NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program: Complete Details

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NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Aiming to encourage brilliant students in scientific research, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program also known as the NSF GRFP offers prestigious fellowships to students pursuing research-based graduate degrees. This fellowship program covers a wide range of specializations, from fundamental science and engineering disciplines to cutting-edge fields in STEM education, providing exceptional financial support for the nation’s next generation of scientific leaders. 


The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program is to help make sure that the United States has a strong, diverse, and high-quality science and engineering staff. One goal of the fellowship program is to get more brilliant students with a wide range of skills to work in STEM fields. The five-year fellowship program gives three years of financial support, which includes a $37,000 stipend every year.

Scholarship NameNational Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program
Country ProvidingUnited States
Target AudienceGraduate students
Award$37,000 stipend and $16,000 cost of education allowance
DeadlineMid to late October
Submission Methods Online
Official linkwww.nsfgrfp.org/

Eligibility Criteria For NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program has specific eligibility criteria to ensure the fellowship award goes to qualified students in the right stage of their academic career. Here is a list of the most important eligibility criteria requirements.

  • Be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident.
  • Intends to pursue a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in a field supported by the GRFP (science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) or STEM education).
  • Be enrolled in or plan to enroll full-time at an accredited U.S. graduate institution with a U.S. campus by the following fall after selection.
  • Having completed no more than one academic year of full-time graduate study (or equivalent).
  • Not having previously earned a terminal degree (doctoral degree).
  • Only apply once to the GRFP, either in your first or second year of graduate school.
  • Must have completed three years in the program and can apply during the joint program (Level 2 applicant) but are limited to this one application.
  • If you’ve been enrolled for more than a year, and have a master’s degree or a professional degree, there’s a two-year break requirement.
  • You must be out of a graduate program for at least two consecutive years before the deadline and not enrolled at the application deadline.

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Application Process For NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) application process is conducted entirely online through the official website at www.nsfgrfp.org.

  • Before starting your application, thoroughly review the eligibility criteria on the NSF GRFP website to confirm you meet all the requirements.
  • Head to the Research.gov website and establish an account if you don’t have one already.
  • Once you log in, locate and access the specific application module for the NSF GRFP.
  • Prepare the following materials well in advance
  • Carefully fill out the online application form, providing all necessary details about your academic journey, research experiences, and proposed research plan.
  • Ensure all required materials are uploaded and the application is complete before submitting it online.

Selection Process For NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

A tough selection method is used by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) to find the most bright graduate students in STEM areas.

  • All applications undergo an initial screening to ensure they meet the eligibility criteria and required materials are complete.
  • Qualified applications are then distributed to panels of experts in relevant scientific fields for in-depth evaluation.
  • Reviewers assess each application based on the National Science Board’s approved Merit Review Criteria.
    • Evaluate the quality and originality of the proposed research plan, and its potential to contribute significantly to the field.
    • Considers the broader societal and educational benefits of the proposed research and the applicant’s potential to contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge and its applications.
  • Review panels convene virtually to discuss the applications assigned to them.
  • Reviewers deliberate on the strengths and weaknesses of each application based on the Merit Review Criteria, considering the applicant’s academic background, research experience, and proposed research plan.
  • Based on the discussions and evaluation, panels submit recommendations to the NSF regarding which applicants should be offered fellowships.
  • The NSF reviews the panel recommendations and makes final decisions on fellowship awards.

Benefits of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program offers a compelling package of benefits that can significantly enhance your graduate education and research career in STEM fields.

  • A substantial annual stipend of $37,000 for three years provides financial security and reduces your reliance on student loans, allowing you to focus on your research endeavours.
  • An additional $16,000 cost-of-education allowance is provided annually to your chosen institution to help cover tuition and fees.
  • This significantly reduces the financial burden associated with graduate studies.
  • The GRFP fellowship can be transferred to a different accredited U.S. institution after your first year, offering flexibility in your graduate program choices.
  • It acknowledges your academic excellence and research potential.
  • The NSF provides professional development resources and networking opportunities specifically for GRFP fellows.
  • You have the freedom to pursue your chosen research career path after graduation.
  • The NSF offers supplemental funding opportunities to sustain your research even if you experience medical deferrals during your fellowship period.

Factors Affecting Selection for NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Here are some of the factors that can affect your application for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

  • Strong academic performance in your undergraduate studies, particularly in courses relevant to your intended research field.
  • Show research experience through internships, lab work, publications, or presentations showcasing your research skills and contributions.
  • A well-defined and compelling research plan that clearly outlines your research question, methodology, and potential outcomes.
  • A well-written personal statement that effectively communicates your academic journey, research interests, career aspirations, and how the GRFP aligns with your goals.
  • Strong recommendation letters from professors or researchers.

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At what point in my academic career can I apply to NSF GRFP?

Students can apply before they begin their graduate studies and as an early graduate student.

How much is the NSF graduate stipend?

NSF graduate stipend is $37,000 for a 12-month tenure period.

What is the acceptance rate for NSF graduate research fellowship?

In the past five years, the success rate for NSF-GRFP candidates has been between 12.5% and 16.5%.

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