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Application Tips

1. Submit early

We strongly recommend that you do not wait until the last day to submit your application. will put a date/time stamp on your application and process it after it is fully uploaded. The time indicated on this stamp represents your official submission time. The time it takes to upload an application will vary depending on a number of factors, including the size of the application and speed of your Internet connection. The time it takes to process the application upload and submission varies as well.

If rejects your application, you must resubmit successfully before 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time on the deadline date. We suggest submitting applications the day before the deadline. That way, if there are problems, you have time to correct them.

Note: If applying for grants from ACL's National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), please see these specific instructions.

2. Take advantage of FOA information

Understanding our grant process gives you a head start on grant applications. Many of our grant competitions begin with an announcement of proposed priority. This announces our intention to call for grant proposals on a particular priority, and invites comments on that priority. At this point in time, the grant competition is not open. While there is no guarantee that we will actually conduct a grant competition on that topic, we do in most cases. Use this time to begin planning your application.

After we have received and analyzed comments on the proposed priority, we issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) that declares our final priority and opens the competition. This document indicates deadlines, award limits, and other key information for the specific grant competition. It also includes information on how to obtain the application kit. It is important to read the FOA and application kit carefully as they include important information not only on the subject matter, but on matters such as deadlines and page limits. Applications are rejected for failing to respond to such details.

3. Keep the peer reviewer in mind

ACL bases funding decisions for competitive grants primarily on the scores of peer reviewers—non-federal subject matter specialists who review each application. An applicant wins a grant award by scoring the most points. Carefully read the review criteria stated in the application package. When writing your proposal, think like a peer reviewer—ask yourself, "How would I score this section if I were a peer reviewer?" "How could I make it easier for the peer reviewer to rate my application and award more points?" If you do not address the priority and selection criteria convincingly, peer reviewers will award fewer points.

4. Write clearly and convincingly

Be simple, direct, and clear in your writing. A lucid, compelling proposal will score more points than a poorly written proposal. Make the application exciting. Use of active voice will help. Think about how your proposal will advance the science on this topic—what impact will it have? We suggest that you ask colleagues to review and rate your proposal as mock peer reviewers prior to submission.

5. Address peer reviewer comments

If your first submission is rejected, study the peer reviewer comments carefully. Even if you think you addressed a particular concern, you might not have made the point clearly enough. Peer review comments are some of the most important input you can use to improve your application. When a new competition on the same topic is announced, address the comments within the body of a new application narrative.

6. Serve as a peer reviewer

One of the best ways to understand the peer review process is to serve as a peer reviewer. Read the general overview of what to expect as a peer reviewer for ACL.

Apply to serve as a peer reviewer by submitting a request and resume to While serving on an ACL review panel may be your best learning experience for writing proposals, serving on peer review panels for other agencies, foundations. or professional publications are also good experiences.

Last modified on 09/19/2023

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