I'm looking to apply this coming fall for the NSF GRF and was wondering about the two key components of the proposal that will affect how I apply. I couldn't seem to get a clear answer to these questions in the program solicitation or prior Academia SE questions

  1. Is the proposal for research to be done or is it meant to be an idea? That is, am I expected to carry out the project I suggest or is the award to the applicant rather than the specific idea?

@JeffE's comment on NSF graduate fellowship: how specific should the statement of purpose be? suggests the award is to the applicant, not the project, but I would like to be sure if this is still the case and the degree to which I'm tied to the project I propose.

  1. Should the project be something I come up with essentially independently or is it allowed to be an extension of a project I'm currently or nearly working on (I'm less than 12 months into grad school)?
  • 1
    There are many questions asked at once.
    – Coder
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 20:27
  • @Coder there are at most two questions and they are related. 1. Do I need to carry out the proposed project and 2. can that project be something I or the group I am in have worked on?
    – Tyberius
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 20:32

1 Answer 1


If you are applying as a senior, and not yet even accepted in your graduate program, it is understood that this is a goal. If you are already placed in an established lab, you can be more precise -- but these are not research grants. Reviewers are looking for your ability to write out a cogent, hypothesis-directed proposal.

It can certainly be an extension of work you've done.

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