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Thread: NSF as 1st/2nd year PhD student

  1. #1
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    NSF as 1st/2nd year PhD student

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    Hi all

    I知 currently in my first year, thinking of my re-application for NSF GRFP. I applied last year and got Honorable Mention, so I know I知 marginal, hoping to make it over the edge this time.

    I知 on the fence between applying this year or next year (note now you can only apply once after starting a program). Looking for tips, especially from any faculty lurking who may have more direct insights into how NSF apps are reviewed.

    There are two main Q痴 that I think would help clarify things for me:
    - Does it look weird to not include a rec letter from anyone at your current institution? As a first year I don稚 know any profs that well, so they wouldn稚 be able to write a terribly informative letter. But does it look weird then if I apply this year with no letters from my program? If I apply next year instead, I could RA this summer and include a letter from my school that way, which I imagine would be a solid letter. I think my letters this year are pretty strong, so I知 not overly concerned about adding a strong letter; I think the strength of letters could marginally improve if I wait a year, but the larger factor might be whether or not I actually just need to have one letter from my current school.
    - If I apply next year instead of this year, how much will reviewers weight my first year grades? I知 sure I値l do fine, but I知 guessing more in the B/B+ than A range. Maybe that would be taken as a negative if that痴 the case?

    So the main tradeoff seems to be a possibly better set of letters next year versus the risk of non-strong grades being weighed heavily. Any insight on how reviewers weigh these things would be helpful.

    Also open to any other thoughts on applying first vs second year that I haven稚 touched on.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Re: NSF as 1st/2nd year PhD student

    Let me give one limited response. In most grad programs, B/B+ is a notably bad grade. Graduate courses are often graded on an A/B scale rather than an A/C scale.In our program, a B- in a first year course means the course needs to be retaken. (Perhaps this isn't universal; others may wish to comment.)

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    Re: NSF as 1st/2nd year PhD student

    It's not universal. In my program, courses are curved to a B or so, and I believe grades can span the entire A/F scale, certainly at least A/C.

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    Re: NSF as 1st/2nd year PhD student

    Yeah, I guess all I meant was non-stellar grades. Maybe B/B+ was inaccurate, I知 not sure. Replace that with 途oughly median grades.

    @startz, I知 curious if you have an opinion on whether NSF would find it odd to not have a letter from my current program?

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    Re: NSF as 1st/2nd year PhD student

    Quote Originally Posted by jjrousseau View Post
    Yeah, I guess all I meant was non-stellar grades. Maybe B/B+ was inaccurate, I知 not sure. Replace that with 途oughly median grades.

    @startz, I知 curious if you have an opinion on whether NSF would find it odd to not have a letter from my current program?
    My guess is that median grades are going to be a hard sell and that not having a current letter may be a problem. Another way to out it is to ask how your application will look better than last time around. Also, the success rate for these applications (overall, I don't know the economics number) is around 15 percent. That means that getting an honorable mention should be taken as a nice complement.

    P.S.
    Also thanks to hpbookgeek for sharing the different information.

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    Re: NSF as 1st/2nd year PhD student

    Thanks a bunch @startz, always appreciate your insights.

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