Attending the NSF (National Science Foundation) application workshop, for first and second year graduate students, was a fantastic opportunity to prepare before applying for an NSF fellowship. Although the deadline varies depending on field of study, most applications are due around the second week of November, so the timing of this workshop was great. The fellowship is awarded to 2000 students a year, with over 12 000 applicants in 2011. The application process requires each applicant to submit transcripts and grades, as well as a personal statement, research proposal, and an account of research experience. In two sessions, guided by Kerry Landers, students worked, in small groups, to produce rough drafts, which were critiqued with the help of faculty. It was exciting to see the students come to the second workshop prepared for the critiquing session.
After Kerry was finished summarizing what we would be doing for the afternoon, a recipient of last year’s award, Alex Schlegel, took the floor. He outlined what he felt were the most important strategies to his success. “Including the broader impact” of one’s research was the key take home of this short introductory talk, perseverance was also something that Alex stressed. He explained the importance of applying more than once, as the first time you may not produce exactly what reviewers want to see. After some questions, we broke into two groups, led by Dr. George O’Toole, and Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Jon F. Kull.
This part was the meat of the session, where students shared and critiqued their statements and research proposals. Former recipient, Alex, sat in with one of the groups, and offered important information to students regarding wording and context, but also reminded them to be themselves and to take his critiques with a grain of salt. Sharing different styles of writing was definitely a good experience for everyone involved. The feedback was helpful, and was beneficial to all who attended.
by Britney Tappen