in the game of grants, you lose or you get lucky

Oh yikes, I just reread the title I picked and cringed.

Welcome back to my blog where I ramble on about academia as a #firstgen undergraduate/post-bacc/soon to be PhD student, with a dash of sarcastic humor. As we approach the 2021 cycle of the NSF GRFP, I wanted to share my materials from the last cycle. I applied as a post-bacc in the Developmental Psychology area, but I’m applying again this year. In the last cycle I was awarded an Honorable Mention, so I figured I would share my materials (please don’t point out the typos on page two, I already know they’re there).

So a little background on the NSF GRFP. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a numbers game. Many, many people apply and only a handful are awarded. In the 2019 year, more than 12,200 applied and less than 2,000 received an award (NSF, 2020). Oof, that Screen Shot 2020-06-01 at 4.48.31 PM 16% award rate is really something. What it tells me is that lots of projects—sorry the NSF funds the person, not the project—lots of people who are outstanding in every way are not funded. That roughly translates to two groups, the lucky and the unfunded. Certainly, those who are funded deserve it and should celebrate their success! It’s an amazing award! Those, like myself, who receive honorable mentions were close, but not lucky enough. 
Screen Shot 2020-06-01 at 4.48.44 PM

Further, we could be not lucky enough for a myriad of reasons. Maybe we got a particularly persnickety reviewer, like the ones Liz Bonawitz and Ashley Ruba mention in their tweets. Or maybe we didn’t sell our outreach participation well enough. Maybe our project’s broader impact wasn’t applicable enough to the general population. Or maybe, it was none of those reasons. Maybe the reviewers said your proposal is great, but gave you a “Very Good” instead of an “Excellent” for no particularly explicit reason. The point is, there are so many reasons your project will or won’t be funded, but you can’t be funded unless you apply!




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