Going For The Gold

One of the many skills doctoral students aren’t taught, but are expected to develop, is the ability to generate funding. Even though there’s no systematic effort in academia to teach you to write a grant proposal, there are good reasons you should learn how from your campus financial aid office: If you’d applied to graduate school with funding, you could have written your own ticket to the school of your choice.
Doctoral students who bring funding with them–a transportable fellowship, scholarship, or grant–are almost assured of entry into any degree program they choose.
Students with funding
can choose their own dissertation topics. Students without funding often opt to work on their advisors’ funded projects to secure the advisors’ interest in their studies. If students have a funded project, they can usually find an advisor interested to work with them. They’ve already designed a viable, worthwhile project which eases the advisor’s load; and advisors like to work with winning students who will do good, publishable studies.
Students who write a grant proposal
have already done considerable work
on the dissertation. The thinking required for a grant proposal is the sort that students should do before they select a dissertation topic. Once you write a grant proposal, you’ll have a well-designed and written skeleton of your study and fully explored its contribution and significance.
Students with funding finish faster. According to Maresi Nerad, in the Graduate Division of UC-Berkeley, “More than any other single factor, the lack of sustained and appropriate financial support contributes to extended time-to-degree and to attrition.” Moreover, “Students who received between 4 and 5 years of support took the shortest time, an average of 7.9 years to degree, while those who received no support took twice as long–16.6 years.
Winning a scholarship, fellowship, or grant
looks impressive to employers. Having won an award tells a future employer you can find and get funding. Knowing how to write a grant proposal is prized by employers in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. If you have a funded grant when you apply for a faculty position, the university sees you as an asset, bringing hard cash to the institution.
Academics with funding wield power. The professors who attract extramural funds are the faculty who get hired, promoted, tenured, and revered in their institutions. Even in a non-academic career, opportunities for extramural funding abound.
According to Scholarships, Fellowships, and Loans, “…hundreds of millions of dollars in aid reportedly go unclaimed each year,” and thousands of funders offer support, not only for academic research and study, but for professional projects and operating budgets for businesses.
As Robert Lucas, Associate Vice President of Graduate Studies and Research at California Polytechnic State University, wrote, “Graduate programs offer no instruction in or orientation to the practice of writing (grant) proposals…. Do yourself a favor and develop the skill and habit of writing proposals early in your career. It’s the gift that keeps giving.”
Going For the Gold was extracted from Dissertation News No. 3. Other articles appearing in this issue included: What Does a Grant Proposal Say? Six Steps to Getting a Grant Playing the Grant Game to Win Where to Find Dissertation Funds The Danger of Student Debt What’s Taxable, What’s Not.