NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program


Each year Princeton graduate students across diverse fields of study are selected for the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP). The NSF GRFP is a five-year award which provides three years of funding, thereby offering flexibility for fellows to select funding periods and status options. Fellows may elect an On Reserve (or non-funded status) for two of the five years.

The NSF provides 36 months of funding. Each 12-month fellowship year provides a $34,000 stipend and a $12,000 Cost of Education (COE) allowance applied to tuition. These funds are remitted to and administered by Princeton. The NSF COE is supplemented by the Graduate School to fully cover tuition.

Coordination of NSF GRFP With University Funding

Awardees in Humanities and Social Sciences Departments

During each year of NSF funding, GRFP awardees in the Humanities and Social Sciences departments receive coverage for full tuition and University Fellowship stipend to bring them up to the standard University Fellowship rate. In addition, they are eligible for 12-months of banked University support to be used in their first year of DCE status, if needed.

Awardees in Natural Sciences and Engineering Departments

During each year of NSF funding, GRFP awardees in the Natural Sciences and Engineering departments receive coverage for full tuition and University or department support to bring them up to the standard department rate. In addition, the Graduate School provides a stipend supplement of $4,000 to awardees as a lump sum in August in each year that the fellowship is used.

Students who also hold a Centennial, Wu or Upton, all of which provide a premium above the standard academic year stipend, receive the supplement associated with that fellowship on top of the NSF support. During years of NSF GRFP funding, the Centennial, Wu or Upton supplement is provided in a lump sum in August rather than over the 10-month academic year.  This fellowship supplement replaces the Graduate School stipend supplement referenced above

NSF GRFP Reporting for New Fellows

New awardees are required to accept or decline their awards in the NSF FastLane portal by May 1st and submit their status declarations for the coming 12-month fellowship year.

In addition, all students with new external fellowship support are required to complete the Graduate School External Fellowship Form, where they provide information on their fellowship plans and upload their award letters or documentation to ensure proper coordination of University support.

Lastly, awardees are asked to share plans for anticipated NSF GRFP support for the coming academic year during the University reenrollment process in the spring.

NSF GRFP Reporting for Continuing Fellows

Regardless of tenure status, all continuing fellows must submit two reports via FastLane by May 1 each year: 1) the Annual Activities report, and 2) the signed Academic/Research Adviser Confirmation Form. Additional details are available in the NSF Administrative Guide.

Continuing fellows must also report their NSF GRFP plans for the coming academic year during the University reenrollment process in the spring.

Considerations When Planning for GRFP Tenure

The NSF GRFP spans five years and permits up to two years of On Reserve status allowing awardees to best leverage opportunities for teaching, research, or professional development.

Incoming students awarded the GRFP have the option to elect to be On Reserve in their first year of study so that they can retain their First Year Fellowship in Natural Sciences and Engineering. By electing On Reserve status as a first-year student, they will then be able to use three full years of GRFP funding in subsequent years of study.

Students should consider the timing of the start of tenure with their advisers who will help them evaluate what is optimal. One consideration is plans for teaching, as students with external fellowships may teach no more than 3.0 hours per term (6.0 hours in an academic year). Should the department have a teaching requirement that demands an assignment greater than what is allowed while on fellowship, the teaching requirement should be completed during a reserve year. The department’s Graduate Program Administrator (GPA) can provide additional guidance regarding the typical schedule for teaching among students with the NSF GRFP.

Students planning full-time internship or an external opportunity which will provide salary for work exceeding an average of 10 hours per week over the course of a term should consider declaring On Reserve status. If accepting a full-time paid internship while On Tenure, awardees are required to forfeit NSF GRFP Fellowship stipend during the period of internship.

Election of Tenure and Summer or Fall Start

Each spring, awardees must declare their status for the coming year in the NSF FastLane portal by May 1st. Fellows elect to be On Tenure or On Reserve. Each fellowship year is 12 months and is defined by NSF as beginning either summer or fall. Effective academic year 2020-21, Princeton moved to a new academic calendar with an earlier fall term start date of August 1. Princeton now aligns GRFP funding so that Summer Tenure is effective June 1 to May 31, and Fall Tenure is effective August 1 to July 31.

GRFP fellows continuing uninterrupted On Tenure status from before the start of the 2020-21 calendar reform will maintain the same funding schedule as in prior years so that they can fully utilize the 36 months of funding without disruption.

Resources for NSF GRFP Awardees

The NSF Administrative Guide for Fellows provides complete information on the GRFP program, annual submission requirements and important guidelines for awardees.

More information about the coordination of external fellowships and Princeton funding can be found in the Graduate School External Fellowship Policy.