Fellowships Are Fantastic

I was quite surprised today when I got a letter in the mail from the PEO Executive Office. It was a standard business-size envelope, and it's 3 weeks earlier than the notification deadline, so I thought for sure it was a rejection of my application for a dissertation completion fellowship. But I was wrong - I actually got the fellowship! Someone is going to give me a big, fat check simply to write about dead Romans. Of course, this will take some pressure off of me to find fall employment while dealing with a 3-mo-old infant, and of course it's yet another spiffy thing to list on my CV so that people will hire me. I can also hold it concurrently with a TA position, any sort of employment, and even another fellowship (like the UNC completion fellowship that I haven't heard about yet).

The annoying things are that it's a cash award (which means it doesn't cover tuition per se and I have to pay loads of taxes on it) and that I'm not supposed to graduate until after August 1, 2010. PEO has a strange notion of what a school year constitutes. I plan to graduate in May 2010, but they don't want to give me the award unless I graduate in August. Granted, my advisor will be happy to tell prospective employers that I have defended and will get my PhD before the fall 2010 semester starts, which wouldn't be a lie. But I wouldn't be able to walk in the May 2010 graduation because of UNC's rules. None of these things is a dealbreaker, of course, or I wouldn't have applied for this fellowship. $15,000 is worth a bit of dealing with bureaucracy.

But just so no one thinks I am completely enamoured of myself right now, I totalled up the amounts I've applied for in terms of grants and fellowships and the amounts I've received since 2005. My success rate at getting grants to fund my dissertation is 27%, which includes all the times I applied for and didn't get the Wenner-Gren but also the under-$1k grants I got from UNC. My success rate at getting fellowships is a lot lower - 14% - primarily because fellowships are worth more and are an all-or-nothing deal. Which brings my combined grant/fellowship success rate to 20% over the last 4 years. Academia sucks because you're constantly applying for money that you're likely not going to get, but a 20% success rate probably isn't all that bad, considering. Maybe I am completely enamoured of myself right now. Don't worry, though, it won't last. We academics tend to be bipolar, and I'm sure I'll hate my research and my life within a few days.


Anonymous said…
With that hit rate, you'll be a wildly successful academic. NSF has been funding just 5-10% of proposals in recent years, so if you're scoring 20+%, you're a winner!

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