Getting Grants - Common Reasons Proposals Are Rejected

Fellowships & Scholarships

Geneseo students are eligible for major external scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate study and for travel in many parts of the world. For the 2017-2018 year, SUNY Geneseo was named a top producer of U.S. Student Fulbright Awards.

Preparing for these important opportunities requires work well in advance of submission deadlines. The office of Fellowships and Scholarships can help you to:

  1. Find fellowships/scholarships that are a good match for your interests and experience, as well as for your academic and extracurricular life, and
  2. Sharpen and focus your qualifications and career goals by the time you apply.

National and international scholarships are highly competitive and the information in the links listed here will help you to select the programs that best suit you. See the calendar page for both local and national deadlines.

The Office of Fellowships and Scholarships works closely with other Geneseo programs to offer workshops and individual guidance in writing applications, submission of recommendations, preparing for interviews.

The following sites dedicated to scholarships and fellowships will allow you to narrow your search by interest area and/or major:

For more information about fellowships and scholarships, please contact Michael Mills at, or visit his office in Doty 303E.

Faculty Committees

Faculty assist in selecting applicants, preparing application essays, and interviewing students on campus.

STEM Fields International Study Highly Competitive
Olympia Nicodemi Melanie Blood Melanie Blood
Dori Farthing Kate Fredericks Ron Herzman
Bob O'Donnell Cyndy Klima Lisa Meyer
David Johnson Megan Abbas Olympia Nicodemi
Aaron Steinhauer Linda Steet Michael Mills

scholarship and fellowship by application year

Quick Links

The proposal review process involves individual, human readers. This fact produces an implacable rule. What is not noticed is not funded. Amidst the sometimes formidable stack of proposals, the document that does not catch the attention of the reader cannot compete on the more formal criteria associated with quality of design and congruence with the agency's priorities. The abstract and introduction sections of the proposal are thus very important, since they must project whatever unique or attractive elements are contained in your research question or approach.

The most common reasons for proposal rejection boil down to a surprisingly small set of simple and familiar failures:

  • Deadline for submission was not met.
  • Proposal topic was not appropriate to the funding agency to which it was submitted.
  • Guidelines for proposal content, format, and/or length were not followed exactly.
  • The proposed question, design, and method were completely traditional, with nothing that could strike a reviewer as unusual, intriguing, or clever.
  • The proposed area of study was not an agency priority for this year.
  • The proposal was not absolutely clear in describing one or more elements of the study.
  • The proposal was not absolutely complete in describing one or more elements of the study.
  • The authors review of the literature indicated they did not know the territory.
  • The proposed study appeared to be beyond the capacity of the authors in terms of training, experience, and available resources.
  • The proposed method of study was unsuited to the purpose of the research.
  • The budget was unrealistic in terms of estimated requirements for equipment, supplies, and personnel.
  • The cost of the proposed project appeared to be greater than any possible benefit to be derived from its completion.
  • The authors took highly partisan positions on issues, and thus became vulnerable to the prejudices of the reviewers.
  • The quality of writing was poor (e.g., sweeping and grandiose claims, convoluted reasoning, excessive repetitions, or unreasonable length).
  • The proposal contained an unreasonable number of mechanical defects that reflected carelessness and the author's unwillingness to attend to detail. The risk that the same attitude might extend to execution of the proposed study was not acceptable to the reviewers.

Because the probability of rejection for any given proposal is high, it is particularly important to be mindful of the items above in bold.

As adapted from: Locke, L.F., W.W. Spirduso, and S.J. Silverman. 1987. Proposals that Work. Second edition. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., by the University of Montana’s Office of the Vice President for Research & Creative Scholarship.

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