Reflect on your research interests and career goals. Next, learn about the mission and work of the National Science Foundation. Study the NSF strategic plan and investment priorities. Think: How does your work fit with the NSF's purpose and direction? How does my research benefit society?
Extend your broader impact activities - now. Analyze the broader impacts review criteria on this page or in the most recent GRFP Solicitation. Ask your mentor(s) how you can improve your engagement with underrepresented groups. Use your leadership skills to launch a new broader impact activity that you will be able to sustain during your graduate studies and into your career.
Publish in refereed journals and conference proceedings. Tell your current mentors about your plans to apply for the GRFP and ask to become a coauthor on refereed journal articles. (You HAVE to be proactive about this!) Refereed paper presentations and scientific posters at national/international professional conference are also important. Note: Web sites and publications for lay audiences are good broader impact activities; for the intellectual merit criterion, panel reviewers seek evidence of scholarly endeavors.
Establish contact with prospective programs and graduate mentors (call or visit). Tell them that you are interested in their program and will be applying for the GRFP next year. Ask about their mentoring program, facilities, equipment & other resources. Specifically ask them about current broader impact activities on their campus. Once you decide on a program, continue the relationship. If you establish a strong relationship, your future mentor may be willing to write a GRFP reference letter for you. Note to seniors: You do not have to be admitted to a grad program in the fall that you apply for the GRFP, but in order to accept a Fellowship, you must be admitted to a grad program by May 1 of your senior year.
Strengthen your scholarly writing skills by reading widely. Read journal articles and abstracts in the NSF award database. Review successful GRFP statements (see Dr. Alex Lang's site.) When you feel ready to commence writing, begin your draft statements. Share your drafts with others. Let your ideas evolve!
Identify 4-5 faculty members who can serve as reference letter writers. Talk with them about your intent to apply. Ask, "Do you feel that you know my strengths well enough to write a positive letter of reference for me?"
Network. Ask faculty members if they have served on a GRFP panel. If so, ask what advice they may be able to offer. You might also contact an Experienced GRFP Resource Person for advice. When you present at meetings or conferences, ask faculty members from other institutions the same question. Try to meet current GRFP fellows - seek their advice too. Find names in the GRFP award database. https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/AwardeeList.do?method=loadAwardeeList
…once you finish the NSF GRFP application, your graduate apps will be a snap.
'12 Fellow, Biomedical Engineering
University of Texas at Austin