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Funding Opportunities for Graduate Students

Students in the Political Science department may look for additional funding sources to attend conferences, complement GC fellowships, undertake dissertation research or to support additional years after the 5-year fellowship ends. This page outlines the various funding opportunities and where to find additional information. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but a starting point to indicate the direction of where to look.
Here is how to get started looking for additional funding sources:
  1. Student Assistantships – many of the GC’s Centers and Institutes have funding available to students at all levels. Check the list of the PoliSci department’s Affiliated Centers and Institutes, and visit their websites for more information. Some of these include:
    1. The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society’s Hearst Fellowships
    2. Advanced Research Collaborative
    3. GC Digital Initiatives
  2. Conference Funding – The Office of Student Affairs has two funding cycles each year (spring and fall), and payment is made retroactively. Support is limited to $300, so it likely won’t cover all your expenses. Submit your application as soon as the cycle opens, as funding is often given on a first come/first serve basis and runs out quickly.
    1. Other students maintained a Google spreadsheet of conferences to find others interested in attending the same conference in order to share resources for car rides, hotel rooms, etc.
  3. Research Funding – The Provost’s Office maintains a list of internal funding opportunities and current deadlines, and the Early Research Initiative brings many of these under a single umbrella. The most important of which are:
    1. Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship: provides $4000 to students who have completed the first exam to support the development of a research proposal over 4 weeks in the summer away from the Graduate Center.
    2. Doctoral Student Research Grant: provides $250-$1500 for students to conduct doctoral research, or attend conferences, with the aim of learning skills to apply for research funding. The Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies has both summer fellowships and travel fellowships.
  4. Dissertation Writing Funding
    1. Dissertation Completion Fellowship is a yearly competition for level III students who will be finishing the writing of their dissertation in the following academic year.  Students can apply for a number of different dissertation fellowships (both general and specialized) using the same application.
    2. There are also dissertation fellowships through the Globalization and Social Change Committee, the Committee for the Study of Religion, and the Ralph Bunche Institute.
  1. The most popular sources of external funding for MA and PhD political science students have been compiled here and here.
  2. A spreadsheet has also been compiled of applicable programs to which PoliSci students have applied in the past or may be applicable.
    1. Note: you will need to log in to your CUNYfirst account to access this spreadsheet.
  3. In addition to APSA funding, the various political science associations also offer funding for conferences, research grants, and fellowships, depending on your geographic location or area of interest. For instance, the Association for Asian Studies has a research grant and offers conference funding to graduate students, as well as includes a great database of funding opportunities specific to the region.
  4. Search the library’s grant and fellowship databases, including: Pivot, GrantForward, Grants.gov, Foundation Directory Online.
    1. Doing a comprehensive search through these databases the first time may take you 10-12 hours. Search based on field, stage (Level I, II, III), your area of research, citizenship/ethnicity, location, etc. You can also develop a search based on the keywords you are interested in, and the sites will send you new information when it is updated. The GC’s librarians can also help you to refine your search.
    2. Some tips of what to look for when reviewing different foundations and funding programs:
      1. Look for those in lockstep with your interests. Those that aren’t a perfect fit with your interests based on what was recently funded put them in the bottom of the list. Since the process is time consuming, it is best to start with the ones that are a perfect fit.
      2. Look at how much and what they funded last year and if it’s the same this year. Foundations may vary a lot year by year, trends in the field.
      3. The foundation’s mission might not tell you enough information. Also look at geographic distribution of the awards.
      4. Don’t get scared off by success rates, as many applications are rejected on technical issues.
  1. Contact the Graduate Center’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects as you consider applying for external sources, so they may provide assistance with:
    1. Advising on where to find other opportunities;
    2. How to prepare a more competitive proposal and assure it is technically compliant; and
    3. If awarded, help with managing funding requirements.
  2. Contact your Advisor to ask for reference letters. Faculty advisors are there to suggest places to apply, make sure your research design is well-structured and written, and then submit references or other documents on your behalf.
    1. In order to get a grant, you need the best possible letter from your advisors. Therefore, it’s important to maintain a good relationship and make the process easy on them. Here are some suggestions.
    2. Ask for letters as early as possible. Those who you ask for references may be juggling other deadlines at the same time as your application is due, and asking even a week beforehand may not be enough time.
    3. Provide information about what the reference should highlight and details about you they could include, and/or a copy of your CV.
    4. If you are asking for multiple references from a single advisor, consider creating a single document for them with the deadlines, what is required, and what to highlight in each letter. This can be a helpful planning device for you as well.
  3. Read, know, and closely follow the guidelines. Give the reviewers exactly what they need to evaluate your proposal.
A note about awards: many fellowships and grants are restricted, while others are unrestricted gifts. Unrestricted means you are given the award outright and have more flexibility to spend the funds as you see fit. Restricted funding is given has specific guidelines of what it can be spent on.
In order to apply for restricted funding, you will have to outline your specific research activities and the costs, and, if awarded, a contract follows that may require reporting on the activities and how the funds were expended. Some of these restricted grants will be given to you as an individual, while others, such as those from federal government entities, will be given to the Research Foundation of CUNY on your behalf. (The Research Foundation of CUNY is a separate entity from CUNY and the Graduate Center with the sole purpose of managing grants.)
Have a planning meeting in your head (set aside time to think it through). Make a draft outline of basic aims to start.
  1. Give all information in the order it is asked in the guidelines. If you are asked to address something specifically, make sure you do so. This sometimes feels like a contrived way to talk about your research, but it’s been organized that way for a reason.
  2. Make it as easy as possible for a grant reviewer. Be concise and straightforward. Use standard formatting and fonts (not under 11pt, for example).
  3. Style matters:
    1. State the importance of the work up front, including:
      1. Why is it important?
        1. Don’t say that no one has ever done it before unless you have evidence.
        2. Be prepared to say why hasn’t anyone done it before.
      2. How, exactly, does it help the field beyond filling a knowledge gap? It need not be transformative.
      3. Is there potential societal impact?
      4. How is this innovative?
    2. Keep it as jargon-free as possible for a wider audience to understand.
    3. Figure out who your audience is by looking up the board of directors, reviewers, etc.
    4. Don’t cut and paste from something you’ve already published.
    5. Take out “I” and “We” in a project description (unless you are writing a personal statement.)
    6. Be careful to avoid negative sentence formations.
  4. Most common pitfall: not enough time
    1. Don’t wait until the last minute! Filling out an application could be three weeks of full-time work.
    2. Reviewers can tell if you rushed. Carve out time to write by making an appointment with yourself: clear your desk, turn off your phone, don’t check email, etc.
    3. Add time if it’s your first time writing an application and if you are a non-native English speaker.
    4. Start with the longest application first, and then the narrative and rationale can be repurposed for other, shorter applications.
    5. There are unknown requirements that may crop up unexpectedly that delay the process. Federal proposals take an average of 120+ hours to complete. There are online systems that require others to add you before you start.
  5. Developing a budget:
    1. Develop it based on your actual needs that are reasonable. Don’t apply for more or less money as a strategy to look good.
    2. Use the budget justification section to make sure you can justify that cost and state it in the justification. If you are getting free housing from family, state it clearly. Show that you really understand what you are proposing to do and the costs.
    3. Consider the amount of funding you need to make the project happen, and how you might modify it depending on whether you get one or none. This should be an in-depth discussion with your advisor; the Office of Research Sponsored Projects can also advise you.
  6. Check it over:
    1. Have someone read it who is not in your field: family, friends who do related work in different but related fields
    2. Triple-check guidelines. The reviewers will be looking for reasons to reject it.
    3. Make sure the narrative timeline makes sense and all dates are consistent.
    4. Make sure all elements read as a cohesive document.
    5. If you are given an opportunity to suggest reviewers, take advantage to highlight people in the field (but don’t suggest anyone who may have a conflict of interest.)
    6. In the section asking for other resources, list the other institutions that you have approached, and other items that add credibility to your application but don’t fit in page limits.
    7. Share it with the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects, at least two weeks before the deadline, for additional advice and considerations.
  1. The Office of Student Affairs has two funding cycles each year (spring and fall), and payment is made retroactively. Support is limited to $300, so it likely won’t cover all your expenses. Submit your application as soon as the cycle opens, as funding is often given on a first come/first serve basis and runs out quickly.
    1. Other students maintained a Google spreadsheet of conferences to find others interested in attending the same conference in order to share resources for car rides, hotel rooms, etc.
  2. If you travel internationally for a conference or research (even if self-funded), be aware there are CUNY requirements for international travelers.
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