National Science Foundation - Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP)

Please consult the program website to confirm details, including applicable deadlines.

Visit Program Website Here

Program Purpose and Description: 

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 US institutions.

The Program offers approximately 1,600 graduate fellowships each year to students in the early stages of pursuing a research-based master's or Ph.D. degree.

As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the NSF GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, Google founder, Sergey Brin and Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt.

So that the nation can build fully upon the strength and creativity of a diverse society, the Foundation welcomes applications from all qualified individuals: women, under-represented minorities and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

Over and above the prestige of the fellowship itself, awardees receive a 3-year annual stipend of $34,000, a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), and access to professional development opportunities available to NSF-supported graduate students.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED) provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities to work on NSF-supported projects.

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program has a high rate of doctorate degree completion, with more than 70% of students completing their doctorates within 11 years.

Supported Fields: 

NSF supported fields are in chemistry, computer and information sciences and engineering (CISE), engineering, geosciences, life sciences, mathematical sciences, physics and astronomy, psychology, and the social sciences--including over 100 subfields. Interdisciplinary applications are welcome. See "More Information" below for a link to NSF GRFP supported fields.

In addition to "traditional" STEM fields, the Program supports the following fields and subfields:

PSYCHOLOGY: Artificial Intelligence; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Cognitive Psychology; Comparative Psychology; Computational Psychology; Computationally Intensive Research; Developmental Psychology; Industrial/Organizational Psychology; Neuropsychology; Other (specify); Perception and Psychophysic; Personality and Individual Differences; Physiological Psychology; Psycholinguistics; Quantitative Psychology; Quantum Information Science; Social/Affective Neuroscience; Social Psychology;

Applicants in Psychology are only eligible if proposed research focuses on 'basic research questions' rather than disease-related goals.

SOCIAL SCIENCES: Anthropology, other (specify); Archaeology; Artificial Intelligence; Biological Anthropology; Communications; Computationally Intensive Research; Cultural Anthropology; Decision Making and Risk Analysis; Economics; Geography; History and Philosophy of Science; International Relations; Law and Social Science; Linguistic Anthropology; Linguistics; Medical Anthropology; Other (specify); Political Science; Public Policy; Quantum Information Science; Science Policy; Sociology; Urban and Regional Planning;

STEM EDUCATION AND LEARNING RESEARCH: Artificial Intelligence; Computationally Intensive Research; Engineering Education; Mathematics Education; Other (specify); Quantum Information Science; Science Education; Technology Education.


Tenable Institutions: 

Fellowships may be used for eligible graduate degree programs at academic institutions accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US, its territories, possessions, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Program Benefits: 

NSF GRFP Fellows receive: 3 years of financial support over a 5-year fellowship period, including: (A) An annual stipend of $34,000; (B) A cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 to the institution; (C) Access to supplemental funding to sustain research while on medical deferral (e.g. family leave). No post-graduate study service is required.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED) provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities to work on NSF-supported projects.

The NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative (NSF 13-099) offers limited paid and unpaid leave options for Fellows facing dependent-care issues (childbirth/adoption and elder care).

Honorable Mention: The NSF accords Honorable Mention to meritorious applicants who do not receive Fellowship offers. This is considered a significant national academic achievement.

Application Process: 

The fellowship is competitive (with approximately 11% of applicants receiving an award); those planning to apply should devote a sincere effort to their application. The application includes two essays: (1) a 3-page Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement, and (2) a 2-page Graduate Research Plan Statement.

Applicants must include separate sections on Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts in each of their written statements to provide reviewers with the information necessary to evaluate the application. Separate sections under separate headings for Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts must be included in both Personal and Research Plan statements.

Failure to follow formatting instructions regarding page limits, font type and size, margins, and line spacing in the applicant's statements will result in the application not being accepted by the GRFP Application Module.

A minimum of 3 recommendations are required; a maximum of 5 recommendations are invited.

The most effective reference letters speak to the applicant’s potential for future achievement in graduate school and beyond.

Applicants should select references who can comment on different aspects of their qualifications for the fellowship, including possibly an undergraduate advisor, a summer lab coordinator, a graduate advisor or mentor, a supervisor from a K-12 outreach program, or an employer who can address the applicant's professional skills.

Applicant Profile: 

The GRFP seeks to identify individuals with outstanding potential as future STEM research leaders. Competitive GRFP applicants demonstrate the ability to develop a strong research plan, succeed with their graduate study, and have broader impacts on society.

The NSF welcomes applications from all qualified students and strongly encourages underrepresented populations, including women, underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities, to apply for this fellowship.


Graduating seniors, and alumni who have completed a bachelor's degree may apply as they are applying to graduate programs.

Also eligible are master's and doctoral students in a research-based graduate degree program in a supported field in the first OR second year of graduate studies.

Master's applicants may apply ONCE: EITHER in the 1st year, OR in the 1st semester of the 2nd year of their graduate studies.

Individuals applying while enrolled in a joint bachelor's-master's degree program are considered graduate students who: i) must have completed three (3) years in the joint program, and; ii) are limited to one application to GRFP; they will not be eligible to apply again as doctoral students.

Individuals holding joint bachelor's-master's degrees, currently enrolled as first-year doctoral students, who have not previously applied as graduate students and enrolled in the doctoral program the semester following award of the joint degree, may only apply in the first year of the doctoral program.

Individuals holding joint bachelor's-master's degrees who did not progress directly to a doctoral program the semester following award of the joint degree must apply as returning graduate students.

RETURNING GRADUATE STUDENTS AFTER AT LEAST A 2-YEAR INTERRUPTION: There is a limited opportunity for returning graduate students to apply for the GRPF. Individuals who have (i) completed more than one academic year in a degree-granting program, (ii) earned a previous master's degree of any kind (including bachelor's-master's degree), or (iii) earned a professional degree are eligible only if: (A) they have had a continuous interruption in graduate study of at least 2 consecutive years immediately prior to the application deadline; and (B) are not enrolled in a degree-granting graduate program at the application deadline.

INELIGIBLE DEGREE PROGRAMS: Practice-oriented professional degree programs such as medicine, dentistry, public health, law, business, management, social work, clinical psychology are ineligible. Ineligible degree programs include MBA, MPH, MSW, JD, MD, DVM and DDS. Joint or combined professional degree-science programs (e.g., MD/PhD or JD/PhD) and dual professional degree-science programs are also ineligible. Individuals enrolled in a graduate degree program while on a leave of absence from a professional degree program or professional degree-graduate degree joint program are ineligible.

INELIGIBLE AREAS OF STUDY: graduate study focused on clinical practice, counseling, social work, patient-oriented research, epidemiological and medical behavioral studies, outcomes research, and health services research. Ineligible study includes pharmacologic, non-pharmacologic, and behavioral interventions for disease or disorder prevention, prophylaxis, diagnosis, therapy, or treatment. Research to provide evidence leading to a scientific basis for consideration of a change in health policy or standard of care is not eligible. Graduate study focused on community, public, or global health, or other population-based research including medical intervention trials is also not eligible.

INELIGIBLE PROPOSED RESEARCH: Individuals are not eligible to apply if they will conduct research for which the goals are directly human disease- or health-related, including the etiology, diagnosis, and/or treatment of physical or mental disease, disorder, abnormality, or malfunction. Research activities using animal models of disease, for developing or testing of drugs or other procedures for treatment of disease or disorder are not eligible. Research focused on basic questions in plant pathology are eligible, however, applied studies focused on maximizing production in agricultural plants or impacts on food safety, are not eligible.

LIMITED EXCEPTIONS TO INELIGIBLE PROPOSED RESEARCH: Certain areas of bioengineering research directed at medical use are eligible, as are certain areas of materials research directed at development of materials for use in biological or biomedical systems are eligible, provided they are focused on furthering fundamental materials research. See the current year's *NSF GRFP Program Solicitation* for specifics.


No post-graduate study service is required.

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.

Reviewers are asked to evaluate all proposals against two criteria: INTELLECTUAL MERIT, which encompasses the potential to advance knowledge; and BROADER IMPACTS, which encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.

The following elements are considered: INTELLECTUAL MERIT--The potential for the proposed research activity to advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields; and BROADER IMPACTS--The potential for the proposed activity to benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes.

In particular: To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?

Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on a sound rationale?

Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?

How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?

Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?


ACTIVITIES: Broader Impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project. NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to achievement of societally relevant outcomes.

OUTCOMES include full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); improved STEM education and educator development at any level; increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology; improved well-being of individuals in society; development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce; increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others; improved national security; increased economic competitiveness of the US; and enhanced infrastructure for research and education.


U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents.

Program Deadline: 

Deadlines are generally in mid- to late-October. Consult the *NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG)* for the current year for the exact dates, which vary by discipline. The link below under "More Information" may be helpful, but ensure that the PAPPG is for the current application cycle.

More information: 

Meet our NSF GRFP Fellows

NSF Supported Fields and Subfields

A list of all NSF-supported fields is available in the appendix of the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG); a list of the primary fields and their corresponding speciality fields is available on this page.

NSF GRFP Application Tutorial Video

Before preparing an application, review the NSF GRFP Application Tutorial video.

How To Apply: 

Incoming students should apply directly to this national fellowship program. SF State students and alumni may also apply directly to this program.

Eligible SF State students and undergraduate alumni who have not yet enrolled in a graduate program elsewhere may seek the support of the Fellowships Office well in advance of the program deadline for feedback on the application essays and other materials.

Applicants should be prepared to devote significant time to developing and revising the application essays, and should consider beginning the application process six months before the application deadline.

Resources for Applicants

Why Should You Apply for a Fulbright?

Quick Links

Fellowships Office

Dr. Joy Viveros

Phone: 415.405.2128
Reception: Grad Stop, ADM 250 
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132