nathan12343 wrote:I'm well into writing my NSF fellowship application and I figure I need every edge here. Is there anyone that regularly reads this forum who has successfully won an NSF graduate fellowship in the past? Any pointers/advice?
I haven't applied to NSF before, but my department put on panel of successful award applicants and we heard talks from people who had sat on the NSF review panels. I'll highlight some things I remember, most of this is from the two people I heard from who sat on the NSF award panel:
1. Write what you know in your research proposal, even if you know it's not what you'll be doing. For example, if you are a senior undergrad and are not sure what you'll be doing in grad school, just come up with a proposal based on your undergrad research experience. They aren't really funding the project, they're funding your graduate career and changing your research topic is an easy and routine procedure. They want you to show you can write a clear, detailed, and well thought-out proposal.
2. People spend 8 hours a day for three days reading applications. Most end up using a checklist and checking things off, so don't be afraid to organize your essay with headings, bold, or bulleted points. Make your answers to their stated questions really clear and easy to find. Try not to have redundant things in the three essays. Highlight any publications or conferences.
3. Broader impact is extremely important. Not just the broader impact of your research proposal, but more of the broader impact of funding your graduate career. Speak in detail about outreach and volunteer activities and what you learned from them. This is the most common aspect that people loose points on so it can really make or break your application. If you have no outreach, go out and sign up for something *now* so you can at least write, this summer I'm signed up to do xyz or whatever. The last thing they want to read is the millionth applicant writing "if you fund me I'll become a professor and make a difference in people's lives..." What are you doing NOW to make a difference? Do you have a strong history of outreach?
Hope that helps...