The Award Lifecycle

Frequently Asked Questions

What is external funding?
External funding refers to support that comes from sources outside the university (i.e., private agencies, the government, foundations) for a specific project or purpose. External funding is typically project-oriented, and fairly competitive to obtain.

What is the difference between a grant and a fellowship?
A grant is awarded to the university for a specific project under the direction of an individual for a designated period of time. A fellowship is usually awarded directly to an individual for a specific purpose for a designated period of time.

What kinds of things can you find funding for?
Graduate students may be able to locate sources for research dissertation completion awards, internships, research projects, seminars, and sometimes even travel and living expenses.

What are my chances of finding conference funding?
Finding conference funding can be challenging. Your best bet is to try to find conference funding through your department or the graduate school (perhaps on a reimbursement basis), or through the particular conference that you are attending.

I have heard that if you are not a doctoral student, it is a waste of time trying to find a grant or fellowship. Is this true?
Not necessarily. In general, there is more funding available to doctoral students; however, this varies according to your area of study. Also, if you have a specific research topic you would like to get funded (e.g., a Master's thesis), you are more likely to find a funding source.

I would like to apply for an assistantship instead of a grant or fellowship at this time. Can you help?
Although this office doesn't handle University assistantships, we can tell you who does. You need to apply through the department in which you are seeking the assistantship. Or, if you are looking for a non-academic assistantship position, contact the the Graduate School.

I heard about a fellowship awarded through NIU. Can you give me information about it?
For information on funding available through NIU, you need to contact the Graduate School, your college, or your department. The Office of Sponsored Projects works only with external funding sources and has nothing to do with in-house (NIU) grants or fellowships.

I need money now! How soon can I expect some?
You should allow at least 6 months for the funding agency to make a determination on your proposal. Also, keep in mind, different agencies will have different deadlines. If an agency has a deadline 8 months from now, and if the agency takes 6 months to make a decision, you won't be able to receive your support for at least a year. The earlier you start to look for sources of support, the less likely you are to miss a deadline.

I've found a funding source. What's the next step?
Visit their web site if they have one, obtain all the information about the source and opportunity that you can, and read their guidelines carefully. Each agency will have different application procedures. Some may require that you write a brief inquiry letter before submission of a full proposal; others would rather you call and discuss your ideas with the program managers. After you gather information, contact your graduate program advisor or dissertation director. 

I need to write a grant. Can you help?
At this time, the Office of Sponsored Projects does not provide grant-writing services to graduate students. However, a number of proposal preparation tips are available online.