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The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GRFP) is an annual grant awarded by the National Science Foundation to approximately 2,000 doctoral-level students in the natural, social, and engineering sciences at US institutions. The fellowship provides an honorarium of $12,000 to be placed towards the cost of tuition and fees at the university the fellow attends; it also awards the student directly with an annual $34,000 stipend for three years. Each recipient could previously apply for a one time only travel award for $1,000. This travel award was previously for international research activities or presenting at an international scientific conference. However, in 2010, this opportunity was converted to the Nordic Research Opportunity, which is intended to facilitate collaborations between U.S. graduate fellows and scholars at Finnish, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian research institutions.
The Graduate Research Fellowship was first awarded in 1952, with the goal of encouraging basic scientific research and ensuring comprehensive, competitive research programs for U.S. students. Since 1952, the NSF has funded over 46,500 Graduate Research Fellowships out of over 500,000 applicants. Many former graduate fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates and members of the National Academy of Sciences.
The competition is open to senior undergraduate students as well as new graduate students in their first or second years of graduate study.
In order to apply, the applicant must submit biographical information, undergraduate and graduate transcripts where applicable, at least three letters of recommendation, and two essays: a personal statement with past research experience and a research proposal.
Applications are typically due in early November, with different deadlines for different scientific fields. Letters of recommendation are typically due in mid November. Fellows and students selected for Honorable Mention are usually notified in April of the year following their application. Together, the Fellows and Honorable Mention students make up about the top 30% of applicants.
The grant is administered through the institution the student is attending. The grant's funding can be postponed for up to two 12-month increments as long as the recipient continues to engage in work leading to the eligible graduate degree. For instance, a recipient might postpone the grant's funding while working as a teaching assistant or research assistant. This is referred to as "reserve". On the third year of reserve, the recipient will automatically forfeit any remaining years of tenure.