I’m writing this post mostly to help myself decompress. The last few days and especially this morning have been incredibly stressful.
Last time I submitted the GRFP, my personal statement had typos and that was one of the key reasons I didn’t get it. Because of that, I feel like I went a little OCD this time in checking the spelling of every single word, the placement of every single comma. I must have read my application 3 or 4 times this weekend and once this morning, and I still missed a typo in one of the section headers. My professor caught that one this morning before I submitted. Sheesh.
Writing this was challenging, but I definitely grew as a writer, I think. My ability to boil a sentence down to its bare necessities, to get rid of all clutter, really improved. As you might be able to gleam from my writing here, I tend to be very colloquial. I like my clutter. Clutter is where the personality is located. You don’t get personality in research papers because all the clutter is taken out – and for good reason.
Transitional words (‘therefore, however, because, despite, as well as, as a matter of face, first, second, third, next, last, then, additionally, furthermore,’ etc.) or filler words like “really, very, just” are just two ways personality can be retained. People tend to use some transition and filler words preferentially over others. Because space is limited, there is close to no room for these extra words in the GRFP.
One of the things I had this time that I didn’t have last year was the ability to write more than one draft. Last year, I decided to write the GRFP 2 weeks before it was due, and it took me nearly a week to write a solid first draft. I came up with a project and I ran with it. That’s all I had time to do. I didn’t have time to critically think about each and every tiny detail of my theoretical experiment, I didn’t have time to poke holes until the idea collapsed and rebuild from scratch.
This time, because the class didn’t allow for any sort of procrastination, I had time to go through multiple drafts and multiple ideas, critically examining every single aspect as I went.
The first draft projects were really crappy, parts 1 and 2 didn’t go together at all. The second draft was better, but the projects I came up with had a lot of experimental holes I either didn’t know how to fix or didn’t have the space to address. The third draft had more do-able projects, but there were a lot of steps I’d have to take to go from the current published work to my work, so the link to existing publications wasn’t really there. The fourth set of projects was finally something plausible, there were few to no experimental holes, and I could fit nearly every essential detail on the page.
My ability to think through a project, to come up with a cohesive plan and to think about all the steps and details involved, rather than simply generating questions I’d like to investigate, really developed.
And then my ability to actually write about those projects improved. The first edition of the fourth draft projects was relatively simple, with just an overarching question and methods section. Then I added a significance statement–why we cared about this or that. Then a hypothesis statement. Then I even managed to squeeze in a figure depicting expected results for the first aim. And all this extra space came from the clutter I was disposing of as I went.
I’m really quite proud of what I submitted, even if I don’t get receive the fellowship. There was absolutely no room for improvement in either my RP and PS. You know, if I had more room, I could have improved it, but with the limited space, there was no way I could have made it better.
Despite the stress headaches and the blurry vision that came along with writing this fellowship application, I got a lot out of simply attempting to apply again, and that’s good enough for me.
The money would be a spectacular bonus, though.