Updated: Dec 6, 2018
1. Take the time to look for opportunities
Opportunities are everywhere around us, though they are not always easy to hear about or find.
For opportunities in academia, combing through university websites to identify which awards you could be eligible to apply for will take you time, but it can be worth it in the short- and long-term.
2. Learn the mission and priorities of the award
ACADEMIC AWARDS ARE AVAILABLE to you at most UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES at various stages of advancement. Academic awards may be conferred by different colleges, and adjudicated with respect to a unique set of priorities articulated by the original donor, and are often expressed as honoring the original mandate of the gift.
3. Commit to the process of applying once you start
Once you find an opportunity, then applying for a fellowship or grant requires a serious commitment to the process. Give it your best shot once you start!
Usually, becoming an awardee of a grant, fellowship or scholarship is about being able to express what you want to achieve, even though it is scary to say your goals out loud.
4. Seek guidance from a mentor and an editor
You would be ahead of the curve if you could find a mentor-editor who is committed to engaging with you one-on-one in order to help you edit your application with you (not for you). A mentor-editor is ideally someone who is able and willing to help you to articulate your goals, in addition to being an empathetic, emotionally supportive guide.
5. Learn and follow all the steps of how to apply
WELCOME TO THE PROCESS of putting forward a professional application, and yourself, in consideration for an available grant, scholarship, award, or fellowship in Higher Education.
Candidates for major grants, scholarship and fellowship awards are often evaluated initially through their presenting a written Letter of Interest (LOI) by a certain deadline. If your LOI passes muster, they will welcome your Letter of Application (LOA).
Both your LOI and LOA will describe a research project you wish to undertake, a challenge you wish to address, or an idea you aim to explore further. Your proposal must show a feasible “PROPOSAL” or “PLAN OF WORK.”
6. Write the details into your proposal, don't hide them
Your PROPOSAL will often need to include your developing a sensible BUDGET that indicates clearly the specific RESOURCES you need and the extent of support (FUNDING) that you require to complete this research project.
Your application must state clearly HOW IMPORTANT to a segment of SOCIETY your project promises to become, and WHY YOU are the IDEAL CANDIDATE to carry out this particular research project at this specific time.
Be clear about the scope, aims and method of your project. Especially important is defining the scope: Who do you think will be the person/s or community/ies to ultimately benefit from the research you will conduct? Who will benefit beyond you, the stated recipient?
7. Use everyday language
It must be written in extremely concise language that reads convincingly. The rationale you offer should be airtight and specific, and written in plain language without jargon if possible. Why? It needs to be read and understood by scholars from different fields who specialize in a diversity of academic sub-disciplines—which is how Selection Committees are often designed.
8. Mine your own proposal for the next opportunity
Almost as important as applying for one opportunity, is knowing that the process of articulating in written form your goals and funding needs could be utilized on the subsequent proposal for the next opportunity.
9. Know the secret to writing an application that gets placed in the "To be Considered" file
Finally, it’s time to let the truth shine forth (as opposed to letting a cat out of a bag – no cat should ever be left inside a bag, by the way).
What funding agencies chiefly want to know is this: What will achieving your goals look like for the others whom you state in your proposal it will benefit? That is what they need to hear about from you.
How you are going become a changemaker in your community, locally, and in the world?
A mentor can help you to figure out where your story has a trajectory that gels with priorities. But be honest and forthcoming. If you hope to change the way people practice a daily routine that does harm to others, state it.
10. Seek a guide with experiences of success and failure
Let me share with you something that is important for everyone to learn: it is okay to feel overwhelmed at first. If you're feeling anxious because of the process itself seems daunting, that's because it probably is.
I have worked with student mentees, assisting them to achieve some of the leading opportunities offered in USA, Canada, and internationally, including: internships, paid full-time positions, grants, scholarships, and Fulbrights fellowships. Curiously, many young people are too shy to ask for help for a host of reasons. Many don't because they feel they do not deserve it. Don't sell yourself short! Though it is true that usually I identified my student’s potential and suggested they apply.
To support my own research, I have written many proposals and applications. Sometimes I have been awarded on the first proposal submission, but not always. When my proposal turned out to be successful, I believe it was because (1) I had the help of a mentor and (2) I had invested a great amount of time to research carefully and understand specifically how the mission of the granting agency and my own priorities aligned.
At the national level, I applied for and was awarded a SSHRC Doctoral Research Fellowship, from the Canadian government's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, a Trudeau Fellowship from the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation, and a Canada Council for the Arts Grant. At the international level I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship (UK), and a Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute Research Fellowship (India).
Sometimes you can get lucky through working very hard at something you love. My eyes opened up to the possibility of these kinds of academic awards when I completed my undergraduate degree and was surprised to be awarded an Alumni Award for Academic Excellence (value $500.00) from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music.
11. Find a mentor who is willing to take action
To me, mentoring is not only about encouragement, support, and trust-building, it is about actions that benefit a mentee in the short- and long-term. From preparing for job interviews, to crafting a new CV or resume, to representing your skills and dreams in a research proposal, the first impression you make is as important as the last.
I provide consultative mentoring as well as editing support through https://www.mentoring2success.com. I offer proofreading, copyediting, and granular deep editing. Contact me to discuss your needs at firstname.lastname@example.org and how I can help you through your application process. Find me on my YouTube channel and other social media.
Jeffrey W. Cupchik PhD is the founder and director of mentoring 2 success.