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Magic Grants for Ada Comstock Scholars

Magic Grants are intended to help Ada Comstock Scholars reach their highest potential by underwriting some of the expenses associated with internships, independent research, creative and artistic projects, and the development of innovative ideas and business plans.

Made possible by the generosity of the late writer and magazine pioneer Helen Gurley Brown, legendary editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, the college's Magic Grants program is designed to encourage imagination, creativity and high aspiration by funding innovative projects that Adas would otherwise not be able to pursue. 

Read the article about the 2016 Magic Grantees

Read the article about the 2014 Magic Grantees

About Helen Gurley Brown

Helen Gurley Brown in 1964Although she never attended Smith, Helen Gurley Brown long expressed an affinity with the college's commitment to educating women with diverse life experiences. Her papers are part of the college's Sophia Smith Collection of women's history manuscripts. Before she died in August 2012, Brown was made an honorary member of the Smith College Class of 1962, in recognition of the publication that year of her groundbreaking book Sex and the Single Girl.


Current Adas and those within two years of graduation are eligible to apply for the grants.  The deadline for submitting an application for a 2024 Magic Grant is Friday, March 29.

Magic Grants Application 2024

A committee coordinated by the Dean of the College will review applications, awarding them based on the project's potential to make a transformative difference in the life of the student or alumna and to advance her academic program or career goals.


BOLD Magic Grants are awarded to BOLD Scholars, either as an individual or a group, who have demonstrated leadership and have an idea that could transform their local community. Magic Grants fund transformative projects that are outcome-driven, action-oriented and feasible for completion before the Scholars’ graduation date.

Grant Amount

Magic Grants will be awarded on a quarterly basis and can range from 5K to 25K depending on the idea.


March 31, June 30, September 30, and December 31


  1. Feasibility
    Proposed project is possible with requested funds and timeline projection. Students should use this as an opportunity to practice professional development (i.e. grant writing, business proposal, etc.)
    Proven track record of leadership or commitment to a particular interest or theme which moves the needle forward towards a more equitable and just world. The applicant(s) should provide a couple of sentences highlighting examples or intention to….
  2. Social Innovation
    The individual(s) has a bold and innovative approach to tackling a social problem specific to women, children, or historically marginalized groups in their community (i.e. college campus and surrounding communities).
  3. Transformative
    The idea will have a deep and tangible impact on the specific community(ies). The applicant(s) have described what their practical expected outcomes are and how they may relay their impact to others.

Proposals will be assessed against the above criteria and should be about 1 page in length at maximum. Proposals should be reviewed by the BOLD Consultant prior to submission to the Foundation.

A Magic Grant does not:

  1. Solely fund academic and/or personal research.
  2. Solely fund travel or immersive experiences.
  3. Solely fund speakers series or conferences.
  4. Provide direct charitable support to other individuals or organizations.

The Foundation understands that academic research and conferences/speaker invitations may be a part of a Magic Grant-funded project. However, proposals that solely focus on research or speaker series will not be considered for funding. The Foundation is interested in funding ideas for which there is usually little funding for in an academic setting.

Additional Questions and Answers

  1. How does the HGB Foundation define innovative and transformative ideas?
    The HGB Foundation defines innovative and transformative ideas as those that proactively seek to solve a social challenge. Innovative and transformative ideas are bold, “outside the box”, unconventional, have depth, and are feasible. We are less interested in how wide you cast your net (or solution) and more interested in how deep your impact may be. For example, an applicant may be interested in eliminating gender-based violence but their proposal may focus more specifically on gender-based violence on their college campus and ways they can help alleviate and reduce the number of violent incidents.
  2. How often should BOLD Scholars apply for a Magic Grant?
    The Foundation expects at least one Magic Grant application per grant cycle. Proposals can come from individual students or groups (either at a single school or as a group project amongst 2+ schools).
  3. Who can apply for a BOLD Magic Grant?
    Any student(s) who is/are a BOLD scholar at the time of application and who will have sufficient time to complete their project.
  4. What is the process for receiving a Magic Grant?
    Applicants may decide which deadline they would like to meet.
    Application should be reviewed and feedback by BOLD Director and/or Advisory Board before submitting to the Foundation.
    Once an application is submitted, Foundation staff will review the applications and provide initial feedback, if any. Applications will then be forwarded to the Board for final decision-making. Applicants will receive a decision within 4 weeks of the deadline chosen.
  5. What are the expectations if Scholar(s) receive a Magic Grant?
    The project should be completed within the designated timeframe and before a Scholar’s graduation date. Project completion and progress updates should be included in the bi-annual reporting to the Foundation. BOLD Scholar(s) are expected to play a significant role in the implementation and delivery of proposed services.

Examples from previous Magic Grantees

  • Community garden planning and execution alongside nutrition and health and wellness seminars
  • Partnership with local high-school to create mentorship opportunities for BOLD scholars and local teenagers with a focus on college readiness and acceptance
  • Partnership with non-profit to create a “career closet” for underprivileged students and folks in the greater college community to access professional work attire for job interviews as well as professional development opportunities
  • Campus wide campaign to redistribute unused cafe card “swipes” to other students in need
  • Data project and presentation showcasing bystander effect on college campus related to sexual assaults and gender based violence

Frequently Asked Questions

The gift was made to fund the development of highly innovative ideas including creative and artistic projects, independent research and travel, internships or seed money for a new business.

While you may apply more than once, you may receive only one Magic Grant. If you were denied funding you are welcome to apply for the following year, as long as you are still eligible.

The funding will be disbursed directly to the awardee by the controller's office. Magic Grants are considered income by the I.R.S. U.S. citizens will receive an I.R.S. Form 1099 on the income received. For non-U.S. citizens, 30 percent will be deducted from their award.

If you are not a U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) and you are still enrolled as a student at Smith, you do not need a work visa. If you are no longer a student, you will need a work visa to work in the U.S. as a non-citizen. If you do not currently live in the United States, a Magic Grant will not entitle you to come to the United States to work without a work visa.

You can use a Magic Grant outside the U.S.; however, it is your responsibility to acquire the appropriate visa, insurance coverage, etc.

The grant can support research of your own design. It is less likely that the grant would be made to continue work on a faculty member's research.

No, the grant is not intended to be used as a scholarship or aid for graduate studies.

Your budget should be very specific and must include documentation supporting quotes for such items as travel, equipment, etc. The Magic Grant Committee may request additional information. An end-of-project report and budget must be submitted within 3 months of the end date specified in your project timeline. Any unexpended funds must be returned to Smith College.

It depends on the project, and the committee will consider carefully the likelihood of the project being completed in the time proposed.

Applications may be submitted at any time and will be reviewed in the spring, and decisions made in April.

Normally, funding should be devoted to project expenses and not to living expenses or a personal stipend. Childcare can be included in your proposal in certain circumstances.

The endowed fund allows for an annual percentage of the earnings to be made available, which is approximately $25,000. Funding may range from a few thousand dollars up to $25,000. We will consider the relevance of your proposal, the transformational potential and its self-sustainability when considering whether to fund it and at what level.

Yes, as long as there are appropriate applications.