Application Components - NSF Graduate Research Fellowships Program (GRFP)

Below is the prompt for the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement:

Please outline your educational and professional development plans and career goals. How do you envision graduate school preparing you for a career that allows you to contribute to expanding scientific understanding as well as broadly benefit society? Page limit - 3 pages

Describe your personal, educational and/or professional experiences that motivate your decision to pursue advanced study in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). Include specific examples of any research and/or professional activities in which you have participated. Present a concise description of the activities, highlight the results and discuss how these activities have prepared you to seek a graduate degree. Specify your role in the activity including the extent to which you worked independently and/or as part of a team. Describe the contributions of your activity to advancing knowledge in STEM fields as well as the potential for broader societal impacts (See Solicitation, Section VI, for more information about Broader Impacts).

NSF Fellows are expected to become globally engaged knowledge experts and leaders who can contribute significantly to research, education, and innovations in science and engineering. The purpose of this statement is to demonstrate your potential to satisfy this requirement. Your ideas and examples do not have to be confined necessarily to the discipline that you have chosen to pursue.

If you have completed more than 12 months of graduate or post-baccalaureate study or a professional degree and an interruption of at least two consecutive years (fourth option under Completed Study in the NSF GRFP Program Information section), please address the reasons for the interruption in graduate study here. Please refer back to that section for details.

Important questions to ask yourself before writing the statement:

  1. Why are you fascinated by your research area?
  2. What examples of leadership skills and unique characteristics do you bring to your chosen field?
  3. What personal and individual strengths do you have that make you a qualified applicant?
  4. How will receiving the fellowship contribute to your career goals?
  5. What are all of your applicable experiences?
  6. For each experience, what were the key questions, methodology, findings, and conclusions?
  7. Did you work in a team and/or independently?
  8. How did you assist in the analysis of results?
  9. How did your activities address the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts criteria?

Below is the prompt for the Graduate Research Plan Statement:

Present an original research topic that you would like to pursue in graduate school. Describe the research idea, your general approach, as well as any unique resources that may be needed for accomplishing the research goal (i.e., access to national facilities or collections, collaborations, overseas work, etc.) You may choose to include important literature citations. Address

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the potential of the research to advance knowledge and understanding within science as well as the potential for broader impacts on society. The research discussed must be in a field listed in the Solicitation (Section X, Fields of Study).

Important questions to ask yourself before writing the statement:

  1. What issues in the scientific community are you most passionate about?
  2. Do you possess the technical knowledge and skills necessary for conducting this work, or will you have sufficient mentoring and training to complete the study?
  3. Is this plan feasible for the allotted time and institutional resources?
  4. How will your research contribute to the "big picture" outside the academic context?
  5. How can you draft a plan using the guidelines presented in the essay instructions?
  6. How does your proposed research address the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts criteria?

Applicants are required to submit three reference letters. There are five slots available for applicants to list reference writers. Applicants are strongly encouraged to utilize all available slots.

The reference letter should provide details explaining the nature of the relationship to the applicant, comments on the applicant's potential and prior research experiences, statements about the applicant's academic potential and prior research experiences, statements about the applicant's proposed research, and any other information to enable review panels to evaluate the application according to the NSF Merit Review Criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts.

Applicants can improve their chances of obtaining strong reference letters by doing the following:

  1. Choose your references carefully; choose people that can speak to your abilities and potential, rather than someone with a prominent title.
  2. Provide referees sufficient time to write a strong letter.
  3. Discuss the application and share your essays with them.
  4. Inform them that reference letters should reflect both your "intellectual merit" and "broader impacts."
  5. Track submission of letters using your status page in the FastLane application module - if necessary, remind reference writers about deadline. No late letters will be accepted under any circumstances.
  6. Have backup references in case one of your primary reference writers cannot submit their letter.

Your academic transcript is the evaluators' opportunity to view the courses you have taken, allowing them to determine your level of preparation for your proposed plan of research.  Thus, it is a significant component of a complete application.

An academic transcript is required for every institution you have listed in the application module. If your transcript contains your academic records for more than one degree, you need to only upload your transcript once. You can select a checkbox on the application that the transcript information for an institution is contained on the uploaded transcript for another entry on the Education and Work Experience section of the application.

Category: Research proposal

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