How to Finesse Yale (Funding Your Summer!)

Like many Yalies, I have a lot of big dreams and varied interests (poetry, creative nonfiction, playwriting, acting, TV and film development, journalism — the list goes on and, yes, I am that indecisive about my future), but not the financial means to delve into exploring all of them all as much as I’d like or need to. Still, coming to Yale as a first-year, I had a plan to work around that! As many upperclassmen that I met during my first few weeks of college had advised me, there were plenty of ways to finesse Yale to pay for nearly anything (that was within reason, and was arguably scholarly) I might want to do during my summers between school years — I just had to ask for it, present a plan, and say how much.

Well that sounds convenient, but what’s the catch?

For the most part, just being duly vigilant (open your emails!). It’s no secret that there’s a lot of money here. And you shouldn’t (and often, don’t!) have to pay for anything that Yale can instead — so get your bag!

How I look at myself in the mirror after seeing the notification that says “A new Zelle® payment is in your account.”

When I say “finessing,” really I just mean 1) knowing where to look for funding opportunities and applications, and where they’re usually advertised, 2) asking Yale for the money you want and telling them what you’re going to use it for, and 3) staying on top of it all! While some of my friends (across various kinds of applications at Yale, not just with summer funding) have been formally rejected from grants or internships or fellowships, I know far more who just forgot, missed deadlines juggling other work, or didn’t know the opportunity existed to begin with. Don’t fumble the bag! Look around a bit!

Okay, gotcha, so how did you find and get funding? And what did you do with it?

The main way to obtain access to the riches and splendors of your wildest dreams ask for funding for and propose a (usually summer) project is through one of the many handy websites available to students: the Yale Student Grants and Fellowships Database. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a central place for students to look and apply for grants, given out by a range of organizations associated with Yale, with awards usually ranging from the low hundreds all the way to the upper range of the thousands. You can also search for grants by keywords, purpose, your current year of study, residential college, country or global region, and sponsoring organization, too!

Want to do summer research in East or Southeast Asia? Get between $5,000-$20,000 to do volunteer public service work? Design grassroots projects and implement them in the U.S. or abroad? You can find the financial means to support any of those through the database!

Nothing like seeing a few thousand dollars in your bank account that weren’t there a few days ago!

A lot of Yale opportunities come to you too, though: often in the form of email panlists! For this summer, I got two Yale grants to fund research about spiritual traditions and practices in the Black South for my Theater Studies playwriting senior project (travelling to New Orleans for a series of interviews and site visits there, since my thesis play will be set in Louisiana): one from the Afro-American Cultural Center, and another from my residential college. In both cases, I was put on to them by emails I received from the House (what students call the AfAm Center!) and Silliman College. If you do the work of combing through longer emails and newsletters you get, you can find anything from funding to events to free food — the best advice I can give you (as a hypothetical future Yalie) is to read as many emails as you can, even if it’s just skimming sometimes!

Bet. So, logistically, how does it work?

After I found the two grants I wanted to apply to, each had their own applications and requested materials, and most will generally ask for: a personal statement or a project description, a breakdown of your proposed budget, and a summary of your on-campus activities and relevant experience (think: extracurriculars, some of your courses, any student jobs you’ve held). Some require letters of recommendation, while others just need either a professor’s signature vouching for you and your project, or a short paragraph speaking to the same effect. Most of these will close by the end of March, though some end mid-February — it may sound way too early, but at least glancing at summer funding in January is usually the best move! Once all that’s in, depending on when you submitted and what you submitted to, you’ll usually find out by early April if you secured the funding or not. I managed to get both of mine (and knew about one by late April and the other by late May)!

Me and my friends after our summer projects get approved!

In the past I’ve gotten over $3,000 to study theater and new play development in Cape Cod, and this summer I received over $2,000 to do playwriting research in-person in Louisiana! One of my friends got over $5,000 to travel to Iceland and write a creative nonfiction piece about her experiences abroad, and another got nearly $9,000 to study theater in France — if you can come up with an idea and back it up with a lot of passion and a solid plan, Yale will probably fund it.

Feeling a little great, a little excellent, a little bit princely and wonderful and good now that I have the financial means to embark on what I’m interested in learning about and studying more in depth!

This isn’t to make it all sound suspiciously easy — putting your proposal(s) together is work, you can still get a “no” back, and your best plans to be perfectly organized and on top of your goals can be hard to maintain under the stress of a given semester. It’s also worth adding that plenty of Yalies who would benefit from and need it simply don’t apply for summer funding, and also have fulfilling experiences regardless (my junior year summer, I just took summer classes online, and during my gap year, I just worked on small independent creative projects). But for four years, it’s there for you to use — tap into the money while you’re here!