The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Funds three years of graduate school in STEM and social sciences.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship: At a Glance


  • U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents
  • Fourth-year students and recent graduates
  • Majors: STEM, STEM education, phycology, and social sciences
  • Intent to enroll in a research-based master’s or Ph.D. program in the U.S.

Selection Criteria:

  • Potential to advance knowledge within the field, or across different fields
  • Well-reasoned, well-organized, creative and sound research project
  • Adequate qualifications, and resources to conduct the proposed activities
  • Potential to benefit society, and advance desired societal outcomes

Candidates for the NSF GRFP can affirm the following statements:

  • I seek a career in which I can advance research and benefit society.
  • I possess adequate preparation, and experience to succeed in the proposed graduate program.
  • I am able to produce a compelling research proposal.I have engaged in research, teaching, tutoring, mentoring, outreach, service, or leadership activities that have benefited society, and/or engaged people from diverse backgrounds.

What is the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP)? The Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and social science disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, 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.

Since 1952, NSF has funded over 50,000 Graduate Research Fellowships. In order to build fully upon the strength and creativity of a diverse society, women, under-represented minorities and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply. The reputation of the NSF GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching.

Merit Review Criteria: All GRFP applications are evaluated using NSF’s two merit review criteria: Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. In order to present a competitive application, you must address both merit review criteria thoroughly. The Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement and the Graduate Research Statement should both reflect these criteria. Please consult further information posted here.

Deadline Information

Deadlines range from October 19, 2020 to October 23, 2020.

Eligibility Requirements

An applicant must meet all of the following eligibility criteria by the application deadline:

  • Be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident
  • Intend to enroll or be enrolled full-time in a research-based graduate degree program in an eligible Field of Study
  • Undergraduate seniors and bachelor's degree holders may apply before enrolling in a degree-granting graduate program
  • Individuals pursuing a joint bachelor's-master's degree must have completed three years in the joint program and are limited to one application to GRFP
  • Graduate students enrolled in a degree-granting graduate program are limited to only one application to the GRFP.

Application Process

Application components (see here):

  1. Personal, Relevant Background, and Future Goals Statement (three pages)
  2. Graduate Research Plan Statement (two pages)
  3. Three reference letters
  4. Academic transcripts

Application deadlines: Deadlines vary by field of study, please consult information posted here. The 2021 application will open in late July/early August. 

Tips for applying: Please pay careful attention to the application preparation instructions available here. Also, please see FAQs for applicants.

UChicago resources and support: Comprehensive, detailed and narrated  NSF GRFP resources are available via CCRF Resource Library. Please watch Part 1, 2 and 3. If you are applying this year, you are advised to work on your application months ahead of the October deadline:

  • For Research Proposal (Part 2) - please seek support from disciplinary experts including faculty, graduate students and librarians.
  • For Personal Statement (Part 3) - once you develop and write your draft as demonstrated in Part 3, please email Sandra Zupan to schedule an appointment between mid-July and late-September. During the meeting you will obtain detailed feedback and suggestions for further revisions.

***Please note: CCRF supports current UChicago undergraduates and recent alum who have not started a graduate degree program. Current UChicago graduate students should seek support from the UChicagoGRAD Fellowships Advising Office and their research advisors. UChicago alum who are current graduate students at other universities should seek support from their current institution.

For more information on this opportunity, please contact: 
Sandra Zupan