Let’s talk funding.
Maybe you've heard someone say, “There’s a lot of money out there, you just have to look for it,” and thought to yourself, "Great, but where do I look?" Don't worry - we've got you. Our brand new Fellowship Finder database is now live. It showcases over 1,100 fellowship and grant opportunities that help students fund their graduate studies, and it features a new search process, with lots of options to make your search quicker and more precise.
Fellowship Finder specializes in awards offered by external funders: government agencies, private foundations, corporations, and other entities outside of the university. We also include a handful of campus opportunities such as those offered by the Graduate College. Best of all, Fellowship Finder is a curated database, meaning that real people (we here in the Office of External Fellowships) make sure that the listings we include are truly useful to graduate students.
How does the database work? Let’s take a look.
Hacking the Search Page
Open Fellowship Finder, and let’s take a tour of the main search page. There are six major sections:
Selecting the field of study sounds easy, right? For most of you, it is. Maybe your research fits squarely into the “Sciences/Engineering/Math” category. But, what if you’re in an interdisciplinary field such as Urban and Regional Planning? Depending on the nature of your research, both the “Social Sciences/Humanities” and the “Sciences/Engineering/Math” categories might be worth exploring. Art historians? Try both “Social Science/Humanities” and “Fine Arts” to maximize your opportunities. Your category selections should be based on the research questions you are pursuing, not on an official departmental affiliation.
What about “Professional Programs” such as law, medicine, or business? There are some excellent opportunities out there to support you as you pursue your career, and we’ve assembled them in this category.
Some funders have citizenship restrictions, and some opportunities in the “International Students” category are limited by country (only for Canadians, for instance). But don’t worry, there are plenty of opportunities for everyone.
3. Stage of Study for Which You Seek Funding
Funders may focus on supporting students at a particular stage of their academic career. Some, for example, support students only during the early years of graduate school; others specifically support dissertation research. Our categories help you match up the funder’s goals with your needs.
Let’s start with the “Master’s” level category. Check this box if you’re looking to fund a master’s degree.
What about the “Early Years of Doctoral Program”? Some funders call this the pre-doctoral stage. It’s generally the period of time between your entry into a doctoral program and your advancement to candidacy. Also, if your master’s program leads directly into your doctoral program, you might be eligible for awards in this category.
Awards in the “Dissertation Research” category support students as they pursue research leading to the PhD. Some funders require that applicants have advanced to candidacy either at the time of application or by the time the award period begins. Eligibility rules for awards in this category vary a good bit, so you’ll have to check the funder’s guidelines for details.
“Dissertation Write-Up” fellowships, also called dissertation completion fellowships, typically support students during their final year of a doctoral program. These are intended to help get you out the door and on to the next stage of your career.
What if you want some additional training after you’ve finished your graduate degree? Check out the “Postdoctoral / Post-graduate” opportunities.
4. Award Type
Most of you will be looking in the “Fellowship/Grant” category for awards that will support your graduate education, broadly speaking. There are also awards for specific purposes, and we have several kinds in this section. Want to conduct research overseas, spend a few weeks at an archive, study a foreign language, or conduct a research-oriented internship? Simply check the relevant boxes when you do your search.
Most awards in the database are open in the sense that they do not restrict eligibility to members of select demographic groups. These awards are categorized as “Unrestricted,” and most students will want to include these awards in their search. There are other awards, however, that do restrict eligibility, and Fellowship Finder allows you to choose whether to include these awards in your search. For example, if you’re a University of Illinois student, you’ll want to check the “University of Illinois Students” category. The “Underrepresented Groups” category might be appropriate if you’re a member of an ethnic or racial minority group, disabled, or identify as LGTBQ. We have a category for fellowships specifically for women as well.
6. Limit Results To…
We’ve included three additional ways to narrow your search results. Do you only want to see the big awards, i.e., those that offer annual stipends of over $10,000? Do you check the database regularly and only want to see awards that’ve been added or updated recently? You can do that.
You can also search by award name or keyword. However... you might miss some opportunities that way. If you’re interested in a particular funder, then using the search box might be helpful. But, if you’re looking more generally for awards to support your studies, it’s best not to start there. Why? First of all, a broader search, using only the checkboxes, is more likely to show you funders you didn’t know about. Second, many funders have interests that are not limited to just a select list of fields or topics. Funders often use broad language to describe their eligible disciplines, such as “science and engineering” or “the humanities and related social sciences.” A narrow keyword search means these opportunities won’t be included in your results. Therefore, search broadly. This is the only way to ensure that you find all the awards for which you are eligible.
Skim Through Search Results
Just because you end up with, say, 160 results doesn’t mean you have to visit 160 websites or read through 160 listings. Our search results will give you the key information up front so you can decide in seconds if that fellowship is worth exploring further. For each award that meets your search parameters, you’ll see the name, a brief description, the amount, and the application deadline. Clicking on the name of the award takes you to our full listing.
The full listing provides more information about the award’s purpose and eligibility criteria. If it still looks promising, scroll to the bottom of the listing and click the link to the funder’s website. That’s where you’ll find everything the funder has made available on that award.
Search results are arranged alphabetically. However, for those of you looking only for awards with upcoming deadlines or with deadlines during a particular time period, you can rearrange your search results by clicking the word “Deadline.” Click “Award” to revert to the alphabetical listing.
Sharing Your Results with “My Folder”
With “My Folder,” you can place awards that seem interesting to you in a short-term folder. Before you finish your search session, you can either email the folder to yourself or share it through social media. Be sure to send or share the folder before you leave the session, however. The folder disappears once you leave the database.
Once you’ve found a set of fellowships that seem right for you, you should talk with your advisor about how to get started. If you’d like training in the art of proposal writing, feel free to attend one of our proposal writing workshops. We offer them throughout the year, and we advertise them in GradLinks. If you’d like someone to review your draft, feel free to contact us about our one-on-one proposal advising services. We’ve also compiled a list of helpful resources that can help with you prepare competitive applications. If you have any questions about any of these services, feel free to contact us at ExtFellowships@illinois.edu.
On behalf of all of us in the the Graduate College, I hope you find our new Fellowship Finder database useful, and I wish all of you a productive, exciting, and well-funded graduate career!
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Karen Ruhleder joined the Graduate College in 2014. As Assistant Director of External Fellowships, she presents proposal writing workshops for graduate students and postdocs in STEM fields and individually advises graduate students applying for grants and fellowships across all disciplines. She also helps manage the Fellowship Finder database. Ruhleder earned a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Information and Computer Science and a B.A. in German Language and Literature from the University of California at Irvine. Karen reviews for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship competition.