Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement

The Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement must address NSF’s merit review criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. Applicants must include headings for Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts in their statements.

The maximum length of the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement is three (3) pages.

Graduate Research Plan Statement

The Graduate Research Plan Statement must also address NSF’s merit review criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. Applicants must include headings for Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts in their statements.

The maximum length of the Graduate Research Plan Statement is two (2) pages. 

Statement Formatting Requirements

Page limits for the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement and Graduate Research Plan Statement include all references, citations, charts, figures, images, and lists of publications and presentations. Statements must be written using the following guidelines:

  • Standard 8.5″ x 11″ page size
    • 1″ margins on all sides, no text inside 1″ margins (no header, footer, name, or page number)
  • 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
  • Minimum of 11-point font, except text that is part of an image
  • No less than single-spacing (approximately 6 lines per inch).  
    • Do not use line spacing options such as “exactly 11 point,” that are less than single spaced.
  • PDF file format only  

Statement Tips

Keep in mind that NSF does not just week to fund scientists and engineers: NSF seeks to fund future STEM leaders. 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.

Be yourself. 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 appropriate scientific form. Use hypothesis figures and references in the Graduate Research Statement.

Don’t get bogged down in specifics, or be overly technical. 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.

Develop a consistent theme in both statements. 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.