RA Essentials Job Aid - How to Read a Solicitation


While reading a solicitation can be a time-consuming and overwhelming pursuit, it is an indispensable part of the application process. Reading solicitations efficiently will help you to better understand their submission requirements and to prepare more successful proposals. In addition to outlining proposals' basic requirements, solicitations also describe what sponsors priorities are with regards to their funding. Understanding this information will help you to better address their needs in your application and elicit more successful outcomes.  and what they look for in their applications. This is very valuable in that it will help you to determine what information can be included in a proposal to elicit more successful funding outcomes.   

Here are some tips and tricks for finding these key pieces of information within the solicitation.


Pay close attention to formatting requirements including but not limited to the following:


Pay close attention to the following eligibility requirements:

Special Instructions

Make sure to read whether there are special requirements or exclusions as well as additional compliance requirements.

Common Acronyms

There are many names for solicitations and funding opportunities. Here are some of the most common ones:

BAABroad Agency Announcement 
FOA Funding Opportunity Announcement
NOF(O)Notice of Funding (Opportunity)
PAProgram Announcement
PONProgram Opportunity Notice
RFARequest for Applications
RFPRequest for Proposal

Sponsor-specific Guidance: Federal Government Solicitations

Smart Tip: Use the search function on each solicitation. Enter “CTRL F” to activate the key word search on any document type.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

These tips refer to the most common type of NIH grant solicitation, the R01.

    • Section II: Award Information—Any special instructions will be found here (e.g., funding ceiling)
    • Section III: Eligibility Information—Read this section carefully to determine eligibility requirements for both the PI and the institution.
    • Section IV: Application and Submission Information
      • Pay special attention to Part 2: Content and Form of Application Submission as this is where the formatting information can be found. Make sure to bookmark the link to the Table of Page Limits which can be found under the heading “Page Limitations”.
      • Read Part 4: Submission Dates and Times in this section.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

These solicitations can be quite long and repetitive. Here are tips to make it easier to find what you need.

Department of Defense (DOD)

DOD is different from NIH and NSF in that the solicitations do not follow a standard format and vary depending on the funding branch within the DOD. Solicitations can be found online at Grants.gov, but they differ from the two types above in that you must download the PDF of the solicitation. These can also be quite lengthy—anywhere from 20 to 200 pages, but the PDF is usually clickable, so you can jump from the Table of Contents to the key sections.  

The best way to find eligibility, formatting, special instructions and contacts on DOD solicitations is to use the search function within the document. You can access this by entering “CTRL” + “F”. Once that window pops up, enter key words such as “eligibility” or “eligible” to determine PI and institutional eligibility. When looking for key dates, try searching for “dates”, “deadlines” or any other synonyms. With DOD solicitations, you will need to be flexible and creative when searching for the key pieces of information on the solicitation.

Sponsor-specific Guidance: Non-Government Solicitations

This category includes nonprofit, industry/for-profit, foreign institutions, institutions of higher learning and UC Programs. These solicitations tend to be more straightforward than government solicitations. Just look for key words related to formatting, eligibility and special instructions.

Important distinctions:

  1. UC Programs are not the same as state programs; they are their own category. UC Programs are solicitations put forth by the UC Office of the President (UCOP).
  2. Other University of California (UC) schools are considered institutions of higher learning, not UC Programs.

Smart Tips:




                                          Up to = ceiling (maximum)              At least = floor (minimum)