If you’re new to grad school, funding is probably near the top of your priorities, if it isn’t the top. Those who are more experienced, on the other hand, may be so used to it that they can do it in their sleep.
Post-secondary education doesn’t come cheap, and it’s even more so for graduate school. Not all of us have fellowships or scholarships to ride till graduation day. For most, the search for grad school money–whether for living costs, tuition, or research funding–is an uphill battle all the way.
The first tip you’ll hear from most grad students is to make time for it; that is, treat it like a part-time job. Research financiers receive thousands of applications each year, and you can bet they’re good at spotting rash applications. Every semester, you should set a certain amount of time to write out grant applications, prepare updates on your research, and keep your credentials up to date.
There’s no good or bad time to look for funding, as each organization follows a different schedule. What you can do is find out the major sources of funding in your field–your university should have a fairly comprehensive list, although you can also do your own research–and schedule your work so that you’ll have applications ready to send at every deadline. Signing up to university emails and joining professional associations can go a long way.
Letters of recommendation or support are key to applying for grad money, and needless to say can be one of the more complicated factors. Act ahead of time and arrange to have these letters in advance. It’s usually best to ask for letters from all faculty members at once at the beginning of the year (or academic year), rather than keep coming back to them every time a new opportunity comes up. This saves both you and your professors a lot of time.
Finally, look for ways to beef up your resume all year round. Getting published is one of the best additions to your list. Ask professors about new opportunities, read relevant journals, and think of ways that your research can contribute to current discussions. You can also look for paid teaching opportunities, whether at your university or somewhere else. These usually require you to submit a syllabus, which can be as much work as writing an academic piece–but as with the former, the points it adds to your resume are more than worth it.