NIH Undergraduate Scholarship

Is it for you?

The National Institutes of Health is the world’s largest biomedical research institution. Headquartered in Bethesda, MD, the NIH seeks to protect and improve health, and save lives by conducting research in its own laboratories and by funding the research of other scientists throughout the U.S. and around the world. The highly competitive NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program provides scholarship support and extensive professional research training to students with exceptional financial need who are firmly committed to careers in biomedical, behavioral, and social science health-related research. Awardees receive up to $20,000 per year to cover educational expenses (including tuition, fees, and living expenses), paid summer research training and mentorship at the NIH, and employment at the NIH after graduation. Scholarships are awarded for one year and may be renewed for up to four years upon approval of a renewal application.

What are the key dates?

The application cycle for 2024 is closed. Please check back in late fall/early spring of AY2024-25 for updates on the 2025 cycle.

Info Sessions: TBD for 2025 cycle (normally December/January)

Deadline to submit application essay drafts to NFP for feedback: TBD for 2025 (normally early March)

Official Deadline: TBD for 2025 (normally late March)

Are you eligible?

Candidates for the NIH Scholarship must:

  • be U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.
  • be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as full-time undergraduate students for their first baccalaureate degree (you are ineligible if you already possess a baccalaureate degree).
  • have a GPA of 3.3 or higher, or rank within the top five percent of their class. To be eligible for scholarship renewal, Scholars must maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher, or rank within the top five percent of their class.
  • demonstrate “exceptional financial need” as certified by the financial aid office (see table on NIH website for details).
  • be able to fulfill the NIH Scholarship service requirements.

How do you work with the NFP?

To apply for this award, JHU nomination is not required, but candidates benefit greatly from working closely with us. Applicants submit their own materials to the NIH, though are encouraged to work with NFP staff, who are available to advise them and read drafts of their essays.

The timeline gives an overview of the application process and when to reach out to us. In preparation, see “have a closer look” below for more resources about the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship.

January-FebruaryContact NFP and have individual advising meeting; attend info session
February-MarchDraft and revise essays with NFP support
mid-MarchMeet official NIH deadline

Are you competitive?

About 15 scholarships are awarded each year. Selection decisions are based on the following criteria:

  • Financial need: All applicants must complete the Undergraduate Institution Certification for Exceptional Financial Need PDF Form (found in the “Application Center”); section “A” should be completed by you before printing the form. The rest of this form must be completed by the financial aid office and faxed by the financial aid office to the number indicated on the form. To avoid disqualification of your application, submit this form to the financial aid office far in advance of the application deadline – NIH asks that you do this even before beginning your online application.
  • Academic record: High academic achievement in core course work is a key component to a strong UGSP application. If you lack in direct research experience, advanced coursework in your field of study is viewed favorably.
  • Personal Statement: This essay of up to 4500 characters should reveal your serious interest in scientific research, as well as some depth of knowledge gained either from direct research experience, advanced coursework, or participation in science-related extracurricular activities. A competitive essay presents examples that demonstrate your creativity in problem solving, initiative, work habits, organizational skills, and leadership qualities. In addition, you should address both how your experiences have prepared you for the UGSP and how the scholarship will help you achieve your educational and career goals. Given that good writing skills are fundamental to future research success, the committee will also evaluate your application based on the quality of your written responses in the “Personal Statement” and other essay fields.
  • Scientific Discipline/Research Interests: While these may later change, your response of 4500 characters or less should describe a focused research interest in a biomedical, behavioral, or social science health-related field of research.
  • Influential Event: The committee seeks highly motivated individuals, and your essay response of 1800 characters or less should highlight any event(s) or barrier(s) that have significantly shaped your educational / research journey.
  • Long-Term Career Goals: This essay of up to 1800 characters should articulate how your current and future studies, as well as the NIH UGSP, will advance you toward a clearly delineated career in health-related research and convey what impact you ultimately hope to have.
  • Awards & Honors: Your awards and honors should reflect a history of academic achievement, interest in science, and leadership capacity. You may copy and paste your awards and honors from your résumé (3000 character limit).
  • Experiences & Extracurricular Activities: This section should document your laboratory research experience, technical skills, and participation in any extracurricular science activities such as conferences, community projects, and scientific organization affiliations. In addition, activities that reflect your organizational, leadership, and communication skills are highly desirable. You may copy and paste your experience and activities from your résumé (3000 character limit).
  • Presentations: In this response of 3000 characters or less, list any STEM/health-related oral or poster presentations you have given during college. If you are applying as a freshman, include your presentations from high school.
  • Three references: The email addresses of three references are required. Your referees will be notified by email of your request for letters of recommendation only once you submit your completed application. While your referees will have until a later deadline than yours to submit their letters, you should notify them of your request far in advance and submit your application early to avoid disqualification. Two of your letters of recommendation should come from faculty who know you well and can speak in detail about your research skills and academic abilities in science. The third letter may come from someone familiar with your co-curricular activities, preferably science related, that indicate leadership potential, communication skills, and organizational abilities. Although you may decline to waive access to your letters of recommendation, confidential letters are typically stronger.
  • Unofficial transcripts: Your unofficial transcripts may be uploaded to the online application as part of a non-secure PDF file. If selected as a semi-finalist, the UGSP will request copies of your official transcripts, which must include fall and spring grades of the current academic year.

Have a closer look:

Visit the Official Website

NIH Undergraduate Scholars Program

The NIH website may assist you in identifying broader areas of your experience that could be relevant both to the mission of the NIH and this application.

This How to Apply to the NIH UGSP video will walk you through the requirements and application components.

Hear from JHU Recipients

HUB article about Duy Phan, 2016 NIH Undergraduate Scholar

HUB article about George Mwinnyaa, 2016 NIH Undergraduate Scholar

Start Your Application

The online application is found on the NIH UGSP website. This website is especially helpful in assessing your qualifications for the NIH UGSP scholarship; be sure to read carefully all the hyperlinks in the “Application Center.”