Don’t miss an opportunity to be recognized and receive financial assistance. Membership has its privileges, and Psi Chi offers over $350,000 annually to honor members with research awards and to support members with research grants. You may feel overwhelmed by the application process, and the first application can seem very intimidating. My hope for this column is that by answering some of the common questions, I can provide the confidence and initiative for more members to submit applications to the award and grant programs.
What is the difference between an award and a grant?
An award is given to recognize research and accomplishments that were completed in the past. Award funding is less restrictive on its uses. A grant provides funding to complete research in the future. It is more restrictive in how the money can be spent and requires submission of reports following the research period.
What are the first awards or grants for which you would apply as an individual?
I would suggest applying for the Regional Research Awards and/ or the Regional Travel Grants. The Regional Research Awards recognize the best Psi Chi papers and posters presented at one of the six regional conventions. There are 78 awards of $300 each available across the six regions annually. The Regional Travel Grants provide funding to attend the regional convention. Funding varies from $100 to $300 and can include expenses including airfare, hotel accommodations, ground transportation, and convention registration.
For undergraduate students, I would also recommend submitting an application for one of the Summer Research Grant programs. These programs provide the student with a $3,500 stipend for travel and living expenses so the student can go conduct a research project for approximately 10 weeks with a sponsor that shares common research interests. There are four programs available offering a total of 24 grants. You can see information about the 2009-10 winners of these programs on pages 30–38 of this issue.
What are chapter awards?
Chapter awards recognize Psi Chi chapters and advisors who are helping to accomplish Psi Chi’s purpose and mission. Chapters should be active at the campus, local, regional, and Society levels. Events that show a chapter’s involvement include hosting induction ceremonies, scheduling service projects, voting in Society elections, and attending local, regional, national, and/or international conferences. Advisors are honored for service to the chapter where the advisor is ensuring the chapter is seeking to fulfill Psi Chi’s mission and purpose and where the advisor is involved with members’ development academically and professionally.
What is the first award for which you would apply as a chapter?
The first chapter award I recommend trying to obtain is the Model Chapter Award. All chapters that meet the criteria receive the award and $100. This can be a real motivator for the chapter. After winning the Model Chapter Award, I suggest the chapter begin to apply for the Regional Chapter Awards and/or the Regional Advisor Awards. Your application may not be selected as a winner the first year you apply, but it does get the chapter in the habit of preparing the applications. After a declined submission, your chapter will be able to revise the original submission using feedback received from the Central Office. The next year, your chapter will have an outstanding application that will have a good chance of being selected as a winner in subsequent years.
How can the chapter advisor and/or officers promote Psi Chi award and grant programs?
- Discuss upcoming deadlines in your meetings
- Schedule application prep sessions with graduate students and faculty volunteers on hand to help members prepare applications for upcoming programs
- Link information about Psi Chi award and grant programs to your chapter’s webpage or Facebook account
- Send email reminders to your members about deadlines 4-weeks, 3-weeks, 2-weeks, and 1-day prior to submissions being due
- Have previous grant winners speak to chapter members about the application process and the research experience
- Showcase award and grant winners at institution and department functions like honors banquets and graduation ceremonies
- Have the local and campus newspapers publish articles about recent award and grant winners from your chapter
- Encourage interested members to contact the Central Office for further information or clarification about any of the awards and grants offered
How competitive are the programs?
Award and grant programs are offered to Psi Chi members only (with the exception of the Newman Award). This allows for a smaller applicant pool, however, the applicants are fellow Psi Chi members with a strong academic record. Smaller programs like the Hunt Grants, SuperLab Grants, and Website Awards usually receive less than 10 applications a year. The largest programs include the Undergraduate Research Grants, Graduate Research Grants, and Allyn & Bacon Awards. These larger programs receive from 40 to 60 applications per submission deadline. While a 1-in-60 chance seems like a long-shot, consider the thousands of applications received for programs such as NSF sponsored grants compared to the number awarded. Psi Chi programs are well funded providing excellent opportunities for members.
What are the biggest mistakes most applicants make?
Not following the instructions. Each award or grant has a cover sheet detailing what should be submitted. There are three things that are often overlooked. First, many applicants ignore the requirements on length. If the instructions state six pages, then only submit six pages. You may have written a 60-page honors thesis on the project, but the Research Awards Committee reviewing the applications expects your project to be explained within the guidelines. More information is not necessarily better.
A second common error is APA style. Ask many people to proof your submission. These can be fellow classmates, graduate assistants, and professors. A final review by your research sponsor or advisor is always advised.
Finally, many grant programs require the application to be masked. To mask an application, remove all your identifying indicators -your name, your advisor’s name, the institution’s name, and your geographic area. This is to prevent bias when the proposal is reviewed by the Research Grants Committee. Most applicants remember to remove their name and school from the narrative, but fail to remove the information from appendices like informed consent forms and fliers. Another overlooked identifier is email addresses and phone numbers. Using the find and replace function in Microsoft Word can identify these hidden identifiers as well.
What timeline do you recommend for preparing an application?
Grants and awards have differing timelines. With awards, the majority of the work has already been completed; it is just a matter of getting the materials for the application together. For grants, significantly more development is required, and more time is needed.
For awards, I would begin preparing my application about 30 days prior to the deadline. Most awards simply require a masked submission of the research paper. Prepare the draft of this essay 25 to 30 days before the deadline. This allows for several people like classmates, graduate assistants, and lab partners to proof your draft. Then have your research sponsor proof the cleanest version of the draft before submitting the paper online. Always provide a copy of the cover sheet for the program to those assisting in proofing to ensure you are following all the instructions.
Grants need a longer timeline for the development of applications. I would recommend a minimum of 45 to 60 days to prepare your application. Perform research about your area of interest for current information and to become aware of the older, classic studies. Around 45 days before the application is due, select a research advisor who has similar interests and decide on a possible research project you could administer with the advisor’s assistance. Then using your research and project outline, prepare a draft of your project and an IRB application. Fifteen days before the grant submission is due, make sure you have a final draft of all components to the application. Request your research advisor to proof the materials you plan to submit and check your materials against the cover sheet to ensure all the instructions are being followed. A week before the grant application is due, submit your final versions online instead of waiting until the last day.
Why is winning an award or grant important?
Winning an award recognizes a research accomplishment. Not only did you complete a research project, you did a good job. For graduate school reviewers, receiving an award for a project from an organization outside your college or university shows that you were able to not only develop a research idea but see the project through to the end. This shows perseverance and the ability to deliver results. For potential employers, the award demonstrates that you can develop and implement an idea within the restrictions of budgets and institutional guidelines. These accomplishments are great things to highlight in a cover letter or personal essay as well.
A project funded by a grant shows that you can develop solid proposals and convey your idea through writing. This shows you possess valuable communication skills to potential employers and graduate school selection committees. The fulfillment of the grant requirements demonstrates that you can develop an idea and see the project through its completion. Once again, this is a skill desired by both employers and graduate schools.
How do I get more information?