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Finding Funding

I came across a scholarship that seemed like the perfect opportunity for me… until I found out the deadline was two weeks ago. How is it possible to find these types of awards at the right time? —Anonymous

(This week’s answer is courtesy of Michelle Drapek, Counseling Services Coordinator, UW Graduate School Office of Fellowships and Awards)

Nationally (and internationally) competitive awards can be a bit tricky to fit into plans for funding your graduate education, but the key is to plan ahead. Most fellowship competitions have deadlines six to 12 months prior to their award dates, so you should typically expect to be applying for opportunities the academic year before the funds are actually needed.

The good news is, most national fellowship competitions follow similar timelines for application deadlines and award notification — expect to see most deadlines fall sometime between September and late November. The Graduate School offers a number of fellowship opportunities exclusively to UW graduate students each year, and most of the deadlines occur throughout the winter quarter.

So how do you find these opportunities? In addition to UW-only fellowships, The Graduate School’s list of fellowships also includes popular nationally competitive funding opportunities that are relevant to a number of disciplines. If you haven’t done so already, we also encourage you to subscribe to the Graduate Funding Information Service (GFIS) blog, which regularly advertises national/international and on-campus funding opportunities. The GFIS website provides helpful guidelines for navigating a number of larger funding databases to which you have access through your UW net ID. Keep on the lookout for emails from your department’s Graduate Program Advisor that may also advertise discipline-specific scholarships. Successful awardees suggest staying organized and tracking deadlines by through an Excel document or similar mechanism.

How much time do you need? Preparing fellowship applications may take anywhere from one to three months, or longer. In some cases, if you’re planning to travel overseas, you may need time to establish a host affiliation in your destination. If letters of recommendation are required (and they usually are), you will want to make requests to letter writers at least three weeks in advance. Recommenders can write most effective letters when given sufficient time and information about selection criteria and your particular proposal, so even planning to have a rough draft available by the time you make an ask can be helpful. If there’s an on-campus process, make sure your letter writers know to submit by the earlier deadline.

All in all, especially for awards with autumn deadlines, it’s helpful to start thinking about your proposal as early as spring quarter, and highly recommended that you plan for the bulk of your work on the application to happen in the summer. Remember that everything happens more slowly in the summer (people are traveling, away from email, etc.), so it may take more time to get in touch. Fellowships and Awards offers advising services all year long, including during academic breaks, and can provide support with most nationally competitive opportunities.

Last bit of advice we’d like to impart? Apply for as many opportunities as you can find that are a good fit and for which you’re able to put together a solid application package! You never know where you’ll be successful, and you can deal with what to do if awarded from more than one funding agency once the situation arises.

Ask the Grad School Guru is an advice column for all y’all graduate and professional students. Real questions from real students, answered by real people. If the guru doesn’t know the answer, the guru will seek out experts all across campus to address the issue. (Please note: The guru is not a medical doctor, therapist, lawyer or academic advisor, and all advice offered here is for informational purposes only.) Submit a question for the column →