students in the areas of physics, chemistry, material sciences, biology (non-medical), mathematics, engineering, computer or computational sciences, or specific areas of environmental sciences who wish to conduct research at a DOE lab/facility (like Argonne and Fermi). (November deadline)
- Ford Foundation Fellowships are made to individuals who, in the judgment of the review panels, have demonstrated superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level in the U.S., show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students. Individuals must be engaged in graduate study in an eligible research-based leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) with a minimum of three years of study remaining in your degree. Applicants must be a US citizen, national, permanent resident, or hold DACA status. (December deadlines; if interested, contact the Fellowships & Awards Coordinator; expected to be discontinued in 2025.)
- The Predoctoral Fellowship provides three years of support; applicant must have a minimum of three years of study remaining in your degree.
- The Doctoral Fellowship provides one year of support for individuals working to complete a dissertation leading to a PhD; it is intended to support the final year of writing and defense of the dissertation.
- Margaret McNamara Education Grants fund exceptional women from developing countries, who are at least 25 years old, and enrolled at universities in the US, Canada and select universities in South Africa and Latin America. (January deadline)
- The Boren Fellowship promotes long-term linguistic and cultural immersion through overseas study ranging from 12 to 52 weeks. There are over 60 preferred languages from Akan to Gan to Zulu. Improve an existing or develop a new language to create your niche. (January campus deadline; if interested, contact the Fellowships & Awards Coordinator.)
- The Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE CSGF) funds students pursuing doctoral degrees in fields that use high-performance computing to solve complex science and engineering problems. (January deadline.)
- The Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) National Fellowship Program helps fund research in the natural sciences and promotes academic and professional careers for women in science. (January deadline.)
- The Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) – Multi-Country Research Fellowship supports advanced regional or trans-regional research in the humanities, social sciences, or allied natural sciences for U.S. doctoral candidates, and scholars who hold a PhD. Applicants are eligible to apply as individuals or in teams. (January deadline.)
- Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) Racial/Ethnic Minority Graduate Scholarship identifies and supports developing minority scholars who exemplify and give fresh voice to the SSSP history and commitment to scholar activism. (February deadline.)
- The Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) funds graduate students in doctoral programs in the fields of foreign languages and area studies who plan a teaching career in the US. (Deadlines vary; campus deadline usually in the spring; if interested, contact the Fellowships & Awards Coordinator.)
- The Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service (NSRA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31) enables promising predoctoral students to obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting dissertation research in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes and Centers. (Deadlines vary.)
- The Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service (NSRA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (F31-Diversity) helps ensure that a diverse pool of highly trained scientists is available in appropriate scientific disciplines to address the Nation’s biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs.
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Health Services Research Dissertation Program (R36) provides support to individuals who are conducting research undertaken as part of an accredited academic program to qualify for a research doctorate degree.
SSRC advice Heading link
A well-composed proposal, like a sonata, usually ends by alluding to the original theme.
Where do I look for funding? Heading link
I have talked to my mentor, director of graduate studies, and more senior colleagues. Of course, I scour the Graduate College’s offerings online and its weekly email digest. Are there more options?
Feeling “old school”? Print sources still exist! For example: Gen and Kelly Tanabe, The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2020 (Belmont, CA: SuperCollege, 2019). ISBN-13: 978-1-61760-147-7. But, perhaps I am a digital native and prefer to click a keyboard or mistype on a smart phone.
Below are some helpful links.
List of useful links for funding Heading link
Archived funding list by discipline Heading link
We often give presentations to academic programs. We are starting to make our archive available for download.
For graduate students
SPH BorenFB prez
A presentation crafted for the MS, MPH, and PHD students in public public, these mechanisms are pertinent to most US citizens seeking time abroad: https://uofi.box.com/s/jf3rh53674blvw4c5c0ukc2yjh1tny1c
- Don’t wait until the last minute.
- Follow directions.
- Know your audience.
- Be explicit and specific.
- Propose a feasible timeline and project.
- Define success (outputs, outcome, impact).
- Tell the same story in the project narrative as in the budget.
- Lay out the connections between your research questions, methodology, objectives, and impact.
- Don’t make the reviewer work hard.
- So what? You must demonstrate why should your project be funded.
Concision quote Heading link
Brevity is a bitter stimulant to pithiness.New York Times journalist and author|
- In your final drafts pay, very close attention to your prose—write in short, clear sentences and avoid your disciplinary jargon. If you must use terms that are very specific to your discipline define precisely what they mean and how your project will use them.
- Actually use the search function to look for too many unnecessary adverbs and adjectives—so for example look for overuse of words like “very”–each time you are stating that something is “very important to look at” just drop the ‘very” and tell us specifically *why* it is important.
- Most of us also fall into overuse of sentences that begin with “This” without a noun–this makes our ideas vague; so for example “This comes into conflict with…..” instead actually use a noun to tell us “what” comes into conflict with what. All these are techniques that help a proposal get more specific and forces you to keep reiterating what exactly the project is most interested in. A great deal of good proposal writing is about signposting again and again what is important to the study.
- Generally, each important term must be defined at its first use in the text. For example, if you are investigating violence, or aesthetics, or borders, be specific about what those will mean in your project. If there is a particular definition from a particular author that you find compelling then use that, cite them, and tell us why this definition will be helpful for your project.
- Do not use the term “discourse” to name everything you are looking at unless you really mean that something is discursive! And even then you must define *what* exactly makes something discursive. Use the search function for overuse of the term discourse and stop and define or think about whether what you are talking about is really discourse or something else.
- Avoid overstating how your project is the first one of its kind—someone will always be able to say that it is not! This is what in the grant-reviewing world is called a “strawman.” Just because something has not been done before does not make it important and most of us make the mistake of thinking that we are the first when we are not! Instead, locate yourself in existing intellectual arguments and tell us how you will think about these existing arguments to make a new argument or refute an existing one with your research. For example, show how your project will do something new for how we think about art, or aesthetics or war or violence, or class, etc. Applying and existing arguments to different empirical settings is not a valid intellectual justification along; instead of saying that a study of xxx, yy, or zzz has not been done in your regional site, tell us how your empirical site is likely to expand our knowledge of democracy, or artistic production or violence, or whatever it is that you are studying.
- Structure your research background/literature reviews in a way that they are not just a list of citations—but only pick those areas of scholarship that are going to be most important to help your projects and be very specific about what those ideas are and why and how you will use them in your contributions. If you cannot name an idea from a particular scholar that you will either refute or expand upon, just take them out. Effective grant writing is to show readers that you have read things that will help your thinking, not just that you have read things. Any place where you find yourself with 2-3 sentences of a list of citations stop and reconsider.
Lightly edited for concision and used with permission.Associate Professor of Anthropology, UIC|