The weeks leading up to the 2015 NSF GRFP deadline were consumed by editing personal statements with a writing tutor, drafting research proposals with my advisors, and tracking down recommendation writers for the application. If this story resonates with you–if you even know what “NSF GRFP” stands for, then I’m sure you were in a similar situation (and if you don’t know what it is, you should probably copy and paste it into Google some time around now). Applying for outside funding and fellowships may as well be a 3-credit course all on its own. This is reflective not only of the time commitment, but of the cognitive capacity one needs to attain the level of depth and breadth reviewers expect to see in your application package. Even just figuring out where to start might as well be a 1-credit seminar. With each university having its own funding webpage in addition to the hundreds of websites that pop up each year, all with the perfect algorithm for helping you go to school for free. Unfortunately, it’s just not that intuitive of a process. Personally, I’ve spent hours scouring the internet for scholarships and fellowships that I’m eligible for and every time I look, I find a couple more that I’d never heard of. Eventually, I put a hard cap at 10 fellowships and 7 scholarships that I would be able to apply to during the quarter without spontaneously combusting…so far, so good.
Food for Thought: There is A LOT of money wandering in the world to support your education, it’s true. What they don’t tell you is how hard you will work to find it and set aside time to earn it. There is a world that awaits you should you set off to take advantage of it. Arm yourself with good resources, good friends, and…a good therapist–it will be a long ride.
P.S. If you’re an underrepresented student looking for fellowships/scholarships in Engineering (what I tend to look for) try perusing: NSBE, Million Dollar Scholar, SWE, AAUW (women), NASA, Hertz Foundation Fellowship (limited to certain universities), Paul & Daisy Soros Foundation Fellowships for New Americans (international students/parents), Ford Foundation Fellowship, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (that acronym up above), GEM Consortium Fellowship, National Physical Sciences Consortium Graduate Fellowships (limited to certain universities), and also contact your local department, individual college, and school diversity officer for more leads. This list is not exhaustive by any means, but it gave me great places to search when I had no idea how to start. Happy searching!