NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Is it for you?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) offers three years of support for advanced study in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, and behavioral and social sciences, including the history of science and the philosophy of science, and to research-based Ph.D. degrees in science education at accredited U.S. institutions.

Awards carry a $30,000 stipend for 12-month tenures, plus a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000, payable to the Fellow’s institution in lieu of tuition and fees. Fellows may also apply for additional support to participate in international opportunities; enhanced access to cyber-infrastructure resources, including supercomputing time, is provided. All awards are for a maximum of three years, usable over a five-year period.

What are the key dates?

Information sessions: TBD for 2018, typically September/October
Official deadline: TBD for 2018, typically late October

Are you eligible?

Candidates for the NSF GRFP must:

  • be U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents.
  • be college seniors, first-year graduate students, or others who have completed limited graduate study in science, mathematics, or engineering.
  • select a field of graduate study leading to a research-based master’s and/or doctoral degree in the fields of science, engineering, and education within the NSF’s mission. These fields fall broadly within the following disciplines: chemistry, computer and information science and engineering, engineering, geosciences, life sciences, materials research, mathematical sciences, physics and astronomy, psychology, social sciences, STEM education and learning research. See the “Appendix” in the Program Solicitation posted below for a complete list of eligible fields and sub-fields.
  • be accepted to an NSF-approved graduate degree program at the time of fellowship acceptance (typically May) and enrolled by the following fall.
  • Please note: Beginning with the 2017 cycle (i.e. applications in Fall 2016), graduate students may only apply once, either in their first year of graduate study or in their second — not both. This change does not affect graduating seniors.

How do you work with the NFP?

JHU nomination is not required for the NSF GRFP. Applicants submit their own materials to the NSF portal, though are encouraged to work with Dr. Barry, who available to offer feedback on personal statement drafts that are submitted in a timely fashion.

The timeline gives an overview of the application process. Your first step is to attend a writing workshop about the personal statement or watch the online version (see link below). When you have a draft of your personal statement ready, contact Dr. Barry by emailing her or attending her office hours. In preparation, have a closer look below for more resources to learn about the NSF GRFP.

September –
Attend a writing workshop or watch the online version
early – mid-October Submit first draft of personal statement to Dr. Barry
October Continue working on application materials
late October Meet the NSF GRFP official deadline designated for your field of study

Are you competitive?

About 2,000 fellowships are awarded each year pending the availability of funds. Selection decisions are based on the following criteria:

  • Academic merit: Transcripts of all institutions listed on the GRFP application will be evaluated and must be uploaded electronically. See the instructions on the application for specifications related to transcripts. The NSF no longer accepts GRE scores as part of the GRFP application.
  • Intellectual Merit and Broader Impact of project: The NSF treats both concepts expansively and evaluates all three essays according to how they meet these criteria. Examples of “Intellectual Merit” include the importance of the project to advancing knowledge and understanding within its field; the qualifications of the proposer; the feasibility of the project, access to resources, and appropriateness of the choice of institution where the research will be conducted; and the extent to which the project suggests and explores creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts. Examples of “Broader Impact” include the integration of research and education; the extent to which the project would broaden participation and enhance diversity in NSF programs; whether the project would enhance technological infrastructure for research and education; and the extent to which the project would represent a service to society.
  • Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement: In this three-page essay, describe any personal, professional, or educational experiences or situations that have prepared you or contributed to your desire to pursue advanced study in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. How have these experiences prepared you to contribute to scientific understanding and teaching?
  • Graduate Research Plan Statement: In a two-page essay, present a clear, concise description of your proposed plan of study or research for the period covered by the fellowship. Your statement should demonstrate your understanding of research design and methodology, and explain any relationships with your previous research.
  • Three letters of recommendation: Scientists or faculty members who have current knowledge of your academic and/or professional experience are asked to rank your ability in the following areas: knowledge in chosen field, motivation and perseverance toward educational goals, ability to work independently, ability to work as a member of a research team, ability to plan and conduct research, imagination and creativity, and overall scientific ability.
  • Diversity: Underrepresented populations, including women and racial and ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities, are encouraged to apply.

Have a closer look:

Visit the Official Website

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Hear from JHU Recipients

HUB article about 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellows

HUB article about 2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellows

Read Sample Essays

A portfolio of previous applications is available after the first writing workshop of each application cycle (typically late August). To view it, inquire at the Study Abroad Office in Levering Hall 04B, during regular business hours (no appointment necessary). You must remain in the Study Abroad Office while viewing the portfolio, and may not digitally reproduce any included materials. There is also a copy in the SoM Professional Development and Career Office in the 1830 E. Monument building.

Explore JHU and NFP Resources

Want to learn more about writing the personal statement for the NSF GRF? Watch a recorded version of our workshop and follow along with the NSF Workshop Handout 2017.

Start Your Application

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Application Portal