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National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

What is the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship?

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.

Who is Eligible?

Applicants must self-certify that they are eligible to receive the Fellowship. To be eligible, an applicant must meet all of the following eligibility criteria by the application deadline:

  • Be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident
  • Intend to enroll or be enrolled full-time in a research-based graduate degree program in an eligible Field of Study in STEM or STEM education (See Appendix and Section IV.3 for eligible Fields of Study)
  • Have never previously accepted a GRFP award
  • If previously offered a GRFP award, have declined by the deadline
  • Have never previously applied to GRFP while enrolled in a graduate degree program
  • Have never earned a doctoral or terminal degree in any field
  • Have never earned a master's, professional, or bachelor's-master's degree in any field, unless (i) returning to graduate study after an interruption of two (2) or more consecutive years immediately preceding the deadline, and; (ii) are not enrolled in a graduate degree program at the application deadline
  • Not be a current NSF employee

How Do I Apply? 

For information on the application process, including preparing proposals and current NSF policies, please visit the NSF Graduate Fellowship website.

Applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. (EST) local time of applicant's mailing address. Deadline dates are separated by subject:

  • October 21, 2019: Geosciences; Life Sciences
  • October 22, 2019: Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Engineering; Materials Research
  • October 24, 2019: Psychology; Social Sciences; STEM Education and Learning
  • October 25, 2019: Chemistry; Mathematical Sciences; Physics and Astronomy


Reference Letters must be received by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on Friday, November 1, 2019.

Advice to NSF Letter Writers from Scott Lanyon, Vice Provost & Dean of Graduate Education

Proposals to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program are expected to be accompanied by three very strong letters of recommendation. If you do not feel that you can write a strong letter for a student, I encourage you to let them know that before you agree to write.

Ask your students if there are any specific points that they want you to address in your letter. Sometimes students want to convey a certain point in their application but feel uncomfortable writing it about themselves. This information is sometimes best provided by letter writers.

Write about past research, current/future research, and broader impacts to the extent that you can.

When talking about past research experience, be sure to describe the student's role in research projects. Were they a technician? Did they contribute intellectually to the methods, analysis, etc.? Were they, or will they be, an author on either a presentation or manuscript resulting from this research? Readers are generally less interested in the research itself, and more interested in the degree to which the student was intellectually engaged in the project and helped to guide the research. Readers are also interested in the skills that students obtained from the experience. Finally, readers are interested in your assessment of the student's potential to become a productive and innovative scientist.

When talking about future/current research, be sure to indicate the extent to which the research represents the student's own ideas as distinct from the research program of the advisor.

When talking about broader impacts, be sure to describe the student's role. It is important to remember that for the purposes of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, "Broader Impacts" refers to the communication of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to non-specialists. It is not limited to the communication of the student's own research.

Further Information

Questions about the Application and Reference Writer Process for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program should be directed to:

GRF Operations Center
1818 N Street NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: 866-NSF-GRFP (866-673-4737)
Hours of Operation: 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (EST)