NSF GRFP: Who's Reapplying Next Year?

19 posts in this topic

Posted

One thing I have learned about this forum as a third time Ph.D. applicant (got in this year, thank bog) is that this forum is heavily biased towards the highest achievers. This can make it seem like everyone who applies to grad school gets in, and everyone wins a NSF GRFP or at least gets an HM. Which is so not the case, there are way more losers than winners in this game obviously. So...a toast to us slightly less high achieving folks! And let's share experiences so that we can all be stronger applicants next year, for everyone who is reapplying.

Anyhow, my GRFP application got panned basically - only two reviews, reviewer #1 gave me two "fairs" and #2 gave me two "goods." It was clear that #1 was tougher than #2 from the very first line:

Reviewer #1: The applicant appears to have a genuine interest a science-based career.

Reviewer #2: You have a very strong background academically which promises a bright future.

Note that #1 says nothing about my aptitude or qualifications, only my "interest" which sounds a little backhanded to me. I kind of had a giggle about that one :).

Overall their feedback was actually pretty consistent, although #1 was very objective and offered no praise at all aside from noting my publications and volunteer experience. #2 said nice things about my background as a student and volunteer, but had basically the same critiques of my proposal, which is helpful for revisions.

Main critiques:

1. Expand on theoretical implications of project

2. Have a better plan for communicating my findings with the world

3. Improve quantitative skills

So I plan on retooling the rationale for the project, polishing up my broader impacts, and I will be taking graduate level stats next year so that should help with the quantitative skills issue.

What about you, what feedback did you get and what's your plan for next year?

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Posted

I'm reapplying next year also. One reviewer gave me both "very goods," and the other reviewer both "goods". The only negative critique I got was that my past academic record was "lacking" (which is true: I'm moving into science from a humanities background so I don't have a lot of coursework under my belt yet). Both reviewers said that my proposal was original and "very interesting," and that I'm well suited to do the research. The VG reviewer said that I'm a "self starter" with "apparent leadership abilities." Mostly though, I thought the reviews were pretty unhelpful.

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Posted

I'm heading into Grad School in the fall, and according to the website I didn't receive an award or an HM. I'll certainly be applying again next year, and though I haven't received an email yet, so I can't speak to my ratings, I feel like my research plan could have been a little more clear and perhaps a bit more focused. I'll certainly post my reviewers' comments when I get them, and keep your head up everyone, as LadyL mentioned, this forum is certainly biased towards the neurotic, over-achievers out there. Congrats to all for the hard work that went into the submission process, and I look forward to this crazy waiting game again next year.

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Posted

I would, but I won't qualify.

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Posted

Ah! You beat me to it. I was just on my way here to start a thread like this. I rolled over at 3 am this morning to check the time and discovered that I had an e-mail. Of course I had to check it and I was all excited until I got the "it's not us it's you" part of the e-mail. Dismayed, I rolled over and hurridly went back to sleep by convincing myself it was all dream. I'm sad, disappointed and bitter about how much effort I put in. I also did not receive an HM, which somehow made it that much worse. Though, I must say, I shouldn't feel this way since I got into my program of choice with full funding. I need to put things in perspective.

My reviewers said a lot of the same. My proposal was good but not good enough. I wasn't specific enough in my pitch. I'll be reapplying next year after I get a bit more education in my chosen field (neuro). Overall they liked what I was proposing. They didn't like that I wasn't knowledgable enough to have a better method of studying it.

I had one bastard of a proposer... okay I take it back. He/she was just doing his/her job. But still, burtal honesty hurts. They didn't believe I was dedicated to science enough to merit an award. If I could make it through Organic Chemistry without murdering the entire chem department, I think that's dedication.

I'm sorry to hear that you all didn't get the award. Hopefully there's still time for you to apply next year. I wish you luck. I know I'll need it.

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Posted (edited)

Got the following for rating sheets. No HMs, 3rd year grad student with extenuating circumstances statement submitted. 3.4 Undergrad GPA, 3.49 Grad GPA, 450/790/4.5 on GRE.

****

Rating #1:

Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Good

The applicant's academic preparation is less competitive. The clarity of the research plan is competitive. The application would benefit a discussion of more related literature for the proposed research. The applicant's research experience supporting material is less competitive.

Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Good

The supporting material for the broader impacts of the proposed research is not reflective of the proposed project's potential impacts. The applicant's proposal would benefit from a plan for information dissemination. The proposal would also benefit from an extended discussion on more specific impacts.

*****

Rating #2:

Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Good

Has good academic preparation for graduate study. Appears to be enthusiastic about research and is a hard worker. The proposed research topic is interesting, but still lacks of details. It is impressive that the applicant has two papers published.

Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Good

Appears to be a natural leader. Has passion in politics. Writing can be further improved. Statement about master study is not research oriented somehow conflicts with the statement that the applicant wants to do research and, therefore, stayed for the master study.

***************************

Rater 1 is very confusing indeed.

Edited by newage2012

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Posted

Got the following for rating sheets. No HMs, 3rd year grad student with extenuating circumstances statement submitted. 3.4 Undergrad GPA, 3.49 Grad GPA, 450/790/4.5 on GRE.

****

Rating #1:

Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Good

The applicant's academic preparation is less competitive. The clarity of the research plan is competitive. The application would benefit a discussion of more related literature for the proposed research. The applicant's research experience supporting material is less competitive.

Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Good

The supporting material for the broader impacts of the proposed research is not reflective of the proposed project's potential impacts. The applicant's proposal would benefit from a plan for information dissemination. The proposal would also benefit from an extended discussion on more specific impacts.

*****

Rating #2:

Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Good

Has good academic preparation for graduate study. Appears to be enthusiastic about research and is a hard worker. The proposed research topic is interesting, but still lacks of details. It is impressive that the applicant has two papers published.

Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Good

Appears to be a natural leader. Has passion in politics. Writing can be further improved. Statement about master study is not research oriented somehow conflicts with the statement that the applicant wants to do research and, therefore, stayed for the master study.

***************************

Rater 1 is very confusing indeed.

Wow, that is profoundly unhelpful! Reviewer #1 says your academic prep is "less competitive," but #2 says your academic prep is good? That's ridiculous! Reviewer #1 has very strange standards..

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Posted

I had a similar experience with contradictory ratings. Reviewer 1 said "broader impact is completely missing from the Proposed Plan of Research document. It is hinted-at in the Personal Statement but could be elaborated to a much greater extent," while reviewer 2 said "You are clearly someone who has broader impacts in mind and will seek them out". Overall I got Poor/Fair from reviewer 1 and Good/Good from reviewer 2, neither of them offering particularly helpful criticism.

I am also confused as to whether the ratings refer to the only the essays or the entire application. I don't mean to sound cocky, but it's hard to imagine being rated "Poor" regarding intellectual merits when I double-majored from an elite school with a high GPA and nearly perfect GREs. Are these sort of things valued at all? And where do LORs even come in?

I wasn't necessarily expecting to get the award in the first place, but it's a bit depressing to see that it looks like I didn't even come close. I spent a lot of time on this application and showed it to several professors who thought the essays were excellent. I suppose I'll reapply next year, but I honestly don't see how I'm going to have an application that's dramatically better than this one. From what I've seen here regarding the variation across ratings and priorities, maybe I'll just have to hope for the right duo of readers.

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Posted

Wish I could reapply but its too late.

Sorry to deflate your optimism, but "Good's" and "Fair's" won't get you anywhere.

I had super positive comments, and all "Very Goods" and one "Excellent" and I still didn't get the award. I did get an honorable mention though! Thats good... I guess.

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Posted

Sorry to deflate your optimism, but "Good's" and "Fair's" won't get you anywhere.

I didn't see anyone claiming otherwise, this thread is about how to do better next year. And it seems like ratings mean different things based on how tough the reviewer is, and this is part of the algorithm used for making awards. It seemed to me like my F/F reviewer was tougher than my G/G reviewer by far, so who knows what will happen next year with some spit polish and a different set of reviewers.

Oh and P.S. to everyone, the randomness and inconsistency never ends, it happens when you submit work for peer review and with grant proposals as well, at least in my field. Best to get used to working past it now.

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Posted

I mentioned this in the regular NSF GRFP thread, but I thought I'd bring it up here, too. My first reviewer gave me good ratings (VG/VG) and said really nice things, but then my second reviewer gave me a (G/F). The second reviewer was almost rude in the way that he/she wrote about my proposal and even about me as an academic. My advisor was curious, so I sent him the reviews, and he said "The second set reads to me as someone who just did not want to rank the proposal highly - they cover their attitude with the same fluff and non-specific approach they criticize you of! Worthless review, but I suppose they average those."

Makes me feel better that I'm not crazy for feeling like the second reviewer kind of screwed me over. Also, feeling a little disappointed that had I had a different second reviewer, I might have at least gotten a third review or an HM.

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Posted

I mentioned this in the regular NSF GRFP thread, but I thought I'd bring it up here, too. My first reviewer gave me good ratings (VG/VG) and said really nice things, but then my second reviewer gave me a (G/F). The second reviewer was almost rude in the way that he/she wrote about my proposal and even about me as an academic. My advisor was curious, so I sent him the reviews, and he said "The second set reads to me as someone who just did not want to rank the proposal highly - they cover their attitude with the same fluff and non-specific approach they criticize you of! Worthless review, but I suppose they average those."

Makes me feel better that I'm not crazy for feeling like the second reviewer kind of screwed me over. Also, feeling a little disappointed that had I had a different second reviewer, I might have at least gotten a third review or an HM.

I don't think a 3rd reviewer would have made a terribly large difference. My first and second had completely different thoughts. My first gave me a G/E and my second gave me F/P. My third agreed with the first and gave me G/G. Still no HM. I do think all reviewers could have been more thorough in their critiques. I know they had a great many applications to review, but how do they expect us to do better if they don't explain to us, at least partially, why we were not chosen? Telling me that my previous research wasn't "independent" enough doesn't say anything about my research proposal as a whole. Telling me that I'll one day be a great educator, again doesn't say anything about my application or research proposal as a whole. Either way, they hold the power and will continue to do so until I provide them with a better application. Or at least enough money to pay someone to do it for me.

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Posted (edited)

Wow, that is profoundly unhelpful! Reviewer #1 says your academic prep is "less competitive," but #2 says your academic prep is good? That's ridiculous! Reviewer #1 has very strange standards..

I came from a so-so university from a so-so GPA and a so-so GRE score at the second attempt, with AI, HCI and Linguistics as my field of study. Reviewer #2 sounds like some sort of nice, social science person, you can see that from comments like "natural leader" and "interest in politics". Reviewer #1 sounds more like a hard-core engineer.

when I double-majored from an elite school with a high GPA and nearly perfect GREs. Are these sort of things valued at all? And where do LORs even come in?

Remember the four "radio buttons" option on the application about your academic status which you have to choose one? That tells you basically what level of reviewers you will be getting. To remind you, the four buttons are:

- Senior undergraduates

- First year grad students

- Second year grad students

- Anything above it ( I chose this one, extenuating circumstances statement required)

If you choose the last two, your undergrad GPA and GRE scores will probably weigh less, since you already have a year of grad school and these reviewers will look more at your research proposal and experience and you need to have some sophisticated research proposals that are not too ambitious.

I mentioned this in the regular NSF GRFP thread, but I thought I'd bring it up here, too. My first reviewer gave me good ratings (VG/VG) and said really nice things, but then my second reviewer gave me a (G/F). The second reviewer was almost rude in the way that he/she wrote about my proposal and even about me as an academic. My advisor was curious, so I sent him the reviews, and he said "The second set reads to me as someone who just did not want to rank the proposal highly - they cover their attitude with the same fluff and non-specific approach they criticize you of! Worthless review, but I suppose they average those." Makes me feel better that I'm not crazy for feeling like the second reviewer kind of screwed me over. Also, feeling a little disappointed that had I had a different second reviewer, I might have at least gotten a third review or an HM.

azz exist in the scientific world. Very unlucky you got one.

Edited by newage2012

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Posted

I'm taking a couple weeks away from this (at least), then tackling this just as I would a set of manuscript reviews -- scratching my head at the contradictions and plowing ahead nonetheless.

Anyway, +1 to Team Reapply.

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Posted

I don't think a 3rd reviewer would have made a terribly large difference. My first and second had completely different thoughts. My first gave me a G/E and my second gave me F/P. My third agreed with the first and gave me G/G. Still no HM. I do think all reviewers could have been more thorough in their critiques. I know they had a great many applications to review, but how do they expect us to do better if they don't explain to us, at least partially, why we were not chosen? Telling me that my previous research wasn't "independent" enough doesn't say anything about my research proposal as a whole. Telling me that I'll one day be a great educator, again doesn't say anything about my application or research proposal as a whole. Either way, they hold the power and will continue to do so until I provide them with a better application. Or at least enough money to pay someone to do it for me.

Yeah, I know. I just felt like having a little pity-party.

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Posted

Yeah, I know. I just felt like having a little pity-party.

Ah! Sorry. Carry on. I attempted to do that yesterday, but a friend suggested we rob a bank for funding. I'm currently working on my evil plan. If NSF won't give me a fellowship, by golly I'll make my own.

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Posted

If you got some Very Goods and Excellents and/or HM you should definitely reapply if you can. I have received HM twice in a row and actually got the NSF this year, as well as another (better) award. Make sure you keep what reviewers liked, think about getting rid of what they didn't, and try again next time. I received 1 good every year and on average had the best ratings last year, but this is the year I won it. I don't have any publications, just a few conference papers and poster presentations, so don't give up just because you haven't published. Just make sure you answer all the points in the prompt (whether your answer seems obvious or not), write in a clear and captivating way, and hope for good luck.

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Posted

About the reviewers - last year I got three scores from three different reviewers (VG/G, VG/G, and E/G). But, some people are only listing two scores... do you start with 2, and if you're good enough you make it to three reviewers?

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Posted

<br />About the reviewers - last year I got three scores from three different reviewers (VG/G, VG/G, and E/G). But, some people are only listing two scores... do you start with 2, and if you're good enough you make it to three reviewers?<br />
<br /><br /><br />

Yes, generally that seems to be the case.

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