June 28, 2018
As a student or early-career professional, you’re probably on a tight budget, and attending a conference can present a significant financial burden. However, sharing your valuable contributions to science must go on! We at AGU are well aware of this conundrum, so every year we provide hundreds of travel grants to students to attend the largest gathering in the world of Earth and space scientists! There are several travel grants and funding opportunities, some that require standard applications, like the Fall Meeting General Student Travel Grant and the Lloyd V. Berkner Travel Fellowship, and some that are more novel, like the Data Visualization and Storytelling Competition (in partnership with NASA). So how can you apply for these grants, and what makes a successful application? Let’s find out.
Check Your Eligibility to Apply!
Before you apply for any of AGU’s travel grants, make sure that you are eligible for the award. The requirements are strict, and reviewers will make sure that you meet them. If you do not meet them, you will not be considered for the award. Therefore, it is best to focus on preparing a great application for the travel awards that you are eligible for. For instance, you must be an AGU member to apply for the two main travel grants mentioned above, the Fall Meeting General Student Travel Grant and the Lloyd V. Berkner Travel Fellowship. If you would like to apply for these grants, make sure to sign up for student membership. For the Berkner Travel Fellowship, you must also be under 35 and be a resident and a citizen of a country designated by the World Bank as a “low-income” or “lower-middle-income” per capita country. Early-career scientists can apply for the Berkner travel grant too but cannot apply for the Fall Meeting General Student Travel Grant or the David E. Lumley Young Scientist Scholarship. These are reserved strictly for students, including high school students.
Check Application Requirements Thoroughly!
You should also note that these applications might differ in their requirements. However, there are some similarities. One of these is the requirement to submit an abstract as lead author to the Fall Meeting. This is required for all travel funding applications except the Data Visualization and Storytelling Competition. However, this competition requires you to submit descriptions of data you will present and a static storyboard with narration along with an option to submit short video samples. The main travel grants will also ask you about income and your travel budget and to write paragraphs about your financial need and the scientific merit of your proposed project. The David E. Lumley Young Scientist Scholarship, on the other hand, will require you to submit only a letter of recommendation and a personal statement. Therefore, I suggest that you look at the requirements for each travel grant you are applying for and make a checklist for each to make sure you don’t forget to complete a required item.
Make Your Case Effectively!
After making sure you are eligible and taking note of what is required for the applications, you will need to begin writing your statements and make the case that you have a financial need and that your project has scientific merit, and to demonstrate what you bring to the Earth and space sciences as a future leader in the field. For the two main travel grants, the Fall Meeting General Student Travel Grant and the Lloyd V. Berkner Travel Fellowship, you will need to demonstrate in detail that you have done thorough trip planning and budgeting because travel grants will not cover all expenses and you will not receive the grant before the conference. You will also need to show that you have looked at the meeting itinerary and planned what events or programs you will attend to gain the most out of the experience, and to explain how this will benefit your future career. The David E. Lumley Young Scientist Scholarship will require a personal statement and a letter of recommendation, so be sure to explicitly write about your career goals, what you bring to the field both scientifically and personally, and how the scholarship will assist in bringing those goals to fruition. You can consult the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s guide to writing a personal statement and the Stanford University guide to asking for an effective letter of recommendation.
Along with students who show promising leadership and scientific merit in the field, AGU also seeks to support students from all backgrounds and walks of life, especially underrepresented minorities and women, so be sure to include what makes you you! Be yourself, and be genuine.
Be Ready, Be Early!
As you can see, there are things you need to do to prepare for these grants, so it’s best to start now. The earlier you start, the more time you will have to revise your application, and to have friends and professors proofread and provide you tips to improve it. Judges reviewing applications are able to tell which ones took effort to complete versus those put together last minute. Last-minute applications usually have glaring grammatical errors and poorly thought out responses.
Finally, I would like to wish you luck and to hope this introduction to AGU Fall Meeting travel funding serves as a starting base for your preparation. Also, know that failing to secure a travel grant from AGU is not the end of the world; you can also speak with your professor and home university to see whether they have funds available for you. Send in your best application, but don’t be overly stressed. If you have any questions, you can e-mail [email protected] and we will be happy to help.
We hope to see you at Fall Meeting in December in Washington, D.C.!
Steven Carrion is the Spring Talent Pool Intern