Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities
What are some common problems in URCA applications?
#1 Problem Area: Project Description
- Too little detail (much fewer words than the maximum allowed).
- Identical submissions from students working on the same project (note that faculty are permitted to submit the same wording in their sections when serving as the faculty mentor for multiple URCAs).
- The description isn’t scholarly (e.g., no references are included).
- No (or vague) description of the methodology of the research.
- There aren’t results or hypothesized results (if you don’t have results yet for a Travel URCA, explain your timetable for having results before the conference).
- It is not clear if the project makes a unique contribution to the field.
- The writing is too technical; it is not comprehensible to a general audience.
#2 Problem Area: Budget
- Not itemized as specifically as reviewers like
- Not added up
- Obvious errors (e.g., “gas” instead of mileage; incorrect per diem amounts)
- No effort to reduce costs (e.g., everyone from the same team is driving separately to a conference several hours away)
#3 Problem Area: Writing errors (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.). Consider the Writing Center.
#4 Problem Area(s): The Faculty Sections
- Written by the student, not the faculty mentor
- Very short or vague
What is the acceptance rate for URCAs?
URCAs have become increasingly competitive. In 2014-2015, 83% (29 of 35) were accepted. In 2016-2017, 42% (24 of 57) were accepted.
The good news is that there is more funding for undergraduate research now, and we anticipate the acceptance rate increasing.
What do funded URCAs have in common?
Typically, funding URCAs have the following characteristics:
- Clear, engaging, scholarly, well written description of the proposed research project, including how this research will make a unique contribution to the literature in this area.
- The results of the study are described in the project description, including implications or applications (in other words, why this research is important).
- Budget is itemized, totaled, and correct.
- The faculty mentor has indicated his/her interest and enthusiasm for mentoring students in general.
- The faculty mentor has indicated that students will learn a great deal from this project (e.g., making academic posters, networking, analyzing data, writing, public speaking, etc.).
Who evaluates URCA applications, and how do they make their decisions?URCA applications are reviewed by a panel review group. Each member individually evaluates each application according to the rubric. The scores for each application are averaged across each reviewer, providing a starting place for an in-person meeting. The committee meets, discusses the applications, and makes decisions.
Can I receive the funding to go to a conference, even if I’m not presenting?Unfortunately, we do not have enough funds to support students who are not actually presenting at the conference.
Can graduate students apply for this funding?
The trip/supplies cost more than $700; how can I get more funding to cover the costs?Sometimes departments and colleges can help support student research; ask your faculty mentor, department chair, and/or dean for more details. In addition, several divisions in the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) offer student travel awards - check here for more information. Finally, there are discipline-specific organizations that sometimes offer student funding; check with your faculty advisor for more information.
The URCA application requires information from both the student and the faculty mentor. How should we submit the application?The application should be submitted from one person, either the student or the faculty mentor. Whoever submits the application should gather the information from the other person before submitting. We recommend putting all of the answers in a Word document before submitting.
Can I submit my application late or revise the application once submitted?No. In order to be fair to all other applicants, we need to adhere strictly to deadlines, as all grants do.
I have been accepted to present at a conference that is occurring after I graduate, although I conducted the research as an undergraduate. Can I still apply for the funding?Yes - students are eligible for the funding up to one semester after graduating from KSU.
I used URCA funds for a conference that cost much less than $700. Can I apply again for another conference for the remaining amount?Yes; each student is limited to a maximum of $700 per academic year.
I am part of a team of undergraduate researchers presenting together at a conference. Can all of us submit one URCA application?No; each individual student must submit a solo URCA application. That means that if five people are traveling to a conference together to present one poster, there should be five separate URCA applications submitted. The sections written by the student should be clearly written by each student and should be different than the other applications. The sections written by the faculty mentor can be identical. The reason we ask teams of students to submit separate applications is because URCA funds are limited; it may the case that the committee cannot fund all of the students on a team, and they need a way to differentiate the student researchers.