Applying for a NSF GRFP while in a Clinical Psychology Program – Part IV

One of the biggest pieces of the NSF GRFP application is the personal essay, also known as the personal, relevant background, and future goals statement. 

What should this essay accomplish?

In this essay, you should:

  • Elaborate on what motivated you to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology
    • Elaborate on why you chose Clinical Psychology and your particular program specifically
    • Highlight teaching/leadership/research experience/etc that motivated you to pursue a PhD, and elaborate on why it motivated you to do so
    • Be sure to mention any hardships or how you would be adding diversity to the STEM fields
  • Review your past research experience and other relevant activities
    • Be concise. Briefly summarize the research, the results, and what you did
    • You should mention how the findings fit into the wider arena of science as well as your field in particular
    • You should mention how your past projects inspired your future research plans/career goals
    • Elaborate on your role. How long did you work on this project? Did you work individually or as part of a team? How did your work relate to the larger research project?
    • If any research experience is related to your graduate topic, be sure to mention it and elaborate on it.
    • There should be some sort of flow from one experience to the next
    • Highlight your publications / posters in scholarly journals as well as how you presented your research to the mass audience
    • Be sure to mention any research and professional skills you gained, and how you plan to use them in the future
    • Describe the contributions of your activities to broader societal impact
    • You should make a point about how exciting research is to you
  • Elaborate on your career goals
  • Make sure to address the Broader Impact and Intellectual Merit criteria

How can you address the Broader Impact and Intellectual Merit Criteria?

You can address these criteria by:

  • When elaborating on how you decided to pursue a PhD, mention any work with diverse populations/teaching/study abroad that may have inspired you
  • Be sure to mention any leadership or outreach experiences you have had
  • Include any volunteer work you may have done, particularly if it is related to your research area
  • When elaborating on your career goals, elaborate on how graduate school will prepare you for an academic career that will expand on scientific knowledge and benefit our society
  • Specifying who will benefit from your research, and elaborating on how they will benefit

What is the world limit?

The world limit is 3 pages. 


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