Writing applications for nationally competitive grants and fellowships is an intensive and time-consuming process. It's also a great way to hone your articulation of your project, clarify the significance of your work, and develop your grantwriting skills. While there's no way to make the process easy, there are a number of strategies for the making the process easier and for maximizing your chances of success.
Create a Plan
Taking some time to outline your plan for drafting your grant or fellowship application can help to ensure that you are ready to submit the strongest possible application when the deadline rolls around. While it is important to start drafting your materials early, it's even more important to have a plan for how you're going to get from the first draft to the final application, particularly if you need to do so in the midst of all of your other responsibilities. Sketch out a plan for everything you need to do between now and the due date, including completing multiple drafts, getting feedback from multiple people, and coordinating all supplementary materials including things like requesting letters of recommendation or developing a budget. Figure out the order that everything needs to be done in and start getting deadlines on your calendar as soon as possible.
Research the Funder
It's important to spend some time researching the funder and the application process. What are the priorities of the funding organization? What are they seeking to accomplish with the grant or fellowship that they are offering? Understanding their priorities and values can help ensure that you demonstrate alignment between your project and the funders interests. Similarly researching the evaluation criteria for the fellowship as well as the pool of reviewers can help you to ensure that your application will not only be clear and comprehensible to the people evaluating it, but also that it will score as highly as possible.
Look at Examples
It can be incredibly helpful to take a look at example materials that others have submitted for the same or similar funding opportunities. The Grad Success Center has a library of donated materials from other UI students that you can look through to understand how others have approached writing their applications. In looking at these materials, it's often especially helpful to focus on structure and organization, how the applicant responded to the prompt(s), and how the applicant frames the interventions and implications of their work. While all aspects of the application are important, these are generally the ones that writers tend to struggle with the most and the place where models can be the most helpful.
Getting feedback from others is one of the most important parts of the process. In general, the more rounds of feedback and revision that you go through, the stronger your application is likely to be. It's often helpful to get feedback from people both inside and outside of your discipline to get an understanding of how a range of reviewers read and understand your materials and to ensure that they are both readily comprehensible and clearly reflect the scholarship in your discipline. Advisors, faculty in your department, and even other grad students in your program can all be great disciplinary reviewers. For outside perspectives, our office offers supplementary support in the form of individual feedback consultations. There are also a number of other fellowships advisors on campus who can provide additional feedback or guidance depending on your discipline or program. Getting feedback from a variety of sources is such an important part of the process and of honing your grantwriting skills that the Graduate College offers an incentive for students who submit a nationally competitive grant or fellowship after receiving feedback from both a faculty mentor and fellowships advisor.
Writing a nationally competitive fellowship or grant application can be a long and complex process, but there are a number of resources here on campus to help you through the process and ensure that you submit the strongest possible materials. And remember, the first step to winning is deciding to apply.
Schedule a Consultation
Book a Grad Success appointment to discuss finding or applying for a nationally competitive grant or fellowship opportunity