Fellowship Applications

Here I will offer unsolicited advice on how to prepare a successful graduate school fellowship application. I will use my two recently successful applications to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the FORD Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship as examples. I am not claiming that my process or essays are the definitive answer to a successful application. Instead, I hope that they can be used as tools for those looking to prepare a strong, competitive application.

Some possibly relevant information about my applications:
at time of application
GPA 3.37/4.0
1 second author paper in ApJ + 2 in prep.
1 yr of TA exp.
1 REU
~ 2 yrs of research exp.
~ 2 yrs of 'outreach' volunteer teaching/instruction

I would argue that the weakest component of my application was my GPA. For me, this was due to poor preparation and also personal adversities. However, in my application, I made sure to speak to my progress and my current capabilities. I also acknowledge that this had to be a combined effort between my explanation in my essays and my recommenders confidence in my abilities. If you feel that there is a particularly weak part of your application, help the reviewer understand the cause or reasoning. This, coupled with your recommenders remarks speaking to your current capabilities and potential can be enough to make your application successful. You dont have to have a 4.0 GPA to win!

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
There is great advice for preparing your application at Alex Lang's site.

Examples:
I applied in November 2015 and was awarded the fellowship in March. My essay for the personal statement and research statement are available as examples. One can also view the feedback on my essays here.

Example Directory:
Additionally, I have provided a template directory template directory that one may use for formatting their essays. This template complies with the formatting requirements.

The FORD Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship
From the award offer letter: 'Your selection for this prestigious award reflects our review panelists' judgment of your scholarly competence as well as the promise that you show for future achievement as a scholar, researcher, and teacher in an institution of higher education.'

This sentence captures where the difference between the FORD Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship occurs. FORD places an emphasis on your future ability as an educator. This translates into specific skills that, if you can demonstrate in your application, will make you stand out. In general, my advice would be to follow closely the prompt they provide and be sure to address as many of the bullets in your essays. It is most likely that your institutions has something unique about it that plays to that effect. For example, experiences as a volunteer or teaching during your undergraduate career or any classes of any pedagogical nature would be strong points to mention.

My essay for the personal statement and previous research statement and research statement are available as examples. Unfortunately, FORD does not provide feedback on the essays.

Good Luck!