IMPORTANT: The information below applies to the 2016-17 competition. 

Eligibility FAQs

How can I determine if I am eligible?

The eligibility requirements for the 2017 GRFP are contained in Section IV of the Program Solicitation.

I started graduate school in Fall 2015. Am I still eligible?

As long as you did not complete any other graduate, post baccalaureate or professional study between your undergraduate program and the start of your graduate program in Fall 2015, you would be within the allowed amount of completed graduate study. The Program Solicitation states that applicants may have completed no more than 12 months of full-time graduate study, or its equivalent, by August 1, 2016. People who started graduate school after August 1, 2015 would be within this limit.

I am in the first year of my PhD program, but I also earned a Master's degree previously. Am I still eligible?

It depends. GRFP applicants are allowed to have completed no more than 12 months of full-time graduate study, or its equivalent (24 semester hours or 36 quarter hours of part-time study). This limit applies to your entire graduate career, not only your current program, so all prior graduate degree program counts towards the limit—unless your Master’s degree was completed as part of  a joint baccalaureate-master's (BS/MS) program and you have not completed any further graduate study.  Graduate coursework that was required to establish or maintain credentials in a profession such as teaching is not counted toward the limit.

I do not have a Master's degree, but I have completed more than 12 months of graduate study. Are there any extenuating circumstance in which I could be eligible?

Possibly. The Program Solicitation states that applicants who have completed more than 12 months of graduate study are eligible only if they have had an interruption in graduate study of at least two consecutive years prior to November 1, 2016, and have completed no additional graduate study by August 1, 2016.  This means that you cannot already be enrolled in graduate school at the time you apply after the interruption. You must address the reasons for the interruption in graduate study in your Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement.

What counts as an "interruption" in graduate study, for the purposes of applying to GRFP? I have been working for several years since getting my Ph.D., and would like to go back to graduate school in another field

You are not eligible.  As described in the Program Solicitation, the Graduate Research Fellowship is intended for students “early in their graduate careers,” which in most cases means that a student has had no more than 12 months of graduate study.  If you have already earned the highest terminal degree in a field of study, the time after that degree does not count as an “interruption.”  The reason for the interruption category is as follows.  In order to broaden participation of students in STEM fields, NSF supports the Career-Life Balance Initiative. The exception for interruptions is to accommodate those students who have left graduate school for purposes such as health-related reasons, to start a family, military deployment, economic hardship, or to care for a family member.   

I am changing fields of study. Does NSF consider that an extenuating circumstance that would merit an exception to the limit on previous study?

No. All post-baccalaureate, graduate or professional study counts towards the limit, regardless of field; this includes study in non-NSF-supported fields as well as STEM fields. The only exception is graduate study to establish or maintain professional credentials for your job; any graduate or professional study that you completed while working, that was for the specific purpose of establishing or maintaining a professional credential, would not be included in the 12-month limit.

I completed a Master's degree in less than 12 months, with no additional graduate study. Am I still eligible?

Your eligibility would depend on when you received your Master's degree. The Program Solicitation (NSF 16-588) states that individuals with previous graduate or professional degrees are not eligible, unless they fall into one of two categories. 1) They are eligible if they have completed a joint baccalaureate-master's (BS/MS) program and have not completed any further graduate study outside the joint program unless the graduate coursework was required to establish or maintain credentials in a profession such as teaching. 2) They are eligible if they have had an interruption in graduate study of at least the two consecutive years immediately prior to November 1, 2016 and have completed no additional graduate study as of August 1, 2016.

I have completed more than 24 semester hours or 36 quarter hours of graduate study. Does that mean I am ineligible?

It would depend on whether you are (and were) a part-time or full-time student. The credit hour limit applies only to part-time students, and students who completed both part-time and full-time graduate-level study. If you have only been a full-time graduate student, your eligibility would be based on how much time you spent in graduate study, rather than how many credits you completed. A full-time student who started their graduate career in fall 2015 would still be within the limits, even if they completed more than 24 semester credits or 36 quarter credits during the 2015-16 academic year.

I took some graduate level- courses as an undergraduate. Do those count towards the 12-month limit?

No. Any graduate-level courses taken as an undergraduate do not count towards the limit of allowed graduate study. Only graduate-level courses taken after you completed your undergraduate degree would count (unless you were in a joint baccalaureate-master's program, which have their own set of eligibility requirements - please see the FAQ below regarding joint BA/MA and BS/MS programs).

I took some graduate level- courses after finishing my undergraduate program, but they were not part of a degree program. Do they count as "graduate study" for the GRFP?

Yes: post-baccalaureate, graduate-level study completed outside a degree program counts towards the limit of allowed graduate study. Individuals who completed both part-time, non-degree graduate-level coursework and full-time graduate study would be expected to have completed no more than 24 semester credits or 36 quarter credits of graduate study as of August 1, 2016. However, note that post-baccalaureate study that does not involve graduate-level credit does not count toward the limit.

How does eligibility work for students in joint BS/MS or BA/MA programs?

Applicants in joint BS/MS programs, are eligible to apply in the final year of their program or after completion of the program.

What if I applied in the final year of my joint BS/MS program? Under the new one-time rule for graduate student applicants, am I eligible to apply in the first year of my Ph.D. program?

Yes.  If you had not been awarded your BS degree yet as part of your BS/MS program when you applied previously, then you still have one more chance to apply at the beginning of the first year of your Ph.D. studies.  But since you have already completed some training as a first-year graduate student, for GRFP application purposes you would be considered to be in your second year of graduate study (and therefore eligible to apply only in the first year of your new program) You are not eligible to apply again if you have completed any credits of graduate study outside of your joint BS/MS program. 

If I apply for the GRFP this year and am not awarded, can I re-apply?

Before starting graduate school, you can apply once yearly (but if you are offered and accept an award, you must be prepared to enter an eligible graduate program the following fall, as deferrals are not allowed).  If you are currently in graduate school, you may apply only once.

If I apply now as first-year graduate student for 2017 competition, will I be able to apply next year as a second-year graduate student for the 2018 GRFP competition?

No. Effective as of the 2017 competition, the new guideline applies to to incoming graduate students who are start graduate study in Fall 2016 – such students will be limited to one application while enrolled in graduate school, submitted either in the first year or in the second year of graduate school.

I understand that, as a first year graduate student, I can apply either this year or next year, but not in both years. Should I wait until next year (and apply as late as possible)?

No, not necessarily. As it specifies in the Solicitation, GRFP selects students "early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant research achievements in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education.”

You will need to be strategic about the timing of your application to a GRFP competition. You should consult with your advisor(s) to assess whether you have already demonstrated strong evidence of excellent potential compared to other first year students through achievements, activities, research experiences, and plans, or whether your evidence is anticipated to be stronger as a second year student.

How can I find out if my specific research topic is eligible?

Section IV of the Program Solicitation contains the official guidance regarding eligible fields and programs of study; see Section IV. 3. Field of Study.   Also, supported fields are listed in the Appendix of the Program Solicitation. 

I am in a clinical psychology program. Am I eligible?

Regarding the eligibility clinical areas of study, the Program Solicitation states: “Individuals are not eligible to apply if they will be enrolled in an area of graduate study focused on clinical practice, for example, counseling, social work, as well as patient-oriented research, epidemiological and medical behavioral studies, outcomes research and health services research. Ineligible clinical studies include investigations to provide evidence leading to a scientific basis for consideration of a change in health policy or standard of care, and includes pharmacologic, non-pharmacologic, and behavioral interventions for disease prevention, prophylaxis, diagnosis, or therapy. Graduate study focused on community and other population-based medical intervention trials are also ineligible.” If you are in a clinical psychology program, you may be eligible as long as your proposed graduate study is not focused on clinical practice and you are doing basic research on a topic or topics that are not described in the Program Solicitation as being ineligible.

I am enrolled in a bioengineering program and my research will involve applications that aid people with disabilities. Am eligible?

As it says in Section IV.3 of the Program Solicitation, you are eligible if your research will apply engineering principles to problems in medicine while primarily advancing engineering knowledge.  When you prepare your application, you should select biomedical engineering as the field of study.

I started graduate school in the Spring 2016 term, so I've already completed a few months of graduate study. I haven't applied for the GRFP before. Will i be able to apply for the GRFP next year?

Assuming you are a full-time student, the answer is no. Applicants are limited to no more than 12 months of graduate study as of August 1 prior to the application deadlines. As of next year’s deadline (fall 2017), students who started in the winter or spring 2016 term will have completed more than 12 months of graduate study by August 1, 2017, so would exceed the limit of allowed graduate study. In other words, if you started your graduate career in the Winter or Spring 2016 term and would like to apply for the GRFP, you should plan to apply in the current competition (fall 2016), since it would be your last eligible application cycle..

My job required me to take some continuing education credits to establish a professional credential, and these continuing education credits were at the graduate level. Do these count towards the limit of allowed graduate study?

No. According to the Program Solicitation, "All graduate, post-baccalaureate and professional study is counted towards the allowed 12 months of graduate study, including all full-time and part-time master’s and doctoral degree programs, and non-degree graduate-level and professional coursework. The one exception is for graduate coursework required to establish or maintain credentials in a profession such as teaching; such coursework is not included in the 12-month limit."


Merit Review Criteria FAQs

What are the Merit Review criteria?

The Merit Review Criteria for the GRFP are Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. Please see Section VI of the current Program Solicitation for more information.

What is the Broader Impacts criterion?

The Broader Impacts criterion encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.

What are some examples of Broader Impacts activities?

Many activities can demonstrate the Broader Impacts activities. Some examples include:

  • Presenting your research to the general public
  • Tutoring K-12 students
  • Volunteering at museums, aquariums, zoos, etc.
  • Participating in science fairs
  • Involving members of the public in assisting with your research

These are only a few examples of Broader Impacts activities. In general, Broader Impacts activities will contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge and scientifically relevant outcomes, such as advancing the participation of underrepresented minorities, women, and persons with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); increasing scientific literacy and public engagement with STEM; developing a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce; fostering partnerships between academia, industry, and others.

There is no single “correct” answer for the Broader Impacts criterion – you should focus on how your specific research interests and your past and future activities address this criterion.

What should I do if I do not have many Broader Impacts activities in my previous experience?

If your past experience includes limited Broader Impacts-related activities, you may want to discuss how your non-STEM-related experiences may demonstrate your potential to make a contribution to society, such as past leadership experiences, outreach in non-STEM areas, volunteerism, and so on.

It is also important to present a clear plan for how you will demonstrate the Broader Impacts criterion in future, regardless of how much Broader Impacts activities you have previously completed. Including specific details of how you plan to work to benefit society and contribute to the advancement of STEM can demonstrate your Broader Impacts.

What are some examples of the Intellectual Merit criterion?

You can show evidence of Intellectual Merit by providing information that shows your potential to advance the knowledge in your field. For example:

  • A proposed plan of research that is scientifically sound, reflects knowledge of existing work and makes a contribution to the field
  • Previous research experience, including Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs), internships, and volunteer experience
  • The strength of your academic record (transcripts)
  • Publication and presentations
How much weight should I give to each criterion in my statements?

There is no specific limit on how much weight you give each criterion in your statements, but it is important to demonstrate both criteria as thoroughly as possible in both statements.


Transcript FAQs

Do I need to upload official transcripts on the application?

You may upload official or unofficial transcripts, as long as the unofficial transcript meets the requirements described in the GRFP application. Applicants are encouraged to redact personally identifiable information (date of birth, social security number) from the transcripts before uploading.

My school doesn't provide electronic transcripts. How can I include transcripts in my application?

If your school does not provide electronic transcripts, we recommend uploading a scanned version of the hard copy transcript. Applicants are encouraged to redact personally identifiable information (date of birth, social security number) from the transcripts before uploading.

I just started at my current institution this fall, and do not have a transcript yet. What can I do?

The FastLane GRFP application requires transcripts to be uploaded for all institutions listed on your application, regardless of the start date. If you started at your current institution in the fall, you can upload an unofficial transcript, a course schedule or other document from your school showing the courses you registered for, an enrollment verification document, etc. It may be helpful if the document you upload shows what courses you are taking in the fall, even though there would be no grades, since it gives reviewers some information about your coursework.

My school offers official electronic transcripts that require the recipient to login and download the transcript. May I list the GRFP's contact information, and have the GRFP download the transcript and add it to my application?

No. Applicants must upload transcripts directly into FastLane. In this case, you would need to obtain a copy of your transcript yourself, and upload it. Applicants are encouraged to redact personally identifiable information (date of birth, social security number) from the transcripts before uploading.

My school's official electronic transcripts are password-protected. Can I still submit them?

The FastLane module does not accept password-protected or similarly encrypted PDFs. If your school's electronic transcripts are encrypted, we would suggest either obtaining an unencrypted unofficial electronic transcript, or scanning a hard copy of your transcript and uploading the scan. Applicants are encouraged to redact personally identifiable information (date of birth, social security number) from the transcripts before uploading.

I am receiving an error when uploading my transcript file.

Many universities will place a layer of encryption on official transcript files which can cause issues when uploading to FastLane. If you receive an error, please print a copy of the transcript and scan to PDF prior to uploading.

Application FAQs

Are GRE scores required for the GRFP application?

No, GRE scores are not part of the GRFP application, and are not accepted for this year's competition.

Can I submit supplemental material, such as papers, videos, etc. for reviewers to consider?

The only application content that is considered by reviewers is what is provided via the FastLane GRFP module, and which was submitted by the deadline. Any other information that is submitted would be marked as extraneous, and would not be considered in the review process.

From the Program Solicitation: “Applicants should not send extraneous information or materials such as CDs, manuscripts, resumes, medical reports, or news clippings. These items will not be reviewed with an application.”

What are the formatting requirements for the statements?

A. The statements must be written using standard 8.5" x 11" page size, 12-point, Times New Roman font or Computer Modern (LaTeX) font, 1" margins on all sides, and must be single spaced or greater. Only references, footnotes, and figure captions may be a smaller font, no less than 10-point Times New Roman. Failure to follow these guidelines will result in an application being returned without review.

What are the page limits for the statements?

The Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement has a 3-page limit. The Graduate Research Plan Statement has a 2-page limit. All references, footnotes, citations, images, etc. are included in these page limits.

Do I need to put my name, applicant ID or other identifying information on the statements?

It is not required to put your name or any other identifying information on the statements.


Statement Formatting FAQs

What are the formatting requirements for the 2017 GRFP?

Statements must be written using the following guidelines:

  • You must use 8.5" x 11" page size.
  • You must use 1" margins on the top, bottom, right and left sides of the page.
  • You must use Times New Roman font. (If you are writing your statements using LaTeX, you can use Computer Modern font.)
  • The statements must be written in 12-point font size in the statements.
  • Only references (footnotes and endnotes) and figure captions may be in a smaller font, but no smaller than 10-point font size.
  • Statements must be single-spaced or greater.
  • The page limit for the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals statement is 3 pages.
  • The page limit for the Graduate Research Plan statement is 2 pages.
  • The page limits include all references, footnotes, figures, images, etc.
Is it all right if I put my name, the statement title, and page numbers in the margins on the statements?

Applicants do not need to add their name or any other identifying information to their statements. Therefore, it is not necessary to fit your name, the statement title, or page numbers on the statements, either within or outside the margins. However, if you do submit an application with your name or similar identifying information in the 1" margins, it will not necessarily cause the application to be returned without review, as the identifying information does not contain meaningful statement content.

Can I use a smaller font for figures and tables?

Yes. It is acceptable to use 10-point font for figures and tables.

For the Graduate Research Plan statement, can I put my references on a third page?

No. All references must fit within the two-page limit. If you submit an application in which the Graduate Research Plan is a total of three pages, with nothing but references on the third page, your application will be returned without review.

When I uploaded my statement in FastLane, there is an additional blank page at the end of my statement, and my statement now exceeds the page limit. Will this cause my application to be returned without review?

No. If your statement contains an additional page at the end, and that extra page is completely blank, it will not cause your application to be returned without review.

Can I use "exactly 12 point" line spacing?

You should not use "exactly 12 point" line spacing. The Program Solicitation states that the statements must be written using single spaced or greater line spacing. The single-spaced setting on word processors has a small amount of vertical space that acts as a visual cushion between the lines. Exactly 12-point spacing removes this extra space, resulting in a more condensed page than one using the single-spaced setting. Therefore, applicants should not use exactly 12 point line spacing.

I am using LaTeX to prepare my statements. Is there anything special I need to do?

If you are using LaTeX for your statements, you can use Computer Modern or Times New Roman font. Please be aware that the default font size for LaTeX documents is 10 point font, so be sure to specify that the document's font size should be 12 point. (10-point font is acceptable for references and figure captions). As a general rule, statements prepared in LaTeX must follow the same formatting requirements as statements prepared with any word processor.

When I check my statement in FastLane, the formatting is not the same as the document I uploaded, and now looks like it does not comply with the guidelines. Does this mean my application will be returned without review?

FastLane provides applicants with the opportunity to preview their statements after uploading them, to make sure that everything uploaded correctly. The status of applications will be based on the contents as submitted in FastLane. Therefore, if the version that is uploaded in FastLane does not comply with the formatting requirements, it may be returned without review. For this reason, we strongly encourage applicants to upload their statements and preview them well in advance of the application deadlines, in case they experience issues during the PDF upload process.


Reference Letter FAQs

How can I find out if my reference letters have been submitted?

You can track the submission status of reference letters using FastLane. Once you log into your FastLane account, click "Check Application Package Status" under the Application Package Optional Task List.

What happens if I have more than three reference letters submitted?

On the GRFP application, you will be asked to assign a priority ranking to each reference you list. If more than three reference letters are submitted for your application, the letters from the three highest priority references will be included in your application package for review.

Can I change the priority rankings for my references?

Yes, you may change the priority rankings of your references by logging into your FastLane application, and selecting “Manage References” under the Application Package Optional Task List. You can change priority rankings even if a reference letter has already been submitted.

My reference writer was asked to provide letters for several applicants. While other applicants show up on his/her list of applicants, my name does not appear. How can I ensure that the letter is submitted?

Reference letter requests are associated with the reference writer's e-mail address. If you and another applicant provide different e-mail addresses for the same reference writer, and the reference writer logs in to submit a letter using the e-mail address listed by the other applicant, the reference writer will not see you on his/her list of applicants. In this case, the reference should create another login using the e-mail address that you listed, or you can edit the email address to match the one listed by the other applicant(s).

Can reference letters be submitted by e-mail or physical mail?

No, all reference letters must be submitted online. If you need assistance with the reference letter submission process, please contact us at or (866) 673-4737.

My Reference Writer did not receive the email nominating them to serve as a reference writer or the email containing their temporary password.

There are a few reasons that your reference writer may not have received the email nominating them as a Reference Writer. Please check the following if this occurs:

  1. Ensure you have selected to send the email. When adding your reference writer to your application, you must hit the “Send Email” link on the References Screen to send the email notification to the Reference Writer.
  2. Check the Reference Writer's email address. Check to ensure that the email address you have entered for the Reference Writer is accurate. An exact email address is crucial to matching the reference writer and the applicant in the FastLane GRFP Application Module. If there is a typo or you need to change the email address, you can choose to edit the Reference Writer record (either from your unsubmitted Application or from the Manage References link on your GRFP homepage). After editing the Reference Writer email address, the “Send Email” link will reappear on the references screen, allowing you to re-send the nomination email.
  3. Check SPAM folders. Ask your Reference Writer to check their SPAM or Trash folder to ensure that the email did not get sent to one of those folders inadvertently.
  4. Use an alternate email address. It is possible that the email domain used by your Reference Writer is rejecting the email and not allowing delivery. In this case, request an alternate email from your Reference Writer to be used for this purpose. You can then edit the email address using the directions in step 2 above.


Notification FAQs

When will applicants be notified of the results?

Reviewed applicants will be notified via e-mail of the results of the competition around early April.

How are notifications sent?

Notifications are sent via e-mail to the e-mail address registered in FastLane.

I did not receive a notification. What should I do?

If you did not receive a notification, please check your e-mail's spam folder. If you cannot locate the e-mail there, please e-mail from the address associated with your FastLane GRFP application, and include your name, 10-digit applicant ID number, and primary mailing address.

Can I receive additional feedback beyond the comments I received on my reviews?

The reviews in FastLane are the only available feedback for GRFP applications.

Can I appeal the results of my application if I was not awarded a fellowship?

Per NSF policy (Grant Proposal Guide, CH IV, sect D.2), there is no reconsideration for fellowship award decisions.

What should I do if I have concerns about my reviews?

If you believe there is an issue with the content of one of your reviews, please e-mail with details of the possible issue.

Does NSF make any additional awards after the announcements in early April?

If awardees decline their offers and funds are available, NSF may offer awards to some honorable mentions. Generally the number of additional award offers has been small.

Is there a waiting list for GRFP awards, and if so, how can I be placed on the waiting list?

There is no waiting list for GRFP awards. However, if awardees decline their offers and funds are available, NSF may offer awards to honorable mentions. Any such decisions are based on the submitted applications, and no further information is required from applicants.