National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforces its diversity. The 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.

NSF Fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering. These individuals are crucial to maintaining and advancing the nation's technological infrastructure and national security as well as contributing to the economic well-being of society at large.

This award does not require university endorsement. At this time, NCA is able to provide only limited advising for this award.


National Deadline: October 2023 (determined by discipline)

Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $37,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

Eligibility Criteria

To apply, you must:

  • Be a US citizen, permanent resident, or national
  • Be an undergraduate senior planning to enroll in graduate school right after you graduate, have a bachelor’s degree but have not enrolled in graduate school yet, or be a graduate student in your first or second year of your first graduate degree (you may apply in only one of those years)
    • If you have a master’s degree and wish to pursue a PhD, you have to be at least 2 years post-master’s degree before you can apply AND you cannot be enrolled in a graduate program when you apply
    • If you are in a joint bachelor’s-master’s program, you are considered a graduate student and can only apply once after you have completed 3 years in the joint program.
  • Pursue graduate training in an eligible field of study (fields like biomedical and health research are not eligible)
  • Pursue an eligible degree type (most professional degree programs like MD, JD, and MPH are not eligible) at a U.S. institution

Please refer to the NSF GRFP website for an eligibility questionnaire and the program solicitation, which offers a more detailed list of eligibility requirements, including a list of all eligible fields and subfields.

Selection Criteria

When evaluating NSF proposals, reviewers will be asked to consider what the proposers want to do, why they want to do it, how they plan to do it, how they will know if they succeed, and what benefits could accrue if the project is successful. These issues apply both to the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the project may make broader contributions. To that end, reviewers will be asked to evaluate all proposals against two criteria:

  • Intellectual Merit: The Intellectual Merit criterion encompasses the potential to advance knowledge; and
  • Broader Impacts: The Broader Impacts criterion encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.
  • Personal, Relevant Background, and Future Goals Statement
  • Graduate Research Plan Statement
  • 3 Reference Letters
  • Academic Transcripts

The prompts can be found here.

  • Attend an NCA Learning Series session on the NSF GRFP
  • Complete two NCA forms:
  • Review the program solicitation after it is released in late July/early August
  • Launch your online application (application opens in early August)
  • NCA is very limited in its ability to review application materials once the fall semester has begun.
  • We are happy to obtain official transcripts free of charge for any student who requests one from us by October 1
  • Complete and submit application by National Deadline
  • Watch the 2020 application tutorial and review the tips for applying.
  • We recommend that you ask a faculty mentor in your field to review your materials and offer feedback.
  • Information on this page is intended to supplement, not supplant, your own careful review of the official NSF GRFP website and program solicitation. If you find any discrepancy between the two, the NSF GRFP website takes precedence.
  • Though you should seek out others’ advice and feedback on your application, the essays should be your original work (no one should be writing your essays for you). UC’s Student Code of Conduct applies.
  • Greg Muha (Electrical Engineering) - Honorable Mention, 2024.
  • Holly Poling (Biomedical Engineering) - Recipient, 2023.
  • Katherine Schlaak (Materials Engineering) - Recipient, 2023.
  • Stephanie Castelin (Clinical Psychology) - Recipient, 2021.
  • Moriah Weese (Chemical Measurement and Imaging) - Recipient, 2021.