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NSF GRFP 2018-2019

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Hey everyone, sorry if this exists...couldn’t find it via phone search. Maybe mobile is just bad. 

Thread for this year’s GRFP application! 

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First question...is there a significant advantage as a second year applicant? I am hesistant to apply as a second year, because everyone else in my program is doing that. But it’s hard to write a grant without finishing a rotation. 

Any input?

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9 minutes ago, lambda said:

First question...is there a significant advantage as a second year applicant? I am hesistant to apply as a second year, because everyone else in my program is doing that. But it’s hard to write a grant without finishing a rotation. 

Any input?

I don't think that there is any advantage or disadvantage to applying as a second year applicant. It is simply another cycle. I'm sure someone can find a way to over-analyze it and find strengths and weaknesses, but I would just focus on getting work done instead.

Even if you don't have a lot of time and you are finding it difficult, I would advise you to still apply this cycle. It's great experience/practice and you have nothing to lose but a bit of time. Use it as an opportunity; ask a professor in your department if you can write a proposal with them and get to know their research. Best case, you get a major fellowship. Worst case, you got great experience and have a starting block for future funding applications.

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6 hours ago, Monochrome Spring said:

I don't think that there is any advantage or disadvantage to applying as a second year applicant. It is simply another cycle. I'm sure someone can find a way to over-analyze it and find strengths and weaknesses, but I would just focus on getting work done instead.

Even if you don't have a lot of time and you are finding it difficult, I would advise you to still apply this cycle. It's great experience/practice and you have nothing to lose but a bit of time. Use it as an opportunity; ask a professor in your department if you can write a proposal with them and get to know their research. Best case, you get a major fellowship. Worst case, you got great experience and have a starting block for future funding applications.

How can you put together a project as a first year that’s as good as a second year tho?

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On 8/21/2018 at 5:19 PM, lambda said:

 How can you put together a project as a first year that’s as good as a second year tho?

Just put in the effort. I don't think that there is a huge difference in the abilities of first and second year students to write a good proposal. 

Just to clarify, are you asking if you should apply as a second year and this is your first year? I may be a bit confused about what you are asking. My apologies.

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20 hours ago, Monochrome Spring said:

Just put in the effort. I don't think that there is a huge difference in the abilities of first and second year students to write a good proposal. 

Just to clarify, are you asking if you should apply as a second year and this is your first year? I may be a bit confused about what you are asking. My apologies.

Yeah, I’m a first year wondering if I should wait until next year...I figured it would be easier when you are settled into a lab (and not just starting a rotation)

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On 8/23/2018 at 8:12 PM, lambda said:

Yeah, I’m a first year wondering if I should wait until next year...I figured it would be easier when you are settled into a lab (and not just starting a rotation)

Ah, I'm sorry sorry for my misunderstanding. If you can still qualify to apply in your second year, and you can only apply one of the two years, I think the second year would be a good option. I still don't think there is a big difference, but if you are in a lab with rotations, you can use this year to practice writing and find someone to oversee your application for next year. I would be the kind of person to apply in my first year, to get it out of the way and look for additional outside funding in my second year, but we also don't have rotations in my department, so I had an established place in my lab group from day one.

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On 8/23/2018 at 8:12 PM, lambda said:

Yeah, I’m a first year wondering if I should wait until next year...I figured it would be easier when you are settled into a lab (and not just starting a rotation)

I wrote an application for the GRFP 2017-2018 cycle, and even submitted it! However, my lab advisor and I reread my full application and compared it to the successful ones available online and from former students at the University I attend, and we decided to pull my application so I could apply during this current cycle (2018-2019). 

If you already have a set lab and advisor, especially someone who has a project open that you are jumping onto, you could still have a very successful application as a first year graduate student. The biggest problem I faced when writing my application last year was that I switched which project I was writing about one month before the deadline. That's a short time to start researching a whole new project! If you already have a project in mind, and an advisor willing to help you along the way, and a lab full of resources that you can write about, then write up an application. The worst thing that happens is that you decide right before the deadline not to submit and instead wait for the following year. You can save your material and use it as a jumping block for the following year.

I definitely encourage you to write up an application for this year, whether you submit it or not, because it's a great way to practice writing a grant, and is also an excellent way to see how well you can articulate the project you plan on spending your graduate work on. 

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Question related to the personal statement:

How much historical monologue is too much monologue? I'm approaching my application with that "NSF funds the person, not the project" mantra, in that about 3/4 of the first page is written more as a reflection on my intellectual development leading up to my first research experience. Intellectual Merit then takes up the next 1&1/2 pages, and the final sections are covering Broader Impacts (generally speaking). I've read dozens of winning essays from previous years, and I'm seeing a variety of approaches. Recognizing that no line should be wasted, and so even the reflective sections ought to be building momentum to the project proposal itself, does anyone have any advice to give?

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As you mention, personal statements are unique and there are many different potentially successful strategies. Much of it is a monologue about your past and accomplishments, but also a chance to show how you have grown from your experiences and convey the passion you feel about your field/outreach. Although you are trying to tell a story of how you became a scientist and arrived at your research proposal, I don't think you necessarily need to directly tie every experience you have had into setting up your project proposal. Some lessons on data management, working with others, or overcoming obstacles are all skills that will help you with your research and may be important to mention. 

Just based on your description of your current format, I would recommend expanding your Broader Impacts section, since Broader Impacts and Intellectual Merit are judged equally. One tip for shortening an Intellectual Merit section when everything feels important is to ask a letter of recommendation writer that knows your research to write on that particular topic, so you  can shorten/remove it from your statement.

For me, I divided my statement into 4 parts, a .5 page Introduction that described my approach to science and a brief summary of my past, present, and future plans. Following that, I had a 1 page Intellectual Merit section that described important experiences and my research/personal growth trajectory. I had a 1 page Broader Impacts sections describing my outreach and goals. Finally, I had a .5 page Future Plans section that summarized what I wanted to do in the future in terms of both research and outreach. I was really trying to balance emphasis between Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. I can attach my statement and reviews so you can see what the reviewers did and didn't like about it..... My proposal went to the Environmental Biology/Ecology panel. Also it looks like the pdfs I attached directly download when you click so be aware of that.

NSF GRFP Reviews 2018.pdf

Nsf Personal Statement 2017.pdf

Edited by Eillac

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Looks like the eligibility criteria may have changed from last year- Wondering if I am eligible for this year's competition if I finished a 12 month master's in September of this year (and started a PhD also in September). Do you interpret the new description as cannot have a master's by August 1st or by the application deadline? 

 

The program solicitation this year states:

With prior enrollment in a graduate degree program

  • Applicants must not have completed more than one academic year of graduate study as defined by the universities attended as of August 1 of the year the application is submitted (see exception below)

and also: 

Applicants must self-certify that they are eligible to receive the Fellowship. To be eligible, an applicant must meet all of the following eligibility criteria by the application deadline: 

  • Have never earned a master's, professional, or bachelor's-master's degree in any field, unless returning to graduate study after an interruption of at least two (2) years

whereas last year under categories of applicants that are ineligible:

Those who have completed the requirements for any graduate or professional degree by August 1 of the year the application is submitted

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On 9/16/2018 at 2:56 PM, Eillac said:

As you mention, personal statements are unique and there are many different potentially successful strategies. Much of it is a monologue about your past and accomplishments, but also a chance to show how you have grown from your experiences and convey the passion you feel about your field/outreach. Although you are trying to tell a story of how you became a scientist and arrived at your research proposal, I don't think you necessarily need to directly tie every experience you have had into setting up your project proposal. Some lessons on data management, working with others, or overcoming obstacles are all skills that will help you with your research and may be important to mention. 

Just based on your description of your current format, I would recommend expanding your Broader Impacts section, since Broader Impacts and Intellectual Merit are judged equally. One tip for shortening an Intellectual Merit section when everything feels important is to ask a letter of recommendation writer that knows your research to write on that particular topic, so you  can shorten/remove it from your statement.

For me, I divided my statement into 4 parts, a .5 page Introduction that described my approach to science and a brief summary of my past, present, and future plans. Following that, I had a 1 page Intellectual Merit section that described important experiences and my research/personal growth trajectory. I had a 1 page Broader Impacts sections describing my outreach and goals. Finally, I had a .5 page Future Plans section that summarized what I wanted to do in the future in terms of both research and outreach. I was really trying to balance emphasis between Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. I can attach my statement and reviews so you can see what the reviewers did and didn't like about it..... My proposal went to the Environmental Biology/Ecology panel. Also it looks like the pdfs I attached directly download when you click so be aware of that.

NSF GRFP Reviews 2018.pdf

Nsf Personal Statement 2017.pdf

Eillac, thanks for sharing your essay and the feedbacks but they are not downloadable. Could you please retry to upload them here? 

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So for the research proposal, the solicitation states that consideration should be made with regards to the PI's ability to perform the experiment. If I'm a senior undergrad, I don't know who my future PI might be, so how am I going to address that?

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On 9/22/2018 at 5:16 PM, m1313 said:

Looks like the eligibility criteria may have changed from last year- Wondering if I am eligible for this year's competition if I finished a 12 month master's in September of this year (and started a PhD also in September). Do you interpret the new description as cannot have a master's by August 1st or by the application deadline? 

 

The program solicitation this year states:

With prior enrollment in a graduate degree program

  • Applicants must not have completed more than one academic year of graduate study as defined by the universities attended as of August 1 of the year the application is submitted (see exception below)

and also: 

Applicants must self-certify that they are eligible to receive the Fellowship. To be eligible, an applicant must meet all of the following eligibility criteria by the application deadline: 

  • Have never earned a master's, professional, or bachelor's-master's degree in any field, unless returning to graduate study after an interruption of at least two (2) years

whereas last year under categories of applicants that are ineligible:

Those who have completed the requirements for any graduate or professional degree by August 1 of the year the application is submitted

Did you ever find an answer to your question? i'm afraid that i may be on the same boat. applying to grad school this cycle, got my masters in 2013 but took non-matriculated undergrad classes and earned a certificate last year. this is making me nervous since i've been working hard on my proposals and it would suck if i am not eligible.

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I have a question and I am wondering if any of you would have any advice. I'm a first year grad student. I applied for the NSF GRFP last year as an undergrad, but wasn't funded because of my broader impacts in my personal statement. However, my project proposal, involved with my undergrad advisor's research, was very well received. I am competitive to apply this cycle, but my first rotation is in research unlike I have done before and thus I did not feel that I could yet write a strong project proposal in the short amount of time. I am considering applying again and using my old research proposal, except there aren't any professors at my current school who are directly working in that research area and while I continually hear that the person and not the project is funded, I worry that lack of a specific mentor will go against me. There are ample facilities/experts in specific areas (e.g., yeast genetics/bioinformatics which are components in my project) as well as a very famous, now emeritus, professor in the field at my school that make the project seem very doable. Except, I lack a possible PI whose lab I would actually theoretically conduct the project in and I am worried that the reviewers would dismiss my application for this reason. What do you guys think?

 

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@Slappo - I think the advice that the person and not the proposal is what gets funded is apt - and yet, reviewers are still going to want to see evidence that you're able to execute the work that you propose. I remember in my proposal (long time ago - 2009 - but still) I spent two short paragraphs talking about the institution I attended and at which I planned to do the work and the researchers/PIs I was planning to do the work with and their qualifications for guiding me as I completed it. I deleted my ratings sheets a long time, and of course the link to log in and check them no longer works, (lol) but I do have an email thanking one of my PIs in which I mentioned that my raters specifically mentioned "the extent to which my project was related to [their] fields of research" as a positive factor in my application.

If you look at recent successful proposals, people vary a lot in whether they do this at all and, if they do, how much space they spend on it. The bottom line is that you need to convince the reviewers that you are capable of carrying out this project (see Alex Lang's excellent advice!) and there are lots of different ways to do that. Not mentioning a specific mentor won't necessarily count against you if you can make clear in your proposal in other ways that you are capable of carrying out the project.

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1 hour ago, juilletmercredi said:

@Slappo - I think the advice that the person and not the proposal is what gets funded is apt - and yet, reviewers are still going to want to see evidence that you're able to execute the work that you propose. I remember in my proposal (long time ago - 2009 - but still) I spent two short paragraphs talking about the institution I attended and at which I planned to do the work and the researchers/PIs I was planning to do the work with and their qualifications for guiding me as I completed it. I deleted my ratings sheets a long time, and of course the link to log in and check them no longer works, (lol) but I do have an email thanking one of my PIs in which I mentioned that my raters specifically mentioned "the extent to which my project was related to [their] fields of research" as a positive factor in my application.

If you look at recent successful proposals, people vary a lot in whether they do this at all and, if they do, how much space they spend on it. The bottom line is that you need to convince the reviewers that you are capable of carrying out this project (see Alex Lang's excellent advice!) and there are lots of different ways to do that. Not mentioning a specific mentor won't necessarily count against you if you can make clear in your proposal in other ways that you are capable of carrying out the project.

How do you recommend undergraduates tackling that "mention a potential mentor" bit? Pick a top choice grad program we are applying to and mention them?

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Hi all!

I know the deadline for this fellowship is super soon, but I thought I would share a document I created that complied advice I found on various websites that talk about how to approach the two essays. (Those websites are included as well. Thanks @alexhunterlang for your wonderful website!)

I hope this helps!

NSF Writing Tips.docx

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How do I list scholarships in the scholarships and awards section? I have so many and I don't know how to organize them. I'm doing old to new, and listing only the tuition waiver amount for ones above 50%. Is this a good idea?

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@I_Charge_by_the_foot Just a warning, this is my first time applying to this fellowship, but I was planning on ordering my awards in order from newest to oldest, since it is common for a resume/CV set-up. I am not sure if that is the right way to go, but I feel like the newer items are deemed most important than the older ones? This is probably subjective. though. Also, I would list as many as you can, even if that means that includes ones below a 50% tuition waiver amount. You want them to see as many scholarships as possible, in my opinion. One last point, you might want to add a description of the scholarship/discuss the requirements of getting the scholarship for any that aren't super well known or may seem ambiguous from their titles.

I hope this helps! Hopefully someone can offer better advice since I know very little myself and I would also like to know the best answer to this.

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2 minutes ago, Moods said:

@I_Charge_by_the_foot Just a warning, this is my first time applying to this fellowship, but I was planning on ordering my awards in order from newest to oldest, since it is common for a resume/CV set-up. I am not sure if that is the right way to go, but I feel like the newer items are deemed most important than the older ones? This is probably subjective. though. Also, I would list as many as you can, even if that means that includes ones below a 50% tuition waiver amount. You want them to see as many scholarships as possible, in my opinion. One last point, you might want to add a description of the scholarship/discuss the requirements of getting the scholarship for any that aren't super well known or may seem ambiguous from their titles.

I hope this helps! Hopefully someone can offer better advice since I know very little myself and I would also like to know the best answer to this.

Thank you, my friend. I'm going to take your advice and rearrange my scholarships and provide a brief overview of what each one looks for. Admittedly, I am slightly reluctant to describe some scholarships because many of them were awarded based on financial need---this was an orchestrated effort on my part since I come from a very poor family. I simply spent my time wisely. Arguably, it's in my best interest to be vague on need scholarships, and in general, to show no pattern of deceitful behavior.

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