Funding Your Education

Fellowship Resources

Applying for a grant or fellowship can be complex. Vanderbilt is committed to assisting graduate students with the process through a variety of resources.

Fellowship Resources
Section Contents

Getting Started

These courses will offer a general understanding of the external fellowship process. Sign up in Brightspace.

  • Effective Grant Writing Part 1: Identifying Funding Opportunities, GrantForward Tutorial, and Resources on Campus
  • Effective Grant Writing Part 2: Grant Modules (3 included: Writing the Proposal, Preparing a Budget, Submissions)

The Vanderbilt Career Center offers these helpful tutorials: Getting Started, What are Fellowships, Advice for Applicants.

Grant Panels

View a grant panel that discusses the grant process through the lens of four different disciplines.


  • Federal Grants

    What is important to know in applying for a federal grant?
    These grants are highly regulated, and it is important for students receiving the grants to strictly adhere to the federal rules and reporting requirements. These regulations are more detailed in OMB’s (Office of Management and Budget) Uniform Guidance.

    What is important to know in receiving a federal grant?
    Federal grants require a detailed, well-written proposal, that is successfully peer reviewed. Each agency has its own budget and mission, so keep the mission in mind when applying for federal grants to ensure it aligns with your project.

  • Foundations and Private Sponsors

    <strong>How do I know if a foundation’s grant or sponsor is a good fit for my project? </strong>

    Identify their mission, check past funding for similar projects, and ensure your project aligns with their goals. Ask these questions when considering what foundation or privately sponsored grant to apply for:
    <li>Are they currently accepting proposals or inquiries?</li>
    <li>Does the foundation/sponsor's timetable line up with my timetable?</li>
    <li>What is the past funding for my organization/individuals in my situation?</li>
    <li>Is their past funding in the range I need for my project?</li>

    <strong>How do I find information about these funding sources and whether to apply?</strong>
    <li>Read their website completely, including links to supplemental documents.</li>
    <li>Ask the question, "Does their mission align with my project?</li>
    <li>Look at your project from <em>their </em> Answer this question: "How does funding my project move forward their mission?"</li>
    <li>Consider <em>why </em>they should support it.</li>
    <li>How much do I need (budget) and when do I need it (project period)?</li>
    <li>Do budget and project period line up?</li>
    <li>Use resources like <a href="">GuideStar</a> -- this resource provides information on non-profits. You can identify what funding awards have been made in the past, as the tax forms are made publicly available.</li>

  • Grantforward

    How can I learn to best utilize GrantForward to search for grant opportunities?
    GrantForward is a database of sponsors and funding opportunities that can help you identify grants applicable to your research.   provides a tutorial for users. You can sign up using your university email, select your unit, and explore various tabs to search for opportunities, including pre-solicitations, awards, and sponsors. See in-depth instructions on how to register and utilize GrantForward Effective Grant Writing, Module 1: Identifying Funding.

    How can I tailor my GrantForward search for relevant results?
    Fill out your research interests in your GrantForward profile, including uploading your Google Scholar profile. You can edit your profile by adding or removing keywords, which helps to refine search results and receive relevant grant recommendations.

    What are some tips for an effective search to identify funding opportunities on GrantForward?
    Utilize the guides and pre-solicitation tab to help in your planning as you prepare your grant application. Use the awards tab to identify projects that have been funded in the past. You can also save searches and awards for future reference.

  • Conceptualizing You Central Research Hypothesis/Question

    <strong>How important is conceptualizing your research question/hypothesis?</strong>
    Conceptualizing a central research question or hypothesis is crucial, as this serves as the spinal column of the proposal. It sets the foundation for all other components of your research proposal and should address an important problem and gap within existing scholarly knowledge. Remember, you must revise all other proposal components if you decide to change the question/hypothesis.

    <strong>Are multiple questions/hypotheses acceptable in a proposal?</strong>
    Yes, more than one question or hypothesis is acceptable, and sub-questions or hypotheses are also possible. However, it is important that the methods section addresses each component and element. The more questions and sub-questions you have, the longer your methodology section will have to be for reviewers to determine if your project is novel, logical, and feasible.

    <strong>How can I make my research question specific and researchable?</strong>
    Clearly define the concepts and narrow the focus. Below is an example of how to improve a research question to be more specific and researchable.
    <li>Weak research question: What effect does social media have on people’s minds?
    <li>This question is not specific enough: what type of social media? Which people? What kind of effects?</li>
    <li>Strong research question: What effect does daily use of Twitter have on the attention span of under-16 year olds?
    <li>This question defines its concepts more clearly. It is researchable through qualitative and quantitative data collection.</li>

  • Proposal Components

    What are the basic components of a proposal?
    Components include the following: overview/abstract, background/context, theoretical framework, methodology/methods, preparedness of the researcher, work plan, broader impact statement, and relevant appendices.

    What should be included in the overview/abstract?
    The abstract should include highlights from other sections in the proposal, a provocative question and/or state of the existing knowledge about the topic, and a description of how the research intersects with the knowledge.

    How should I approach writing the theoretical framework section of my grant proposal?
    The theoretical framework section should articulate the theoretical underpinnings of your research, discuss main scholarly fields it engages with, and address key findings of prominent scholars. It establishes the context for your work, showing how it challenges or tests existing theories.

    What considerations should guide the crafting of the methods section in the proposal?
    The methodology/methods section should describe in detail the proposed research frameworks and justify their selection. It is important to justify every element of your methodology. Consider the following when drafting this section:

    • Why these locations/sources/ informants/subjects and not others?
    • Which testing/measuring methods will be used and why are they the optimal ones?
    • How are participants or samples being selected? Why use these archives and not others?
    • Why collect this amount of information/data and not more, or less?

    What is included in the preparedness of the researcher section?
    This section provides reviewers with the evidence that you have the necessary experience and skills to carry out your research.

    What should be included in my work plan?
    Structure the work plan to outline your accomplishments to date and what you plan to accomplish during the outlined research period.

    What is a broader impacts statement and how can I craft a successful statement?
    The broader impact statement discusses the wider potential benefits of your proposed research for the public and the world. This article is helpful in drafting your broader impacts statement.

    How can appendices strengthen an overall grant proposal?
    Some proposals allow appendices, which can strengthen the proposal by providing additional evidence and context.

  • Budget

    What are important considerations as I begin to draft my budget?
    Knowing budget limits is crucial for effective proposal preparation. It involves prioritizing wisely, justifying plans, and ensuring that the proposed budget aligns with the project's needs and guidelines.

    What are frequently allowed items to request in a budget for my grant proposal?
    Frequently allowed items include research personnel, supplies/equipment, participant incentives, and dissemination (including travel or publication fees). Frequently unallowed items include food, alcohol, faculty salary (on training grants), and business class airfare.

    How can I prioritize my budget wisely for the grant proposal?
    Prioritizing your budget wisely involves including the most essential and expensive items first, which is typically personnel and equipment. After the essential components have been outlined, gradually increase to limit with room for cushion for unforeseen expenses and funds for dissemination activities.

  • Submission to Post-Award

    What are the important considerations involved in submitting my grant proposal?
    The submission to post-award process involves identifying and working with your team. Your advisor can help with proposal content and your research plan, while your department’s grants manager can assist with the budget and getting internal signatures. It is also crucial to have a thorough understanding of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) and to identify the appropriate submission method.

    What is a typical submission timeline/steps for submitting my grant proposal?
    The first step is to notify your advisor and grants manager of your proposal, working with them to finalize grant documents and information. Then, your grants manager routes an internal submission through Vanderbilt approvals. Following these internal approvals, the external proposal should then be submitted in coordination with your grants manager. Following the submission, confirmation is received that your proposal was successfully submitted. The sponsor then reviews your application, and a decision is made to either award or decline your proposal.

    What are additional grant documents that could be requested in a grant application?
    One additional document requested could be a biographical sketch/cv, which contains information about researchers’ education, appointments, publications, and research areas, as well as helping the reviewers evaluate you and your project’s team's qualifications to complete the proposed work. They could also request a data management plan, which is a description of how you will collect, store, and disseminate project data. A facilities document could also be needed, which describes the research environment, and any Vanderbilt-provided resources you will be using for the project. Additionally, some grant applications might request a letter of support/commitment, which shows institutional support of your proposal or that non-Vanderbilt groups or resources will be available to assist with the proposed work.

    What happens during the post-award phase once my proposal is accepted?
    If your proposal has been selected for funding, you will receive a Notice of Award (NOA). The completion of the project scope outlined in the proposal is expected, and you'll be required to report back to the sponsor on your progress. In the award notice/letter, all reporting requirements will be listed. Additionally, there will be dissemination of the project outcomes, which can include presenting at a conference, publishing in an academic journal, and/or making the data publicly available.

  • Overview/Conclusion

    What are characteristics of a successful proposal?
    A successful proposal is characterized by clear and well-defined research questions, a solid theoretical framework, evident potential impacts, alignment of scope with the research question, sufficient preparation, skills of the researchers, and a realistic and justified budget.

    What are some common reasons that proposals are rejected?
    Common reasons for proposal rejection include missing the deadline, not following funder guidelines, poorly written or unorganized proposals, unclear central questions/hypothesis(es), overly broad scopes, insufficient preparation, and unrealistic budgets.

    How can I make my proposal more competitive?
    Start the draft well in advance (at least six months before the application is due), thoroughly read funder guidance, read successful proposals, seek feedback from specialists and non-specialists, and create a checklist to ensure all requirements are met.