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

The National Science Foundation aims to ensure the vitality of the human resource based in biological science, technology, engineering, mathematics, physical science, earth science, and social science in the United States and to reinforce its diversity by offering approximately 1,000 graduate fellowships in this competition. The Graduate Research Fellowship provides three years of support for graduate study leading to research-based master’s or doctoral degrees and is intended for students who are at the early stages of their graduate study.

Recent MU graduates who have received the NSF GRFP have gone onto study at the University of California-Berkeley, Dartmouth, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Northwestern, Stanford, Washington University, and other institutions.


Applicants must be United States citizens, nationals, or permanent residents near the beginning of their graduate studies. Applicants may apply in their senior year of undergraduate studies or in their first or second year of graduate school. GRFP-supported fields of study include Chemistry, Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering, Engineering, Geosciences, Life Sciences, Materials Research, Mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Psychology, Social Sciences, STEM Education and Learning Research.

For detailed eligibility information, check the NSF GRFP website and consult with our office.


The NSF GRFP supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees and are training to become well-rounded researchers. Grant recipients demonstrate potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research. Successful applicants articulate a plan for original research that advances knowledge and has the potential for positively influencing society. They also tell a compelling story of what has motivated them to pursue graduate study and that they have the necessary skills and research background for their proposed research plan. The program also encourages applications from underrepresented groups (women, minorities, persons with disabilities and veterans) to broaden and diversity those participating in science and engineering.

Demonstrating potential for significant research contributions looks different for each applicant given the many fields and sub-fields of study NSF GRF recipients pursue. NSF GRFP recipients show their capacity for research excellence and meeting the grant selection criteria through:

  • Collecting a variety of undergraduate research experiences and discussing how each of those experiences has provided transferable skills that qualify them for graduate study.
  • Consulting with a mentor (or mentors) to develop sound methods and methodology for investigating a research question or hypothesis.
  • Communicating how they have improved the public’s understanding of science, engaged people from diverse backgrounds in science education, or possibly directly benefited society in some way through their research.
  • Articulating how they plan to advance knowledge within and beyond their academic discipline in graduate study and throughout their careers.


Watch a recorded NSF GRF Information Session hosted by MU faculty and staff to familiarize yourself with the award, from eligibility criteria to application components to student services that support candidates through the application process.

Read the NSF GRFP Program Solicitation, noting the application deadline for your chosen field of study. Reading the program solicitation is important for understanding how to talk about the grant’s two selection criteria – intellectual merit and broader impacts – throughout your application.

Become familiar with the NSF grant selection criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts. Read what these criteria mean in the program solicitation and talk with your mentors about their understanding of these concepts.

Work closely with your research mentor(s) and the Fellowships Office. Your research mentors know your field of study and can help you write a high-quality research proposal within your chosen field. Their insight is invaluable when it comes to knowing how your research is original and advances knowledge within your field. The Fellowships Office supports you by providing editorial assistance on your statements and helping you think about your application as a whole.

Give yourself plenty of time to write and revise several drafts of your application materials. We recommend you have a draft of your entire application by September 30 (what we call the “priority deadline” for this award). Having a first draft by this date gives you time to make several rounds of revisions by the final deadline.

Consider who your recommenders will be. The NSF GRFP application requires three letters of recommendation, and each recommendation should tell the reviewers slightly different things about you, providing insight into your variety of qualifications for the fellowship. Recommendations can be from faculty, research supervisors, an undergraduate advisor, someone who has seen you in a volunteer capacity, or an employer.


Three years of financial support are provided during the five-year fellowship period. NSF GRF benefits include an annual stipend of $34,000, a full tuition waiver, cost of education allowance of $12,000 to your host institution, professional development opportunities, and XSEDE supercomputer access for Fellows and honorable mentions.


Early August: Application Opens

Late October: Application Closes (deadlines vary by academic discipline)

Early April: Awards Announced

Early May: Fellows Acceptance Deadline