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What separates people who win from those who come close? To answer that, we compared hundreds of essays and reviews of winners vs. people who got an honorable mention. Both groups are impressive on most objective measures. We found a fine line between them: winners create a personal connection that makes the reviewers want them to win.

People near that line win when one or more reviewers advocates for them. So your personal essay has to make them love you. The NSF asks you to describe your Motivation, Preparation, and Goals in that essay–that’s why we’ll call it the “MPG.” In this second course, you’ll learn to use narrative and plot techniques to make your MPG essay memorable and compelling.



Upon completing this course you will:

  • Think about your essay from a reviewer’s point of view
  • Identify events that demonstrate your motivation, preparation and goals
  • Frame those events in the way NSF asks for them
  • Select a plot
  • Develop a storyboard for your essay 

This course will help you understand these important points. We recommend that you complete the lessons in order. The “Additional Brainsteering Resources” lesson contains more information, and tutorials that will help. They are optional.

Once your Brainsteering Worksheet is finished, you will find a quiz at the end to submit it. Likewise, when you finish a draft of your MPG essay you will find a quiz where you can submit that. Submit your Brainsteering Worksheet as soon as possible, but you can (and should!) start on Course #3, which covers the research plan, before you submit your MPG essay draft.