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NSF overview question


digits2006

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Hey everyone!

I am interested in applying for a NSF graduate research fellowship, but I really don't think I have what it takes. How are the grants determined? I am so used to looking at GPA and GRE stats, but the NSF doesn't look at the GRE. How is one competitive for a the NSF grant? I would be applying for the psychology one and I feel there would be a lot better candidates out there. The worst they can say is no :)

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It's all about how well you write up your proposed research/past research experience, from what I understand.

They want to fund people that look like they can come up with good research ideas.

The NSF fellowship is a lot more like writing a grant than other fellowship applications.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I got an NSF award for psychology last year. It's based on intellectual merit and broader impacts. Basically, based on my reviews, intellectual merit is how well you've done in school and research so far and the quality of your idea. Broader impacts is how important your idea is, as well as your extracurricular activities and involvement in the community.

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To win any fellowship, you need to target your application VERY CLEARLY to the evaluation criteria. In the case of the NSF fellowship, this means the intellectual merit and broader impacts criteria (see the application instructions). There are three long essays, so start preparing early and show drafts to anyone who will take a look.

Intellectual merit is more straightforward -- you need an excellent research proposal, and evidence that you can succeed in research (e.g., grades, letter of recommendation, prior publications).

Being competitive for broader impacts means is about hitting as many of the evaluation criteria with specific examples as possible. It may seem absurd to devote half your essays (or 1/3, more realistically) to broader impacts, but it has just as much weight as intellectual merit. This is why the standard (in my view excellent) advice is to make your personal statement all about broader impacts.

(This spring I won three federal fellowships.)

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