Cornell University

NSF Fellowship

Application Deadlines range from October 21, 2019 through October 25, 2019, depending on the field of study.


National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships offer three years of support for advanced study in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, and behavioral and social sciences, including the history of science and the philosophy of science, and to research-based Ph.D. degrees in science education at accredited U.S. institutions.

Awards carry a $34,000 stipend for 12-month tenures plus a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 per tenure year. NSF made 2,000 award offers following the 2017 competition. 

All awards are for a maximum of three years usable over a five-year period. Award announcements are made in early April of 2020.


Applicants must be U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents. Those eligible to apply are college seniors, first-year graduate students, and others who have completed a limited amount of graduate study in science, mathematics, or engineering. Under-represented populations, including women and racial and ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities, are encouraged to apply.


Each applicant's qualifications are reviewed by disciplinary panels of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers convened by NSF by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). Applications are assigned to panels based on the applicant's chosen field(s) of study. Selection of awardees, made by the NSF, is done in merit order. Secondary criteria such as geographical regions, gender, discipline, or other factors determined to be consistent with policy and legislative intent are used to select among applications of substantially equal merit.

Complete application (details follow in "merit ranking" section) includes:

  1. Official Academic Transcripts
  2. Three Letters of Recommendation
  3. Graduate Research Plan Statement
  4. Personal Statement

Information must be submitted electronically using NSF’s FastLane Graduate Research Fellowship Program application

Note:  GRE Subject and General Test scores are no longer accepted as part of the GRFP application.

Merit ranking is based on the following criteria:

  • Academic merit, including official transcripts, GPA, and class rank (due by deadline for field of study).
  • Three letters of recommendation: Scientists or faculty members who have current knowledge of your academic and/or professional experience are asked to rank your ability in the following areas: knowledge in chosen field, motivation and perseverance toward educational goals, ability to work independently, ability to work as a member of a research team, ability to plan and conduct research, imagination and creativity, and overall scientific ability.
  • Proposed plan of study or research: A two-page description of your proposed plan of study or research for the period covered by the fellowship. The plan should present a clear hypothesis and questions to be asked by the research. The general problems that interest you, and how you expect your program of study to further your educational objectives, should also be addressed.
  • Personal statement: A two-page description of any personal, professional, or educational experiences or situations that have prepared you or contributed to your desire to pursue advanced study in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Describe your competencies and evidence of leadership potential. Discuss your career aspirations and how the NSF fellowship will enable you to achieve your goals. Publications or presentations made at professional meetings can be listed. NOTE: Provide specific details in the personal statement that address BOTH the NSF Merit Review Criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts in order for your application to be competitive. Refer to the Program Announcement for further information on the NSF Merit Review Criteria.


  • Complete information on the NSF Fellowship, including directions on how to apply, is available at the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program website. For additional assistance, contact NSF at 866/673-4737 or by e-mail at
  • Cornell Career Services Library, 103 Barnes Hall
  • Campus:  Graduate School's Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs,