As one of the members of the review committee for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, choosing the right candidates is a difficult one. Many engineering candidates are more than qualified to the receive the fellowship. However, there is one aspect of the application that often sets candidates apart — the personal statement.
When examining one’s personal essay, its easy to assess most students are technically sound, there is no surprise there. Their research interests and background will often also align with the mission and vision of NSF. But what most students fail to recognize is how important clearly highlighting their broader impact in their personal essays will be. As a foundation that prides itself on making a lasting social impact, a candidate’s work must go beyond making an impact in their field. Can your work and research create impact on a national scale? On a global scale? Will your work impact under represented communities? If a candidate can clearly express the impact their work will have, they can go far with NSF.