Approaching Multi-year Funding Opportunities

Multi-year fellowships are highly prestigious, lucrative opportunities for students to receive 2-5 years of external support for their coursework and research. Some of these opportunities are only available to students in their first and/or second years, so it’s worthwhile to explore the possibilities and understand the process as soon as possible.

Why should I apply?

To gain:

  • Freedom to explore your own research at a self-defined pace
  • Recognition on a national level of your scholarly potential
  • Valuable skills in networking and effectively communicating ideas

What’s the first step?

Create a Research Action Plan

  • Stay informed of opportunities in your field and plan in advance to maximize the resources available to you
  • Create a plan for your Notre Dame career that incorporates academic and professional milestones and the timeline for applying to funding opportunities to ensure you reach those goals

Where should I look?

What are some of the major opportunities for multi-year funding?

For all disciplines:

  • Soros Fellowship: 2 years of support for New Americans
  • Ford Predoctoral Fellowship: 3 years of support, focus on diversity (US C/N)
  • Harvey Fellowship: 3 years of support for committed Christians: Liebmann Fellowship
  • 3 years of support for those with outstanding undergraduate record
  • AAUW International Fellowship: 2 years of support for non-US women

For STEM and Social Sciences:

  • NSF GRFP: 3 years of support for STEM & Social Sciences (US C/P)
  • NPSC: 6 years of support for physical sciences (US C)
  • Hertz: 5 years of support for applied sciences, moral commitment (US C/P)

There are a variety of fellowships available from major governmental agencies for STEM students, which generally require that students be U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents, and may require post-degree service commitments:

  • NIH F31

There are a number of private foundations that sponsor fellowships working in specific research areas:

  • AHA Midwest Affiliate Predoctoral Fellowship: 3 years of support for research broadly related to cardiovascular function and disease and stroke, or to related clinical, basic science, bioengineering or biotechnology, and public health problems
  • GEM Fellowship: 5 years of support for engineering and applied science students from an underrepresented group
  • Faculty for the Future Program: 5 years of support for international women in the physical sciences who will continue their career in their home country (Non US)
  • Bullitt Environmental Fellowship: 2 years of support for students from a group underrepresented in the environmental field
  • Link Fellowship: 2 years of support for students in energy-related fields

How do I get started?

Any grant or fellowship application should answer two questions: “What now?” and “Why now?” In the case of multi-year funding, you must demonstrate the ability to develop a research agenda and explain how it not only relates to your past experience, but how it will propel your work into the future. Most applications will have both a project component and a personal component – the emphasis on each will depend on the opportunity.

What should I include in a project proposal?

Demonstrate your potential to plan and conduct research

  • Draw on your past experiences, describing them in terms of their impact on your future trajectory:
  • What did you learn that has influenced your goals for graduate study?
  • What methods or issues would you like to continue exploring, what new directions would you like to move into?
  • What specific experiences (seminar papers, laboratory work, research project, etc.) can you describe that have helped you formulate what areas of interest you’d like to pursue in your graduate work?

Exhibit your ability to interpret and communicate research

  • Exhibit understanding of where your research fits:
  • Into your own career aims
  • Into the scholarly field
  • Into a broader public context

Adapt your proposal to your audience

  • An interdisciplinary panel
  • Discipline specific committee but not specialized to your topic

Provide sufficient background so that non-specialist and specialist alike will consider integral to your argument

Speak to the institution’s funding aims

  • Create a general proposal argument
  • Modify according to each announcement, incorporating language from the agencies themselves

What should I include in a personal statement?

Demonstrate desirable qualities

  • Enthusiasm, dedication, initiative, adaptability, leadership
  • Traits valued by granting institution

Explain preparatory experience and special skills

  • Courses, exams, projects, certifications, etc.
  • Explain your trajectory from student to career

How can I get the best recommendation letters?

Ask prospective referees for their support well in advance of the application deadline, and provide all the necessary information in good time, i.e. at least three weeks in advance.

Provide your referees with a copy of your project and personal statements and a copy of agency guidelines.

The best letters will discuss:

  • The student’s intellectual merit and strength of character
  • The significance of the project within the student’s field and beyond
  • The student’s preparedness to undertake the project
  • The feasibility of the project