External Fellowship Application Guidance
Proposal Application Sequence
- Fill out the RFP checklist and locate an opportunity that you wish to apply for.
- Complete Letter of Recommendation Information Sheet, and ask your references to write letters.
- Compile your application materials and write the first draft of your essays.
- Contact OSP and the department financial representative to let them know of your grant application plans.
- Submit the first draft of your essays and the RFP information sheet to your major professor.
- Incorporate your major professor edits into your draft essays.
- Email edited draft essays, plus your RFP information sheet to the Fellowship Support Program Coordinator.
- Incorporate the review panel edits into your draft essay.
- Submit your application.
- Thank your supporters.
Opportunities may be found in the following ways:
- Using the PIVOT or Foundation Directory databases
- Guidance from Major Professor, Committee or other sources
- Gathering information from Select Opportunities or lists of Research Funding
- Personal networking
A RFP Checklist should be completed for the opportunity you are interested in. This will assist in determining if an opportunity is consistent with what your needs may be.
A Letter of Recommendation (LOR) Information Sheet should be completed for each reference. This document will assist them in writing a strong letter of recommendation for you. This resource provides a way for you to recommend focus areas for the letter and relay any opportunity specific instructions or information regarding submission of the LOR.
Each opportunity is unique in requirements for application materials. Plan to compile your application materials and begin writing your essay(s) early. Some opportunities will require GRE scores and/or official transcripts which may require ample transit time.
A common list of these materials may include:
- UI Official Transcripts
- GRE Scores
- Featured Fellowship forms (ie. Ford Fellowship VD form)
- Other documents as required by the opportunity
"Read it out loud - does it flow? Go to bed and wake up and read it out loud again. Does it still make sense?"
— Mary Engels, Ph.D. Student, Water Resources
Once you have gathered the materials, you may need to register for an online submission login at various websites. It is recommended you familiarize yourself with these sites to avoid delays in navigating their user interface.
The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) and your department financial representative must be notified of your proposal application plans. This will enable them to prepare for a funding transfer mechanism in the event you get awarded.
When you have a Major Professor, they must review and suggest edits to your documents before they can be submitted to the partnering review panels.
The documents to send your Major Professor include:
- RFP Information Sheet
- Other documents as required by the opportunity entity
Once you receive the suggestions and edits from your Major Professor (MP), incorporate them into your documents. This must be done before submitting them to the Fellowship Support Program Coordinator (FSPC). In the event you do not have a MP, inform the FSPC and a volunteer reviewer will assist you in suggesting edits.
Submit your documents to be reviewed by the department specific panel to the Fellowship Support Program Coordinator, Brenda Hanley (firstname.lastname@example.org), who will disseminate your materials on your behalf.
Documents to submit include:
- RFP Information Sheet
You must submit the RFP information sheet along with your essay(s). This way reviewers can focus their improvements on your essay toward the opportunity that you have selected. Expect to receive feedback directly emailed from the review panel (this may be more than one partnering reviewer) to you.
Visit our Review Panels Web page for details.
Once you receive the partnering review panel edits, incorporate them into your essay(s).
It is imperative that you follow the specific directions provided by the opportunity entity.Notes:
- When the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) is required to be the submitter, submit all required documents to OSP at least one week before the deadline.
- When submitting electronically, double check the formatting to ensure the proper formatting has been maintained after upload.
- When progress tracking is available through the submission site, make note and return to the site periodically to verify progression is taking place.
Award Winners' Tips
Remember to do your school work
- But you need to apply, even if you already feel busy.
- However, respect the wishes of your Major Professor. You are going to need their full support.
RFPs are CRUCIAL
- Print out every RFP and highlight the important information.
- Follow the RFP to a tee. Even use the same terminology for the headings.
- If the supplemental documents of the opportunity are massive, at the very least read the executive summaries of everything that has been linked to the RFP.
Tailor your application to the specific funding opportunity
- Read the mission statement of the opportunity, and highlight areas in your experience or proposed research that show you are a good candidate to help them meet their goals. Make it clear why you fit in with the funding source, and why the funding source should be interested in your work.
- Make sure that CV material is relevant, and contains the information that they ask for, even if it is thin. Ignoring or omitting a request is a terminal mistake.
- Tailoring an application to a specific opportunity takes time and attention to detail.
Don’t assume, ask questions instead
- If you are unsure about program expectations, email the program managers and ask them to clarify.
- If you are applying to a multi field opportunity, and your application falls between scientific fields, contact the program director and ask them which field your application should be submitted to. Do this early so that you will know which deadline applies.
- Designate your Major Professor, know your research question, methods, and strategy before you start to apply. If you already have all of this sorted out, the application will take very little time.
- There are many of funding opportunities early in your grad career, and many funding opportunities late in your grad career, but very few in between. Be strategic.
- Practice professional courtesy at all times. This means that if you ask another party to assist you, you must give them enough time to adequately do so.
- Apply without counting on the money.
- Try to view this as professional development, where the journey is just as important as the end goal.
- Accept that you will be doing 95% of the application process by yourself, and only 5% with help from others.
- Roll with the punches, even if unexpected situations occur in an otherwise perfectly planned endeavor.
- Have fun with this. You might open doors for yourself and for your future career.
- Uphold a professional communication style with all people, always.
- Reviewers probably Google you. Your future employers probably will too. Make sure your internet profile is professional. Choices in your personal life can have an impact on your professional life.
- Proposal essay content and organization is crucial.
- Answer all the questions and address all the topics requested by the opportunity, even if you don’t have much to say.
- First paragraph has to be the strongest. Captivate them.
- Find an older example application for help with essay structure and tone.
- Or write something different. Be ambitious.
- Be bold. Talk about yourself. Tell them what you overcame to get to where you are. Give them confidence that you have a strong spirit to see this process through, despite challenges that may lay ahead.
- Your proposal needs punch, needs to be solid, and needs to lack fluff.
- Read it out loud – does it flow? Go to bed and wake up and read it out loud again. Does it still make sense?
- Engender excitement. Convince your readers to fund you.
- Not all reviewers are going to be experts. Make sure there is a balance between technical detail and explanation. Don’t use technical jargon if you don’t have to.
- Use foundational citations only. There is limited space, and citations are generally included in that space.
- If you have them, add preliminary results. Show that you have already started this research.
- Make your research actually achievable. The reviewers want something that will actually come to fruition in the near future.
- State why the lab or university you have chosen is a good place to accomplish your research goals. Highlight resources that you will have available to you that can help you achieve your goals.
Asking for Letters of Recommendation
- Provide professors with:
- Weeks of lead time,
- Your CV, modified to fit this opportunity,
- Information regarding the specific opportunity, including a synopsis of the opportunity, and how your research aligns with it,
- An aspect of your research to focus on,
- All letter submitting procedures details, no matter how small. In other words, make their jobs easy.
- Your major professor should be one of your references. However, for the others, select faculty that are familiar with your research, or with your potential to contribute to your field.
- It is better to have a strong letter written by someone who knows you with fewer credentials than it is to have a bland or weak letter written by someone who does not know you but has strong credentials. This is letter should be about you, not them.
- It might be easier for the same person to create a letter of recommendation for you many times. But exercise courtesy in how many times you ask a single person to assist.
- Brace yourself to get your first rough draft ripped apart by reviewers.
- Be receptive to reviews. They exist to make your work better.
- Regardless if you are awarded, the reviewer feedback can help you develop your research. They might think of a method or solution that you hadn’t thought of.
- You can get 3 excellent reviews and 2 very good reviews, and still not win. It all depends on who you are competing against.
- If you know who your reviewers are, thank them, regardless of the outcome.
- Let your reviewers know if you win. They will be happy to hear the news.
- Plan ahead and submit your application early.
- If you are applying to numerous federal grants, get to know Fastlane inside and out. This will help you troubleshoot uploading issues, submission processes, anything that could throw a wrench into the mix near the crucial finish line. This will also help you down the road.
- Upload your application ahead of time and check margins, spacing, graphics, etc. Formatting is an awful reason for disqualification of an application.
- If the RFP states that OSP must submit the application, plan ahead even further. Make sure OSP has enough time to help you.
- You are responsible that your application is complete, even if numerous people have to come together on your behalf to make it so. Numerous granting agencies have ways for applicants to check that all the materials are in by the deadline. Track your application progress.
- Follow up the award decisions. The agencies or organizations are not going to necessarily contact you, and some awarding agencies place limits on the timelines in which you can accept.
- When you accept a grant, cc. OSP so that they know that you might be needing assistance.
- Beware that some awards cannot be deferred, and some do not allow you to concurrently take other sources of funding, or other jobs, or a combination of any of these.
- Do not sign anything on behalf of the University of Idaho. Contact OSP and they will sign on behalf of the University.
- Be aware that some fellowship and grant money is viewed as federal and state taxable income, and that you might be legally responsible for paying estimated tax payments on this income.
- AARP provides free tax help at the 1912 Center in Moscow.
- Taxes are specific to each opportunity, so proactively investigate this financial situation. You will be just as busy next semester come tax time.
- In general, funding yields more funding.
- Awarding organizations like to see that other organizations have vetted your work, either through previous scholarships, awards, publications, leadership roles, conferences, posters, etc. Procuring funding early in your career provides another avenue of confidence to panel reviewing applications later in your career.
- Once you get a fellowship, the same agency or organization may contact you for a post doc opportunity, or you may become eligible for other fellowships. Apply for these — you are likely to receive them, because the pool of applicants is much smaller.
Additional Materials that Strengthen Any Application
- If you are an undergraduate, participate in research, accumulate lab experience, participate in publications, strive for leadership roles, ask for more responsibility, volunteer (etc.).
- Publish! Publish! Publish!
- Get involved with student organizations in your department, college, university or community.
- Get involved with GPSA.
- Get involved with the professional associations in your field.
- Build your CV in every relevant way you can think of.
— Special thanks to UI previous award winners Mason Linscott, Mary Engels, Andrea Melchiorre and Kristen Petersen.