GRFP Essay Insights: Application Resources for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
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GRFP Overview

The basics

student in lab coat

The GRFP is a prestigious, nationally competitive fellowship offered by the National Science Foundation. It provides three years of financial support for beginning graduate study leading to a research-based master's or doctoral degree in the STEM disciplines.

Financial support

The fellowship includes a $34,000-per-year stipend for three years. Additionally, each Fellow receives a tuition waiver via a cost-of-education allowance that is awarded to the graduate institution. After one year of graduate study, Fellows become eligible to apply for international research funding support through Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) and Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP). Access to supercomputing resources, supplemental funding for researchers with disabilities, and a provision for family medical leave are also offered.

Eligibility requirements*

*Always refer to the current NSF-GRFP Solicitation for official eligibility information.

  1. Citizenship: Must be a United States citizen, US national, or a permanent US resident by the application deadline. Refer to the GRFP solicitation.
  2. Degree requirement: Individuals are typically eligible to apply...
    • during the senior year of college and on track to earn a bachelor's degree prior to fall of 2016;
    • after earning a bachelor's degree, without any graduate study;
    • in a four-year joint BS/MS program, applicants may apply in the fourth year or after completion of the program;
    • in a five-year joint BS/MS program, applicants may apply in the fourth or fifth year of the program or after completion of the program;
    • in the first year of graduate studies;
    • in the second year graduate studies but with less than 12 months of full-time graduate study;

    Exception: "Applicants who have completed more than twelve months of graduate study or have earned a previous graduate or professional degree are eligible only if they have had an interruption in graduate study of at least two consecutive years prior to November 1, 2015. To be eligible, applicants must have completed no additional graduate study by August 1, 2015. Applicants must address the reasons for the interruption in graduate study."  Source:  GRFP solicitation..

    Note: The solicitation clearly explains that " All graduate, post-baccalaureate and professional study is counted towards the allowed 12 months of graduate study, including all full-time and part-time master’s and doctoral degree programs, and non-degree graduate-level and professional coursework. The one exception is for graduate coursework required to establish or maintain credentials in a profession such as teaching; such coursework is not included in the 12-month limit.  Source:  GRFP solicitation..

  3. Field of study (disciplines): Biological sciences, computer science/engineering, chemistry, engineering, geosciences, information science, social sciences, life sciences, mathematical science, materials science, psychology, physics and astronomy, or STEM education and learning. Interdisciplinary research is also possible. Not eligible: professional practice degrees - see details in the GRFP solicitation.

Award cycle

The GRFP competition opens in August with deadlines in late October. Awards are announced the following spring. Fellows must commence graduate study in the summer or fall after accepting the award. About 2,000 fellowships will be offered pending availability of funds.

Special Note

Whereas the National Science Foundation awards grants to investigators to fund their research, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program funds students who are training to become well-rounded researchers. It's a fine distinction, but an important one.

Social network discussions
Advice from Fellows

…once you finish the NSF GRFP application, your graduate apps will be a snap.

Adam Daily

'12 Fellow, Biomedical Engineering

University of Texas at Austin


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Updated September 01, 2015 | Site content and handouts created by Robin G. Walker, PhD
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