Where to Begin

Applying for external support requires careful planning and a clear description of your project.  Explain what you want to do, why it is worth doing, how you will do it, and what it will cost.  You must sell your idea to the funding agency.

Plan the approach:

Search the web pages of the organization/agency to find suitable opportunities.  There are many federal and private agencies that offer grants. Consider:

Grants.gov:    Grants.gov is where you can find and apply for Federal grants.

Please note: Grants.gov has officially retired the "legacy PDF application package" as a method to apply for a federal grant and now uses an application method called Workspace.  You can no longer download an application package and email it to the SRO for submission.  The PI or workspace owner creates the workspace and oversees the form preparation, but the AOR must have simultaneous access to the workspace and will ultimately be the one to submit.  PIs must be affiliated with Occidental College and may not submit on their own. All workspace users must be registered with Grants.gov.  Not sure if you are registered to use Workspace? You may not be, even if you have used Grants.gov in the past. So, please check with the SRO office well before your proposal submission deadline! Watch a video overview of the process here.


NSF:   NSF, or the National Science Foundation, uses both Research.gov and Fastlane for application and grant manangement purposes.

Please note: NSF migrated from Fastlane to Research.gov.  The new Research.gov went live in 2018.  If you were already registered in Fastlane, you are automatically registered for Research.gov. Users may only have 1 NSF ID (no separate IDs for separate roles) and must update their profile if flagged upon sign-in.  There is now a single sign-on so when you sign in to Fastlane you are automatically also signed in to Research.gov and vice versa, meaning you will have integrated access to both systems. Research.gov will be used for grants management - grant status, financial reporting, etc.  Please sign on to Research.gov well before your proposal submission deadline to be sure your profile is up-to-date and you can access what you need.

New user? Need an NSF ID? For a guide from the SRO on that topic, click here. For information from NSF, about their proposal submission process, click here.

  • Occidental faculty may wish to pay particular attention to solicitations marked RUI (Research in Undergraduate Institutions). These grants will support your work and that of your undergraduate student researchers. For information about NSF RUI Applications please, click here

For all NSF awards, the NSF Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (NSF 17-1) should be utilized. For info about award administration, click here


NIH:  NIH, or the National Institutes of Health, is the largest biomedical research agency in the world. NIH uses eRA Commons for application purposes. The SRO must register all principal investigators, so if you intend to apply for an NIH grant, please contact the SRO and ask to be set up as a PI.


NEH: NEH, or the National Endowment for the Humanities, uses Grants.gov for their application purposes. Please see our notes above about the Grants.gov application process.


Not all grants are Federal! Check with Corporate and Foundation Relations for ideas and assistance.

Do your homework to determine the "fit."  Make sure your research interests are aligned with the program goals set forth by the funding agency.

Ready to write? Helpful places to start:

Budget Planning

Questions regarding your time commitment, space and facilities need to be resolved before you start writing!  You’re encouraged to budget funds to support undergraduate researchers, including study grants (please don't refer to them as stipends!) and housing support. Check with the URC for cost estimates if you plan to make that a part of your proposal.

If your idea involves hiring additional staff, leasing space or entering into subcontract agreements or College matching support, contact BOTH grants@oxy.edu and sro@oxy.edu for guidance to be certain you have received the proper clearances before proceeding.  Please remember that the RPAS and budget must be submitted at least 10 business days prior to your intended submission date and more time is even better.  The RPAS and budget require a number of approval signatures and you may not submit without them, so don't wait to submit these to grants@oxy.edu and sro@oxy.edu

Begin to estimate the costs of the various budget components. Provide honest estimates--don't "low-ball" the costs, it lessens your prospects. Make sure you have identified appropriate matching contributions, have considered auxiliary costs (such as insurance) and that the budget format you're using complies with the specific sponsor requirements.


Need help?
  • For budgeting questions, please approach the college grant specialist at grants@oxy.edu
  • For assistance with Federal application websites or to be registered as a PI, please approach the Sponsored Research Office at sro@oxy.edu
  • For assistance writing a grant proposal or to see examples of successful past proposals, reach out to Oxy's Center for Research and Scholarship.