Info Session on NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

NSF logo

Wednesday, September 3rd, 6-7 pm
Webinar

The GRFP is a generous and prestigious award that supports research-oriented students in STEM and Social Science fields during their first three years of graduate school, with a $32,000 stipend plus a $12,000 Cost of Education Allowance.

In this session, we will review the basics of the NSF-GRFP and consider the range of projects students have conducted with the support of an NSF grant.

Please contact us for the Webinar link: fellowships@drexel.edu

Info Session on NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

NSF logo

Thursday, August 28th, 12 – 1pm
109 Disque Hall (32nd and Chestnut)

The GRFP is a generous and prestigious award that supports research-oriented students in STEM and Social Science fields during their first three years of graduate school, with a $32,000 stipend plus a $12,000 Cost of Education Allowance.

In this session, we will review the basics of the NSF-GRFP and consider the range of projects students have conducted with the support of an NSF grant.

Please visit our website for the full schedule.

Info Session on NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

NSF logo

Monday, August 18th, 3-4pm
109 Disque Hall (32nd and Chestnut)

The GRFP is a generous and prestigious award that supports research-oriented students in STEM and Social Science fields during their first three years of graduate school, with a $32,000 stipend plus a $12,000 Cost of Education Allowance.

In this session, we will review the basics of the NSF-GRFP and consider the range of projects students have conducted with the support of an NSF grant.

Please visit our website for the full schedule.

Fulbright Friday: Writing the Personal Statement

Fulbright_logo Friday, August 15th, 12 – 2pm
109 Disque Hall (32nd and Chestnut)

The personal statement is an integral part of the Fulbright application. It is designed to give your reviewers a sense of who you are and how you have developed as an individual.  It can be challenging to write, especially when you are faced with the infamous blank page.  Come to this hands-on workshop for ideas on how to get started and to learn about revision strategies

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, academic research, creative projects, or teaching English in one of over 140 countries around the world. The program is sponsored by the Department of State.  Eligible students are US Citizens who will have a bachelor’s degree before the start of the grant (Fall 2015). Graduates and graduate students are also eligible to apply.

This is a repeating event. Make sure to visit our website for the full schedule.

 

Interview with the Drexel Writing Center: Part II, The Project Proposal

Kerri BestKerri Riveley is a Faculty Writing Fellow at the Drexel Writing Center and the Project Coordinator of the DWC-DFO Partnership, in which a team of dedicated faculty support fellowship applicants in their writing processes as they craft their essays. In addition to writing center pedagogies, Kerri’s research interests lie in extra-institutional and self-initiated writing practices.

Recently, we picked Kerri’s brain about the personal statement. Since then, we’ve continued the conversation to bring you insights about another common (and critical!) element of the fellowships application process: the project proposal.

How much background do I need to provide for my proposed project?

The requirements are different for each fellowship and so, it is important to remember to follow the guidelines provided by the institutions. For example, for Fulbright some background to a project is definitely necessary. A few of the elements that must be in this application are: cultural connection, affiliation with your host country/university, your past research, and your future goals. As an applicant to the Fulbright fellowship, it is your responsibility to connect all of these elements together and explain their relevance with the country that you plan to go to, as well as to the US.

The reader needs to understand the significance of the project that you plan to undertake and its relation to the host country and, to America. This essay is where some background can show why the project is worthwhile to you. At the same time, you don’t have the space to delve into great details about the project, so it’s a tricky thing to balance. For example, if a student is planning to go and study water filtration techniques in India, he/she should show the relevance of the project to the population of the host country as well as to future research in America.

How much emphasis should be placed on the researcher’s goals and/or the budgetary use of the grant, when writing the project proposal?

In my experience, there haven’t been a lot of applicants who explicitly detail out the budgetary breakdown in their project proposal. The money received as a part of the grant is looked at as more of a means to an end. The main focus of this essay is the research that the student is conducting or the project that he/she is working on. In certain applications, it may be required to break down the budget to explain how and where the money will be used. This, however, will be typically asked for in sections other than the essays.

Between the two notions – research is more important for the betterment of humanity, or research should be done for the advancement of the scientific community – which carries more weight when it comes to applying for fellowships?

Some fellowships are interested in the betterment of humanity while others are focused on the advancement of the scientific community. It is, therefore, very important to know the goals and mission of the fellowship that one is applying to. A single project can be put forth in multiple ways to match the requirements of the different fellowships and be in line with the expectations.

The notion “Make me care,” is something that we often hear when it comes to the project proposal. What does a student need to consider when thinking about his or her audience?

It is important to research the background of the readers because chances are they are not in the same discipline as you. Knowing your readers can help determine the kind of terminology to use in your project proposal, what terms to define and concepts to explain. For example, for NSF the grant statement is expected to be a little more technical than a Fulbright essay. Parallels can be drawn between writing for Fulbright and writing for the New York Times magazine: the essay should be accessible to the average, educated reader, and interesting enough of a topic to elaborate on with some detail. Also, it is helpful to get feedback from your advisors and peers. People from your field can point out things that do not make sense technically while people outside your field can help determine if the essay is too technical.

What is the practice of the DWC when working with students on drafting and revising their essays? What can student expect from a session? Can students use multiple sessions and/or get feedback from more than one staff member of the DWC?

At the Writing Center, we understand that writing is a grueling, self-reflective and almost an emotionally draining process. We are here to help you through it, to revise, to come into a better context of who you are and what drives and motivates you. I believe everyone has the ability to tap into that aspect of themselves.

We work one-on-one with each applicant. DWC sessions are very student centered which means that the applicant decides what he/she wants to work on. If they are concerned regarding the general flow of the essay, the transitions or the wordiness of the essays, we work with them to address these concerns. The sessions are very conversation based and there are a lot of questions that go back and forth while solving the issues. It isn’t that the students bring in a paper and we revise it for them. It is a slow gradual process where the student is the person who decides what needs to change and how. There are a lot of revisions and we work with the student to figure out gradually what works best.  Students are also welcome to work with multiple tutors and have multiple sessions.

If you are fellowship applicant, we highly recommend that you take advantage of this resource and sign up for a session with the Drexel Writing Center.

NSF GRFP Reflections with Adams Rackes

Adams Rackes BestAdams Rackes (Architectural Engineering, BS/PhD, Honors) is 2014 recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP) and a Fulbright Student Scholarship to Brazil. An Engineer-in-Training, his current research focuses on using machine learning and optimization techniques to improve the control of ventilation in commercial buildings, in order to both save energy and improve indoor air quality. Adams also holds a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University.

The NSF GRFP is one of the most prestigious fellowships in the US for STEM students. The program recently opened a new round of applications, with national deadlines from October 29 – November 4 depending on your field, and an optional campus deadline for faculty review arranged by the DFO, on October 16.

As someone who recently went through the process, we thought we’d check in with Adams to find out what it was like for him, and glean any insights he might have for this year’s applicants.

DFO: You have an interesting story because you didn’t start out in STEM. What was the path that led you to a BS/PhD in Architectural Engineering and eventually the NSF GRFP?
AR:
After my first undergraduate degree, I wanted to work with my hands. I became a welder and also bought and renovated a house that had essentially collapsed. Through these experiences I became interested in the elements of buildings, their design and operation, what makes them work well. I decided to pursue these interests full time as a career. I only intended to get my BS when I returned [to school] and then planned to become a practicing design engineer.

DFO: In your view, what makes for a competitive applicant to the NSF GRFP?
AR: Good grades and good recommendations are necessary but not sufficient. The student also has to have a coherent project that seems achievable in three years, and she or he has to be able to sufficiently demonstrate why the project is important in a world of projects competing for funding. This big picture view is important.

The applicant also has to be able to explain his or her own trajectory in a way that is compelling and makes the proposed project seem like the logical, inevitable next step. Most likely the reviewers will not be experts in your field, but they will be scientists or researchers who know enough about science and engineering that they will be able to pick out aspects of the proposal that are underdeveloped.

Broader impacts are also extremely important. I would say you have to have done some type of science-related volunteering or mentoring. You might get through without having done so (or by really exaggerating whatever you have done), but not having any check in that box makes it very easy to throw your application out.

DFO: What advice would you give to fellow students applying for the NSF GRFP in terms of creating that coherent application?
AR: You need to show that you will be a future leader, and that means being a future teacher and an engaged participant in your field. You have to have something in that Broader Impacts category, like a science-related volunteering activity, and use your personal statement to link it with your research into a coherent, whole portrait of a candidate who is totally committed to furthering her or his field through personal achievement, as well helping others and disseminating findings to peers and the general public.

DFO: How did the DFO work with you through the application process?
AR:
The DFO was very helpful in facilitating review by professors, whose comments were valuable. Rona [DFO Director] and Cindy [former Assistant Director] also offered very useful comments. The Drexel Writing Center helped me organize and focus my essays. Since this is a more technical application, though, it is probably most important to work closely with your faculty advisor.

DFO: Any other insight or encouragement you want to add that you think would be helpful for current applicants?
AR:
Give yourself time to write essays and plan on a lot of drafts. I would say I had at least ten drafts of each essay. Get as many reads as you can and incorporate all the advice you feel is worthwhile. Remember, you will have at least two and maybe up to four reviewers and all those people might have different hobby horses; the more people who read your essays in advance, the more likely you will be to cover all those angles.

If you don’t succeed, apply again, and take reviewers’ comments seriously. In the NSF world, most proposals do not get funded the first time, but many more do upon resubmission. Your GRFP application is no different. If you listen and respond to reviewers’ comments, there will be that many fewer reasons why a reviewer might rate you poorly when you apply the next year.

For more info on the NSF GRFP and a full schedule of events designed to help applicants, visit our website. Also see other Drexel students who’ve received the NSF GRFP.

Alternate Workshop: Writing the Statement of Grant Purpose

Fulbright_logo

Wednesday, August 6th, 12 PM (Workshop)
Location: 109 Disque Hall (32nd and Chestnut) 

The Statement of Grant Purpose is where you outline what you plan to do during your Fulbright year and why your project is a good fit with the country you are applying to. This workshop will help you understand what to address, how to get started, and equip you with strategies for revision.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, academic research, creative projects, or teaching English in one of over 140 countries around the world. The program is sponsored by the Department of State.  Eligible students are US Citizens who will have a bachelor’s degree before the start of the grant (Fall 2015). Graduates and graduate students are also eligible to apply.

This is a repeating event. Make sure to visit our website for the full schedule.

 

 

Fulbright Friday: Giving & Getting Feedback

Fulbright_logoFriday, August 1st, 12 – 2 pm
109 Disque Hall (32nd and Chestnut)

During this session, you will “workshop” your personal statement and statement of grant purpose drafts from the Fellowships team, Fulbright ambassadors and other students who are applying. Sharing your writing with others and hearing from them what works and what doesn’t, what’s clear and what’s not, are critical steps in revising your essays. Students are welcome to bring their work at any stage of the process.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, academic research, creative projects, or teaching English in one of over 140 countries around the world. The program is sponsored by the Department of State.  Eligible students are US Citizens who will have a bachelor’s degree before the start of the grant (Fall 2015). Graduates and graduate students are also eligible to apply.

This is a repeating event. Make sure to visit our website for the full schedule.

Interview with the Drexel Writing Center: Part I, The Personal Statement

Kerri BestKerri Riveley is a Faculty Writing Fellow at the Drexel Writing Center and the Project Coordinator of the DWC-DFO Partnership, in which a team of dedicated faculty support fellowship applicants in their writing processes as they craft their essays. In addition to writing center pedagogies, Kerri’s research interests lie in extra-institutional and self-initiated writing practices.

What should be my goal when writing the personal statement?

It depends on the particular fellowship that you are applying for, but overall, not only should your goal be to represent the best version of yourself, but also to do a lot of self-introspection, to really reflect on your life choices, and how they have led you to the goal that you ultimately want to achieve.

What are the most common misconceptions students have about writing the personal statement?

I think that sometimes people think they’re just going to pound something out, and that’ll be it. It’s a much more in depth, complicated process with many, many revisions. So, it is imperative not to have the misconception that it’s going to be quick, easy and painless. It’s going to require a lot of time and dedication.

Introspection and reflection are very challenging for people. Talking about themselves, in creative and engaging sense, might be a little unusual, especially if they come from scientific backgrounds. So tapping into that kind of writing can definitely be challenging.

That being said, I see people come out of it feeling more confident, having a better understanding of why they made the choice to get where they are today, with a better understanding of both their past and their future in the context of their past.

Why is the personal statement such an important part of most fellowship applications?

Most of these fellowships not only fund important research that can change the world, but have some sort of human connection element. Be it being an ambassador to another country or collaborative work, being able to work on a team well, and strengthening the scientific community – part of what enables people to do this is having a good understanding of who they are as a person.

How much emphasis should there be on stories of personal growth versus professional or academic achievements/activities?

It depends on the fellowship you are applying for but the balance should be what works best with your own personal story and your personal goals. Sometimes it’s going to be giving equal emphasis to both, sometimes it’s really going to be emphasizing a pivotal moment that has led you to the path that you want to go down, sometimes it’s going to be prior academic experiences that have been life changing for you. So, it depends on who you are. You are going to let shine what feels most real about you.

For example, for Fulbright you’ve got two essays to write: one is the personal statement, one is the statement of grant purpose which is your project description. They want to know your personal story, and they want to know about your professional and academic experience. So you could have some in one and some in the other essay but they have to work together to show this full picture of yourself. Do you have what it takes to pull off the project that you want to do? Are you someone who has experienced personal growth, learned about yourself in the process, knows about your motivation and where your drive comes from, and also has the necessary background and skills to achieve your goals?

Students are encouraged to be specific rather than make vague, declarative statements about themselves. Can you give us an example of this? Conversely, how much detail is too much detail?

Sometimes people know so much about their project that they want to say everything about it. The biggest constraint is space. When you have only got one or two pages, you can’t really go into all that detail. Knowing what’s necessary and what isn’t is tricky, but you should be able to give a clear and concise picture so that a person who is not in your field, with average intelligence, can understand accurately what your project is.

Sometimes it means explaining some terminology, providing background about the things you’re talking about. I think it’s generally a good strategy to write out everything that comes to mind and then chop away from there, thinking about space constraints and clarity.

It could be helpful to have outside readers, especially for Fulbright as it is likely that the people reading are not going to be in your field. NSF, it’s more likely to have someone from your field. But if I, someone with no scientific background, reads it and does not understand whatsoever, that probably means it’s too technical with too much scientific detail that is unnecessary.

From your experience, what are the three elements of a successful personal statement?

Remember that [selection committees] are reading hundreds of essays. I’m struck by that element of realness, that makes you seem like a real person, something that makes you unforgettable, something that they are going to remember and make them go, “Oh yeah that’s that person who did such and such crazy thing.” Details that reflect depth to you instead of just a list of your experiences or your goals. That’s the kind of stuff that really sticks out to me, when people really capture the essence of who they are.

This is where introspection and self-reflection come in. You have to really think about who you are to be able to communicate it in writing to somebody else. When you think about yourself, who you are, your past achievements, your prior academic experiences, your goals for future research, all of that need to fit in a kind of unifying, cohesive story.

So three words for the personal statement – it should be genuine, compelling, and engaging.

Stay tuned for Part II in two weeks!

DFO Tips for Obtaining Letters of Recommendation

formal-letter-writingLetters of recommendation serve important functions in a fellowship application. First, they provide third-party confirmation that you, the student, have done what you said you did. Second, they help a selection committee who doesn’t know you evaluate your accomplishments, activities, and potential. Third, they explain what it is exactly that makes you so fantastic by contextualizing your achievements within your field and institution.

With that in mind, here are 5 tips from the DFO for obtaining effective letters of recommendation:

1. When selecting recommenders, remember that knowledgeable writing generally trumps a big name.

Most fellowship applicants have excellent grades and a letter stating you received an “A” in a class doesn’t separate you from the pack, so it’s important to have recommenders who can write deeply and sincerely about you. Search out faculty who can speak to your work ethic, character, drive, curiosity, and passion, and bear in mind that faculty with lots of experience can often provide more credible evaluations of your work. We highly recommend that you try to get to know faculty well before you need to ask them to write a letter. Go their office hours, ask for assistance, learn about their research, and look for opportunities to strengthen that relationship.

In some cases, depending on award rules and criteria (for instance, the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program), a professional supervisor or advisor may be a more appropriate choice. Be careful with this though. For academic program applications, you will want academic reference writers.

2. Come prepared.

When you are ready to ask someone to write a recommendation letter, make an appointment. Don’t ask on the way out the door after class or in the hallway — you want to demonstrate your seriousness of purpose. Sit down and have a conversation.

The DFO has a form with questions and prompts to help guide this conversation and review essential information that your recommender will need. Download it here and email or bring a completed copy with you.

Make sure to also provide them with contact information for the Drexel Fellowships Office, as well as a link to the Faculty section of our website.

3. Involve faculty in your application.  

When meeting with potential letter writer:

  • Explain what you are thinking of doing and why. Ask for an honest assessment of your candidacy.
  • Ask whether they would feel comfortable supporting you in your efforts. Give them a gracious way to say no.
  • Encourage faculty to help guide you in your proposal. Ask for their input on your ideas. Let them make suggestions. Some may even be able to offer connections to colleagues at other universities in the U.S. or abroad that you might contact or work with.
  • Ask if they’d be willing to read and offer feedback on the substance of the ideas in a draft or two. Find a time schedule that works for both of you and stick to it.
  • Let them know who your other recommenders are and discuss with them any unique experiences or insights that you are hoping they might be able to address in their letter.

4. Don’t settle for a mediocre letter.

If you don’t expect the letter of recommendation you asked for will be strong, you’ll be better served going elsewhere. Mediocre letters, even from important people, will not help you in your efforts. If your supporters are all tepid, you might be well-served by postponing or even reconsidering whether you are a suitable candidate for the award.

5. Send a Thank You note.

It takes a lot of work to write a good recommendation letter, so when it’s all done, make sure you let them know that you appreciate their help, regardless of whether you receive the award.

 

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