Funding GRANTS
What Should I Know About ED Grants? -- Waiting to Hear
September 1998
Archived Information

Frequently, some months elapse between an application deadline and the day when applicants learn about the funding decision or disposition of a particular group of applications. The Department is always seeking ways to reduce the time period between application deadline and award day. In fact, the Department has modified its grant award process to reduce the time from application to award. Nonetheless, some waiting is always involved because of the volume of applications the Department receives as well as the added time required for the Department to act on its commitment to give each application a fair and thorough review. This section describes what happens to your application after the Department receives it.

How does the Department review my application?

For the majority of the Department’s grant competitions, program offices recruit grant application reviewers (reviewers) from outside the federal government who have expertise in the subject area(s) of the applications being considered. Program offices also use federal employees within and outside the Department to serve as reviewers. Each reviewer reads and scores a group of assigned applications. After the reviewers score the applications, the grant team conducts an internal review to assure that the reviewers’ scoring sheets are correctly completed and that the application meets all the requirements of the program. These two review processes become the basis for a final listing of applicants that the grant team considers for funding.

What criteria do reviewers use to score my application?

Reviewers score each application against the selection criteria published in the Federal Register as part of the program regulations. If there are no program regulations, the reviewers score each application against the selection criteria in EDGAR. In reviewing applications, reviewers are not permitted to use additional criteria or consider any information that is not in the application.

How does the Department take into account variations in scoring practices among reviewers?

Grant teams have the option to use a computer program in the review process to normalize reviewers’ scores. This normalization compensates for the tendencies of some reviewers to score applications higher or lower than other reviewers for the same group of applications. With normalized scores, the grant teams are able to prepare a rank order list of applications that negates, as much as feasible, any unusual variations in scoring.

Does a high score guarantee funding?

No. Even if your proposal ranks high and the grant team considers it for funding, your application still might not be funded because of one or more of the following reasons: the large number of high quality applications that were received under the competition; the limited amount of funds Congress has allocated to the program; and/or a geographic distribution requirement for the number of grants awarded to specific regions of the country for the program for which you applied. Keep in mind that a project is not guaranteed funding until an official Grant Award Notification (GAN) has been signed by the authorized program official and mailed to and received by the applicant.

How long does it take the Department to decide on my application?

Although the time varies from program to program, it takes approximately four to six months from the time the Department receives a new application to the time the award is made. The Department must follow carefully its own procedures, as well as requirements established by Congress and OMB, in reviewing applications and awarding grants. We must assure that the review and award process is fair to all applicants. As the Department adopts new technology, we expect the time required to process applications will be reduced.

How can I become an application reviewer?

Contact the program office that handles grant programs in your area of expertise and inform them of your interest in being a reviewer. Phone numbers for program offices can be found in the Guide to U.S. Department of Education Programs. Usually, a grant team member asks the person interested in being part of the review process to send a resume or curriculum vitae to the Department to enable the team to evaluate the person’s credentials as a potential reviewer.

On the Paper Trail
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Last Modified: 10/26/2004