Helpful Tips

All applicants are expected to read the current GRF Program Solicitation before they start their GRFP application. The GRF Program Solicitation contains important information about application terms and conditions, eligibility requirements, application instructions, and the Merit Review Criteria.

Please pay careful attention to the application preparation instructions in the GRFP Application Module and the GRF Program Solicitation. You can view screenshots of the GRFP Module here.

Your application deadline will be determined by the Major Field of Study listed on the Proposed Field of Study section of the application. If you designate your Major Field as “Chemistry – Chemistry of Life Processes”, for example, you must submit your application on the Chemistry not the Life Sciences deadline.

Not only is your application deadline determined based on the Major Field you select, but also your application will be routed to an appropriate panel based on your selected field. See “Field of Study” for a list of prospective panels with their component fields.  If you do not see a Major Field of Study that lists your actual subject area, please choose the Major Field by your discipline, and the subfield by your major area of emphasis.  For example, if you study Agriculture or Agronomy, you would select Life Sciences, and then choose the subfield as “Biochemistry”, “Genomics”, “Organismal Biology”, etc. depending on the area you are planning to emphasize in your graduate study.

Give yourself time to review your application materials and get feedback from others. Do not wait until 4:45 p.m. (local time, as determined by your mailing address) on the night of the deadline to start uploading required documents; if something goes wrong and you miss the 5:00 p.m. local time deadline by even a few seconds, your application will be returned without review.

The preview feature is available in the GRFP Module to make sure the uploaded documents are the ones you want to submit. Make sure you have not uploaded a draft version, and double check that you uploaded each document correctly. Once an application has been submitted, it is not possible to change the uploaded documents.

Follow the formatting instructions regarding page limits, font type and size, margins, and line spacing in your statements. Failure to follow the instructions will result in your documents not being accepted by the GRFP Application Module.

You can download a PDF file of the application on GRFP Module by selecting “View/Print Application” under the Application Package Optional Task List.

Effective references can make an applicant much more competitive. See the “Reference Writer Helpful Tips” page for more information.

You should not simply select three people who will say the same thing. Instead, you are encouraged to select references who can comment on different aspects of your qualifications for the fellowship. For example, you might seek reference letters from your undergraduate advisor, a summer lab coordinator, your graduate advisor or mentor, a supervisor from a K-12 outreach program, or an employer who can address your professional skills.

The GRFP application allows you to list up to five reference writers; the three highest-priority reference letters that are submitted will be included in the application package for review. Seeking four or five references gives you a fallback if one of your top three references is unable to submit a letter for some reason. Ask for reference letters early, you will want to give your reference writers time to write compelling letters.

The GRFP seeks to identify individuals with outstanding potential as future STEM research leaders. The most effective reference letters speak to the applicant’s potential for future achievement in graduate school and beyond. Competitive GRFP applicants demonstrate the ability to develop a strong research plan, succeed with their graduate study, and have broader impacts on society.