Being funded by the NSF GRFP inspires me to achieve more in my graduate career while also opening doors to help me do so. It also helps to validate and reward me for the hard work I put in as an undergraduate.
The greatest advantage of winning the award is the freedom it grants you as a graduate student. As a fellow schools are no longer responsible for the usual costs and you bring a prestigious fellowship to their department. This allows you to basically go to whatever school you desire and work with any professor because they do not need to spend precious resources on you.
Always apply to anything you can! You will gain useful experience and you will never have the chance to win if you don't apply. Even if you realize after you applied that you weren't as qualified as you would have liked it shows you the areas you can improve so that you can win future awards. Plus, once you finish the NSF GRFP application your graduate apps will be a snap.
NSF GRFP funds translate to increased creative potential and hence potential for success and happiness.
'09 Fellow, Engineering
University of Michigan