Fellowship Preparation

The NSF GSRP fellowship deadline is around the corner, and BISI has compiled a list of resources and quick tips to help you prepare to submit your application.

Application Components

There are 4 major application components - the personal statement, the grad research plan, references (3), and academic transcripts.

The Personal Statment

The personal statement is often one of the most difficult parts of the application to write. You are outlining your educational & career goals while interweaving experiences that have led you to pursue advanced study in your field. NSF suggests the following questions to ask yourself before writing the statement:

  1. Why are you fascinated by your research area?

  2. What examples of leadership skills and unique characteristics do you bring to your chosen field?

  3. What personal and individual strengths do you have that make you a qualified applicant?

  4. How will receiving the fellowship contribute to your career goals?

  5. What are all of your applicable experiences?

  6. For each experience, what were the key questions, methodology, findings, and conclusions?

  7. Did you work in a team and/or independently?

  8. How did you assist in the analysis of results?

  9. How did your activities address the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts criteria?

Graduate Research Plan Statement

When you’re describing your research plan, make sure you address the current state of the field and how your proposed work contributes/pushes the field forward. NSF suggests the following questions to help write the research plan:

  1. What issues in the scientific community are you most passionate about?

  2. Do you possess the technical knowledge and skills necessary for conducting this work, or will you have sufficient mentoring and training to complete the study?

  3. Is this plan feasible for the allotted time and institutional resources?

  4. How will your research contribute to the "big picture" outside the academic context?

  5. How can you draft a plan using the guidelines presented in the essay instructions?

  6. How does your proposed research address the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts criteria?


Give your references everything they could possibly need to write you a strong letter of support. Provide them with your transcripts, CV, and the personal and research statements you will submit. If you have not completed your statements, provide them with as detailed of an outline as possible. Allow at least 2-3 weeks for referees who have never written a letter on your behalf.


Remember, your proposal is evaluated based on intellectual merit & broader impacts. Consider the following questions:

  1. What is the potential for the proposed activity to:

    • Advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields (Intellectual Merit); and

    • Benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes (Broader Impacts)?

  2. To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?

  3. Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?

  4. How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?

  5. Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?

Review Winning ProposalS

There are multiple resources that have tips on writing a winning proposal and applications you can read. Check out the sites below (click underlined region).


The deadlines application deadlines are October 22-26, 2018, depending on your discipline. References have a slightly longer window and can be submitted through November 2, 2018. 

This content was modified from the NSF GFRP Program Solicitation.

Fellowships, ProfDevZakiya Whatley