Follow-up to the previous post

September 26, 2007

I am in fact always available to help you with your proposals, but for the sake of your application and my sanity, don’t ask me at the eleventh hour. Until October 15, I’m occupied with giving my standard orientation spiel and interviewing 25 Fulbright candidates. After the 15th, my dance card isn’t quite so full, but I do my best work when I have at least a few days to roll your essay over in my mind and see what sticks and what doesn’t.

I recently attended a really extraordinary fellowship writing seminar given by Professor Isaac Martin in Sociology to five first- and second-year students, where Professor Martin made the true but sometimes counterintuitive point that when you get to this point in your academic career and you decide to apply for fellowships, you are no longer competing against your peers. An NSF, Javits, or Ford Fellowship recipient in your department can do very good things for its reputation, which in turn helps you when you go to look for jobs. So form writing groups, share your essays, and, if you can, get a professor to talk to you about what makes a good proposal. If you’d like, I’ll come to the writing groups myself and pass along what I’ve learned from reading fellowship essays for a year and a half and attending talks given by program representatives. You’ll learn that most vague of traits ascribed to those who get tenure–“collegiality”–and you might even get some money out of it.

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