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How to apply for Postgrad funding – How to make a strong application

So, once you’ve you’ve decided you want to apply for further study, at whatever level, you’ll want to think about the practicalities. As discussed in other posts, deciding to go back to school will have a big impact on your life and the lives of those around you. One of your first concerns will be where is the money going to come from to pay the rent and put food on the table? This is the second part of a two part post: Part 1 was Where to look for funding, this is Part 2 – How to make a strong application.

1) Be honest
Don’t go making things up to embellish what you have achieved to date. On the the hand, now is not the time for modesty. Been awarded a prize? Accomplished something that turned out a lot more tricky than anyone anticipated? Got the highest marks in the class been told you work is ‘excellent’ or ‘outstanding’? Then says so, and in those terms. Perhaps you have some unusual skills or experience. Even if you don’t, explain how the skills and experience you do have will be relevant and supportive of the project or course your will be undertaking. Explain how the programme you are applying for funding for, will equip you to pursue your career ambitions in future.

2) Be ambitious
When applying for something like a PhD or Masters degree, no one expects you to have all the answers and explanation worked out at the start – otherwise there wouldn’t be much point enrolling on your programme. But you are expected to have an idea of the kind of thing you hope to achieve, and you should have an idea of the range, from the fairly like but not so spectacular to the unlikely but mind-blowing kinds of conclusions your research could lead to. Be sure to state both kinds. Show awareness of the likely limitations of your project (such as the time and resources available to a postgrad student) but also the potential benefits of your work.

3) Be clear
When you are being honest yet ambitious, clearly state how what you hope to do fits in with the stated aims and criteria of the funding body. There will be application notes that tell you what kind of thing they are looking for, or what they expect a good application to include. At the very least, it will contain instructions about how to fill out the form. FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ABOUT HOW TO COMPLETE THE FORM. Really. I thought that one was a obvious, until I heard someone who regularly dealt with funding applications explain their frustration with the number of applications they saw that didn’t. Follow the instructions and you may already be ahead of the competition.

4) Be concise
Write, rewrite, edit and re-do you application until you have it as clear and concise as you can. Make every word work for you, explaining what you have achieved, what you aim to do, and how this all meets the funding body’s stated criteria. Get someone else to check it for you. Ask them if it makes sense or if there are any parts that they think don’t actively help you. Remember however, it’s your application, and you will know most about what’s relevant, so take their good advice with a pinch of salt.

5) Be targeted
No one has time to read a long-winded badly written application. Likewise, your time is valuable too. Don’t waste it preparing applications where you don’t meet the stated criteria. By all means, apply if you can think you can reasonably argue that you meet the criteria. This might work to your advantage, as cross-discipline research is popular and you may be able to bring a new perspective, but you must be able to argue your case well. But don’t bother applying for funding where you clearly don’t meet the criteria.

If you have any other tips, feel free to add them below, and good luck with those funding applications!

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