Applying for Grants
Each grant you receive provides you with an important line for your CV or resume (not to mention the crucial added bonus of helping with the high cost of living in New York or doing research elsewhere).
Internal funding opportunities at CUNY include competitive doctoral dissertation fellowships and awards from the Provost’s Office, conference support from the Office of Student Affairs, professional development grants from the PSC-CUNY, event funding from the Doctoral Students’ Council, and various research grants from the Advanced Research Collaborative and other offices. External funding—whether from government agencies, private industry, and nonprofits—is frequently more competitive, and thus sometimes even more impressive on a CV. Even small external grants, such as travel funds from libraries, can be worth investigating, as winning them demonstrates to hiring and other larger fellowship-granting committees your ability to successfully apply for funding.
Finding Grant and Fellowship Opportunities
Three GC sites are particularly helpful resources in helping you locate grants and fellowships to apply for:
- The Graduate Center library maintains an online list of grant databases (e.g., the Foundation Center database), which can be accessed by GC affiliates.
- The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs website also provides information on funding opportunities, including internal CUNY awards.
- The Graduate Center Digital Fellows program has put together a website showcasing GC funding opportunities.
Many programs also maintain student listservs and manage bulletin boards in the students lounges, where information about funding opportunities can be shared. Faculty members, especially your adviser, should also be able to recommend potential grants. Make sure to stay in the loop.
Working with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs
The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) manages GC applications for, and awards of, governmental and foundation funding. The office, located in room 8309, also provides students with assistance on grant proposal preparation and submission. Many external grant applications must be processed through this office, particularly ones that are submitted online through Grants.gov (the federal government’s online application system), the Electronic Research Administration (for the National Institutes of Health and grantor agencies), or FastLane (for the National Science Foundation).
For assistance with interpreting guidelines and developing your proposal and budget, send an email to email@example.com with NEW PROPOSAL in the subject heading, and include a description of the project and identify the prospective funder.
The steps to preparing a grant proposal below are from the office’s website. Again, make sure to start planning early! You must submit your proposal to the office a minimum of two weeks before the funding agency’s deadline.
- Find funding opportunities
- Read funding opportunity guidelines
- Inform RSP staff with a NEW PROPOSAL email
- For federal grants, get registered
- Write a proposal
- Confer with RSP on your budget
- Get GC Proposal Coversheet signatures
- Submit proposal to RSP office
- Schedule to meet with Hilry Fisher (firstname.lastname@example.org) to submit grant
Writing a Grant Proposal
Both the GC library and Office of Research Programs websites offer excellent advice and resources on preparing a grant proposal, but there are a few general tips that bear repeating.
1. Apply early & apply often
It’s crucial that you begin searching and applying for grants as soon as you can, and begin preparing applications long before the deadlines approach. Not only can it take months to research and write an application and, if necessary, obtain letters of recommendation and work with the GC Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, application deadlines can be up to ten months before the actual award itself is implemented.
It’s also important not to count on just one or two applications. Many grants are quite competitive, and some students can get discouraged if their first applications are rejected. Your odds increase, however, with each application you send in—and as you get more skilled and experienced at preparing proposals. Some programs (like the Fulbright Program) do have limits on what type of other major awards you can accept concurrently, but it’s nice to have options.
2. Read the grant description and eligibility requirements closely, and tailor your application
If descriptions are unclear and you’re not sure if your research fits the criteria, don’t feel shy about calling the agency for clarification, and be sure to check the website to see if a list of previous awardees and their research topics are available. International students and permanent residents should also carefully examine the citizenship requirements (the federal government, for instance, is inconsistent about excluding non-citizen permanent residents).
Keep the funding agency’s description in mind as you’re writing proposals, and tailor your applications to meet their criteria by borrowing the agency’s own terminology. You’ll need to indicate how your project will make a contribution, one that meets the goals and aims of the agency.
3. Follow the instructions
While this tip might seem obvious, neglecting to carefully read application directions is the biggest mistake that applicants, even senior scholars, end up making all the time. It’s best to make things as easy as possible for your reviewers to give you maximum points as they evaluate your application; for example, if the application asks for a particular section to come first or enumerates the evaluation criteria, structure your proposal in this same way.
Some agencies—especially for smaller, less competitive grants—might be willing to extend a deadline by a week or so, especially if a faculty mentor or university administrator is willing to call and inquire for you. Other agencies have strict deadlines, and applications will be automatically thrown out if all documents are not received by the cut-off date.
4. Be clear
Avoid using too much jargon, as reviewers might not be from your specific field, and write as clearly and concisely as possible. The reviewers should also get a clear sense of your methodology and plan of action (e.g., you might need to include archive locations, a detailed budget, and/or timeframe).
- “Dr. Karen’s Foolproof Grant Template” from The Professor Is In
- “Grant-Writing Tips for Graduate Students” by Lisa Patrick Bentley in The Chronicle of Higher Education
- “PhD Students: Writing an NSF Application” by University of Chicago Professor Chris Blattman—advice is targeted specifically to NSF grant-seekers, but many of his tips are more universal