Applying for Fellowships Benefits Early Graduate Students

Nov. 2, 2018

Putting together a fellowship application may seem intimidating, but there are many skills you get from applying for fellowships. Applying for one can help you develop necessary science writing skills, help you understand how to “sell” your project, and teach you how to implement ideas on how to use the funding.

Writing Skills

The application process for fellowships vary, but at minimum, most fellowships will require a research statement, a personal statement and transcripts.  Preparing a fellowship application can help you develop the skills of effectively communicating your science to both scientists and nonscientists and clearly stating your fellowship of interest. These are critical skills that takes time to cultivate. Science writing opportunities, especially ones that involve your own project, are limited in the first few years of graduate school, so taking the time to develop these skills can help when it comes time to write a manuscript. If your mentor is willing to help, it also gives you a chance to see how he or she writes about science.

Understanding and “Selling” Your Project

Composing the research statement part of a fellowship application is like a sales pitch in many ways. The overall objective of this statement is to convince reviewers that your research is worth funding (don’t worry, almost all projects are)! The key to a good research statement is to explain clearly why yours is unique and relevant. How will your research advance the field? Are there applications for human health? Are the techniques you’re using novel or cutting-edge? Keeping questions like these in mind helps you understand and articulate the value of your project.

Establishing Funding

Money is always an important factor in graduate school. Most programs now require a principal investigator (PI) to agree that they can fund a student for the entire duration of their Ph.D. journey before committing to taking one on. This requirement, while reassuring, severely limits your options for potential labs as a graduate student. Of course, coming with your own funding source is always an option and gives you the freedom to choose your lab and even research project. Securing funding a year or two into your project is also beneficial. Receiving a fellowship would give your PI more money and give you an impressive accomplishment to put on your CV. Obtaining a fellowship early on also makes you more competitive to secure subsequent funding opportunities in the later years of your graduate career.

How to Get Started

If you’re an incoming graduate student, there are fellowship opportunities available, but these require planning as the deadlines are usually in the fall prior to admittance. First- and second-year graduate students also have a lot of fellowship opportunities, with deadlines a little more dispersed throughout the year. Be sure to ask other graduate students, teachers and advisors if they know of any fellowships that might fit you.

Here are some places to look at for fellowships: Applying for fellowships early in your scientific career can only benefit you as a graduate student. Although you may be just starting out on a project, fellowships are still worth applying for, and the feedback you receive might pleasantly surprise you. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged―you only need a single “Yes” to get funded. 

Ashley Zani
Ashley Zani

Ashley Zani is a current Graduate Student in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at The Ohio State University. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Dayton where she studied Biology with research interests in Microbiology. At Ohio State, Ashley is the current President of the Ohio Virology Association and is passionate about increasing science outreach to the community via science writing. She can be reached via linkedin and twitter.

Author: ASM Careers

ASM Careers
ASM Careers staff.