This past Tuesday was the submission deadline for applications for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. This is an incredibly competitive program, which provides a hefty support package in the form of three years of funding and tuition reimbursement for a graduate student working toward a PhD in a science or engineering program. Personally, I spent that last month preparing my application materials with the hope of winning this prestigious fellowship. But the odds certainly are not in my favor. In 2012, NSF received over 13,000 applications, and awarded 2,000 fellowships- just a 15% success rate.
In other words, I am fully prepared for rejection. If I receive the NSF fellowship, my pursuit to become a professor at a research institution will be made much easier. I would be ecstatic. But even if I do not receive the award, the experience I gained writing the personal and research statements was invaluable. Through the writing process I was able to evaluate my career goals and the direction of my graduate research. I was also able to remind myself why I am studying Geology – to understand the planet on which we live, to learn more about out natural resources, and ultimately to share my knowledge with the general public, whether it is to students, citizens, or government officials. This experience reaffirmed my passion for studying Earth Science, and I can only thank NSF for providing me with this opportunity.
But I have not lost hope. I am confident that I deserve a NSF graduate research fellowship, but until then I will begin preparing my application materials for the many other funding opportunities I plan on applying for in the next several months.
Link to a good article on grant-writing by Bourne and Chalupa (2006): http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pcbi.0020012
Food for thought: