GRFP applicants are required to provide two statements: a Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement, and a Graduate Research Plan Statement. The maximum length of the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement is three (3) pages. The maximum length of the Graduate Research Plan Statement is two (2) pages. These page limits include all references, citations, charts, figures, images, and lists of publications and presentations. Times New Roman font for all text, Cambria Math font for equations, Symbol font for non-alphabetic characters (it is recommended that equations and symbols be inserted as an image), no smaller than 11-point, except text that is part of an image. Both statements must address NSF's review criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts.
Use the statements to show leadership potential, self-starter capabilities, and the ability to work well with others (scientists, students, people in the community, etc.). Show passion, motivation for a STEM career, and initiative in your past research and other experiences.
An application that conveys a clear sense of who you are as a person, with a narrative that has energy and flow, will generally be better received than an application that is impersonal and flat. Remember that the GRFP recognizes individuals based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. That is, the potential of individuals is evaluated, not just the proposed research.
Use hypothesis figures and references in the Graduate Research Statement.
Instead of elaborate details on theory, focus on the rationale for your studies and the existing literature as it supports your proposed work. While reviewers will generally be knowledge experts in your general field, they probably will not be experts in your specific proposed research topic.
Weave together your personal story with your academic and career plans and past experiences to make a compelling case why NSF should offer you the fellowship. The decision will be based on your demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. Keep in mind that reviewers will read your complete application package.