After talking with someone who was toiling away at his physics National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowship application, I checked the NSF website and saw that November 13 is the deadline for 2013 GRFP applications in computer science. As it’s the beginning of November, I’m aware that I probably have more important things to worry about than an application deadline that won’t affect me for at least another year. (Hey, I heard the Presidential election results will be out in a few days….)

But in the back of my mind, I know it’s almost certain that I will be applying for a computer science NSF Graduate Fellowship next fall. I’m not sure how I’ll handle that along with four courses (one of which will be a thesis), graduate school applications, and likely some teaching assistant duties, but I’ll manage.

One thing that caught my eye from the NSF website was this text:

The NSF welcomes applications from all qualified students and strongly encourages under-represented populations, including women, under-represented racial and ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities, to apply for this fellowship.

So does that mean that a deaf person, like me, has a slight advantage in receiving a fellowship, as compared to similarly qualified students? It sounds like it, which can only be good news for me. I’m not sure how many deaf computer science Ph.D students have received NSF Fellowships. (A quick search online gave me no results.) I’m obviously hoping to be one of the few to get this ultra-competitive fellowship. I am curious, though, as to how much of my application should focus on being deaf. Should it be the main topic of my application essays? Should I make it one of many points as to why I would be a nice candidate for a fellowship? My college application essays focused almost entirely about my being deaf; given my lackluster acceptance results, perhaps I shouldn’t talk about being deaf that much? But then again, the application fellowship has several required essays encompassing a variety of topics; I should probably avoid talking about deafness on, for instance, the previous research essay, since my previous research hasn’t had anything to do with being deaf.

Obviously, this is just pure speculation as I ponder about the NSF Graduate Fellowship program. The next few years for me have the potential to give me an enormous head-start on my future career. I’m crossing my fingers that everything will proceed as planned. But for now, I thought I’d post this up here to remind myself of an important date to keep in mind for the next year.