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TL;DR: How do I write a NSF GRFP application in 3 weeks? How detailed are the research proposals supposed to be? Background - just your average bay area engineer: Graduated in 2016 from joint BS/MS program in Bioengineering Worked at a start up as an R&D engineer from 2016 to March of 2018 So I've been out of academic research for 2 years (no pubs, posters, PIs, etc since 2016). I always intended to do a PhD, and recent events have shown me that now is my time! But then I got more info: I thought that I only had one more chance to apply and that I could chose to either apply this fall along with my grad school apps or next fall after having entered a PhD program Turns out I'm wrong and that I can apply for both. Found this out literally yesterday. ? I had already planned an intense budget vacation for August and September. I can't cancel it and won't cancel it. This leaves me about 3 weeks to write my NSF GRFP application (October 1 - 23) Activate panic mode: what do I do!? Questions Have any of you written a successful (or almost successful) GRFP application in 3 weeks? How do you select a research proposal topic? I know people often go with the continuation of their undergrad studies, but I've been away from them for so long! I didn't go to a big research school, so my undergrad research project was a bit slow moving and dated to start with, now two years later, it seems that a lot of the problems in my field have been solved. I don't even know where to start a lit review now. Where to start in terms of scope? How in depth and detailed should the proposals be? I feel totally stupid and inadequate when reading sample proposals. Folks seem to have detailed and amazing proposal that go something like this (including instructions for each step!): Build bioreactor from scrap metal and found objects as described in figure 1. Engineer a special enzyme to do site directed mutagensis 10,000x faster. Develop a new engineered cell line of invincible cardiomyocytes using humming bird DNA Put magic enzymes and invincible cardiomyocytes into upcycled bioreactor and grow a human heart Broader impacts: cure all heart diseases for less than $150 I just feel like I'm not smart enough for this right now! Where do I start? Any suggested timelines or tips?