Begging for Money: Panhandler's Guide to Landing a Fellowship


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How to think about your effort/investment into fellowship applications.

Joel Hestness has landed fellowships, research funding and investments from the National Science Foundation (NSF), and private donors.

Katie Coons has landed fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and Microsoft.

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Begging for Money: Panhandler's Guide to Landing a Fellowship

  1. 1. Begging for Money:Panhandler’s Guide to Landing a SpaceshipJoel HestnessGraduate Advice Day - FellowshipsSept. 25 2009
  2. 2. Start Early… Like NowAverage value of 3 year fellowship: $100,000Probability that you will get one*: ~6%Risk/Reward point: $6,000Your worth in industry*: $50/hr. You should spend: 120 hrs.NSF Deadline: Nov. 4 You should spend: 20 hrs./wk.
  3. 3. 20 hours: Organizing, PreparingApplying to multiple fellowships: • Read about each fellowship* • Eligibility requirements – Read them • History/Previous fellows – Read Them • Details, deadlines, essay requirements – Read ThemOffers valuable perspective in the begging processYour audience is not a passerby on the streetJoel’s e.g.: NSF GRFP, NDSEG, NPSC, CSGF, Hertz
  4. 4. 20 hours: Organizing, Preparing (cont’d)Applying to multiple fellowships: • Stay organized – Make a spreadsheet, perhaps • Track deadlines • The laundry list*: • Application • Resume/CV • Essays • Research proposal, research experience, personal statement, diversity, random stuff… • Letters of recommendation • Transcripts • GRE and other test scores • Course lists or proposed programs
  5. 5. 5 hours: Arm-twisting 101Talk to your advisor and letter writers • Very experienced at begging • Spin masters • Craft a messageDid I mention that they’ve applied for grants?
  6. 6. 95 hours: Research, Writing, Revising*“Spare some change?” isn’t going to cut it… • Thoroughly research your topic • Need to show a depth of understanding • Write a lot, write too much • Having to cut is good – weigh importance • Can compare impact of the parts • Optimize like good engineers • Link content across essays • BE SPECIFIC
  7. 7. NSF Graduate Research FellowshipKatie CoonsGraduate Advice Day - FellowshipsSept. 25 2009
  8. 8. Recommendation Letters• Ask early• Ask people who know your research• Send them your application materials• Discuss application with them• Send a thank you afterwards• Potential letter writers: – Your advisor – Your co-advisor – Senior thesis advisor – Teacher you blew away with publishable class project
  9. 9. General Essay Advice• Be specific• Tie essays together – Prior work shows ability to fulfill future research objectives – Broader impacts, teaching experience tied to research area – Refer to prior experience/broader impacts in research proposal• Ask advisor for input – They know how to write proposals – They have incentive – they want you funded• Don’t be afraid to use headings• Read each sentence - if anyone could write it, it’s not useful
  10. 10. Personal Statement• Show your unique strengths with examples• Show you are passionate and motivated – “X is very important to me” is useless – “Because X is important to me, I will do Y…”• Tie to proposed research – Relate teaching experience to your research – Bring your research to underrepresented groups – Show you are a leader, mention how your research will benefit• Avoid platitudes
  11. 11. Previous Research Experience• Make your role clear – Use active voice – Lay claim to what you accomplished – Demonstrate successful collaboration• Demonstrate ability to do research – Emphasize novel/unique aspects of your work – Methodology, findings, conclusions – Demonstrate claims in your personal statement – Include broader impacts (dissemination, teaching, collaboration)
  12. 12. Proposed Plan of Research• Motivate your work, show it is potentially transformative• Be specific – Specific problem to solve and proposal to solve it – Justify methodology – Expected results and impact• Tie to previous research experience• Mention expected collaborations• Include citations• Mention where you will submit the work• Mention any plans to disseminate