I give a lot of advice to students about their proposals for grants, scholarships and admission to programs. I thought: “I suspect readers of Talking Philosophy might find those useful.” I suspect too that readers’ comments on my advice will be useful as well. So, here is a first in a series.
There are plenty of nitty-gritty tips, and I’ll get to those later. The biggest point, however, is that there are two criteria that will always be crucial, even if they aren’t mentioned in the application. These are:
1) Is the project worth doing?
2) Is the project do-able by this applicant in the period of time available?
Your job is to convince the reader that the answer to both is an emphatic ‘Yes’. What makes it hard is that projects which are extremely worthy by everyone’s standards tend to be not-do-able by a single person in a few years, and vice versa. If you really could cure cancer with your ideas, you’d get funding, but…. The good news is that ‘worth doing’ means, in this context, worthwhile by the lights of the applicant’s discipline. So, all you need to do is provide enough background about your field, and your topic, so that the reader can see why what you’re doing matters to your peers. And then you need to show that your personal background and situation (e.g., the classes you’ve taken, the languages you’ve learned, the school where you’re studying now) place you in a good spot to pull the project off.