How To Win A Genius Grant

The 2011 Macarthur Genius Grants were just announced, and for the 22nd straight year, I got snubbed–and it’s likely you did as well. Perhaps we’re doing something wrong. And while this year’s crop of geniuses down at the genius farm looks good, I know what you’re thinking… why didn’t I win this year?

Worry not, member of the general public! The problem is definitely not that you’re not a genius–it’s just that you haven’t been playing the Genius Grant people’s political games. Yet. As something of an expert on being a genius, I’m here to answer your questions.

Who are these Macarthur people?

The late John D. Macarthur made his fortune in insurance. He then founded a foundation.

What is the Genius Grant?

It’s a big pile of money, given to geniuses as chosen by the Macarthur foundation.

That’s me! Why haven’t I gotten one of those yet?

Unfortunately, ever since the Macarthur Grants went mainstream, they have an application process. But don’t worry, I’m pretty sure very few people actually apply. I mean, how else to explain that they once gave one of these things to a clown?

A clown? Seriously?

And a juggler.

What are they looking for in the application?

Sayeth the website: “There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.” In other words, get busy clownin’, or get busy dyin’.

It is important to note that the emphasis is on using the money for future creativity rather than as a reward for past efforts. So if you have, like one, really cool idea–save it for after you get your money. Even if you don’t have such an idea, drop hints that you do in your application and their curiosity will likely get the better of them.

What kinds of applications win?

Well, if you have a background in astrophysics, bioengineering, geochemistry and/or elder rights, that helps. However, the geniuses come from a wide variety of fields, especially in recent years. I’d imagine this is because they gave all the real geniuses their grants years ago and now are giving them out to people in fields like font-making, sticking it to Thomas Jefferson, and sound sculpture. So, yeah, find something–anything, really–and become the best in the world at it. Except dentistry. No dentist has ever won.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Anything else I need to know?

A cool name helps.

I’ve legally changed my name to Max Power. I’m internationally renowned as the world’s foremost dendrologist. I’m ready to win the prize. How will they let me know?

In the most creepy way possible.

Wow! I did it, and at such a young age. This must mean I’m destined for greatness. There’s no stopping me! Everything I touch will turn to gold! Right?

Eh, not necessarily. You may even be consistently wrong about pretty much everything in your area of expertise. Or involved with a beer summit. Still, it’s a big pile of money.

How big a pile of money?

$500,000 paid in quarterly installments over five years. They don’t just cut you a big ol’ check. Instead it’s 20 $25,000 checks, which is worse, obviously. Just ask any lottery winner.

Anything else I need to know?

You tell me. You’re the genius. (cue hysterical laughter and end of post).

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