Required Application Materials

The GRFP application requires that you submit the following materials:

  • Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement
  • Graduate Research Plan Statement
  • 3 Reference Letters
  • Academic Transcripts

What is expected?

After completing part 1, discovering knowledge gaps, and narrowing in on your research topic and primary field of study, it is time to do some writing! While your application is due in late-October, good writing takes time (and, very often, a lot of editing and rewriting).

What are you writing?

Below are the two prompts that are required for the GRFP application.

Both statements must address NSF’s review criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. The guidelines state that, “applicants should address Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts under separate headings to provide reviewers with the information necessary to evaluate the application with respect to both Criteria.” (Section V, Part A in the Program Solicitation).

Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement

Describe your personal, educational and/or professional experiences that motivate your decision to pursue advanced study in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Graduate Research Plan Statement

Present an original research topic that you would like to pursue in graduate school. Describe the research idea, your general approach, as well as any unique resources that may be needed for accomplishing the research goal.

Need help?

The Writing Center provides free, one-one-one tutorials to all Washington University students. The Writing Center can help with any writing project, including the NSF GRFP application, and at any stage of the writing process (from brainstorming to draft to final versions). They can help you to generate ideas and to strengthen and clarify your writing. To make an appointment, please visit The Writing Center website, and follow the “Schedule an Appointment” link.




  • Outline and draft the Graduate Research Plan Statement (2 pages maximum)
  • Outline and draft the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement  (3 pages maximum)



  1. Attend Part 2 
    “Write and Refine Components of Your GRFP Application”
    Steve Pijut
    Associate Director for the Writing Center
    Wednesday, July 31, 2024
    10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

    You may attend live via Zoom, or watch the recorded session afterwards via Learn@Work.

  1. Upload a short summary of your project to Learn@Work.

    This summary should be no more than two or three sentences. Think of this as an elevator pitch: what is the takeaway of your project and why does it matter?

    Being able to explain your project succinctly is a great tool to use when explaining your research to a broader audience. Think about why is it vital that your research be funded and how it would benefit society.
  2. Reach out to professors for letters of recommendation (required to submit 3) and set up a brief meeting with each of them.

    Visit the GRFP website and resources for more information on letters of recommendation.
  3. Request Academic transcripts

How do I advance?

You must complete the web-based lecture from The Writing Center and upload a summary to Learn@Work to continue to the next section. All materials, included part 1, part 2 and the short summary, must be completed or uploaded to Learn@Work by Tuesday, September 3.

Faculty-led group sessions will begin in mid-September. Please use this time to complete your written drafts. Research Education and Information will send registration links (on September 4) to those that complete all prerequisites.