Be concise and format your statements effectively. Remember that reviewers will have limited time to read your application. Clearly labeling different sections and addressing explicitly each requirement will make the statement more effective and clear for reviewers.
Keep in mind that NSF does not just seek to fund scientists and engineers; NSF seeks to fund future STEM leaders. Use the statements to show leadership potential, self-starter capabilities, and the ability to work well with others (scientists, students, people in the community, etc.). Show passion, motivation for a STEM career, and initiative in your past research and other experiences.
Be yourself. An application that conveys a clear sense of who you are as a person, with a narrative that has energy and flow, will generally be better received than an application that is impersonal and flat. Remember that the GRFP recognizes individuals based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. That is, the potential of individuals is evaluated, not just the proposed research.
Use appropriate scientific form (hypothesis, figures, references) in the Graduate Research Statement.
Don't get bogged down in the specifics, or be overly technical. Instead of elaborate details on theory, focus on the rationale for your studies and the existing literature as it supports your proposed work. While reviewers will generally be knowledge experts in your general field, they probably will not be experts in your specific proposed research topic.
Develop a consistent theme in both of the statements, weaving together your personal story with your academic and career plans and past experiences to make a compelling case why NSF should award you the fellowship. The decision will be based on your demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. Keep in mind that reviewers will read your complete application package.
Fellow Silvana A. Rosenfeld from Stanford University analyzes llama bone remains from pre-Columbian sites in Cuzco, Peru. Silvana is exploring the manner in which different animal sacrifice and food consumption settings impacted the sociopolitical organization and integration of the Wari Empire (AD 600-900).
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