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NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

These comments are meant to help guide prospective and current NSF Fellows and their advisers at Vanderbilt, but are not exhaustive.  Complete information regarding the administration of the program is available in the NSF GRFP


The NSF GRFP provides for three years of stipend support over a maximum five-year period:  Up to three Tenure years of financial support (stipend plus COE allowance) and two reserve years.

    • The Fellowship technically expires upon completion of 36 months of stipend payments, three years’ Tenure Status, or five years after the Fellowship start, whichever comes first.
    • However, Fellows who have used 36 months’ of stipend payments prior to the end of the 5-year fellowship period, with one or two years’ reserve status remaining, may continue to take part in fellowship opportunities by declaring their tenure status as “on Reserve” by the appropriate deadline.

Each Fellowship year is 12 months and is defined by NSF as beginning either Summer/June 1 or Fall/September 1.  Tenure is computed from that date, independent of Vanderbilt’s academic year (which begins August 15), and Fellowship Tenure Status is not defined by the date on which a stipend payment is issued.

    • At Vanderbilt, a fellowship year beginning in Summer typically runs from June 1 through May 31.
    • A fellowship year beginning in Fall may begin August 1, September 1, or October 1; most begin August 1.
    • Regardless of when the fellowship year begins, stipend payments are for 12 months only, and payment is made on the last business day of the month.

A GRFP fellowship cannot be concurrently accepted or combined with another Federal Fellowship, [1] regardless of the Fellow’s status, but may be combined with other types of funding.

    • If you’re uncertain about how a particular type of funding might affect the NSF Fellowship, check with Vanderbilt’s Coordinating Official (CO). [2]

Regardless of Tenure Status, all continuing Fellows must submit two reports by May 1 each year via FastLane:  The Annual Activities report with the signed Academic/Research Advisor Confirmation Form and the Fellowship Year Tenure Declaration.  Additional details are available in the NSF Administrative Guide.


Fellows are not considered salaried employees of either NSF or Vanderbilt.

    • Vanderbilt defines the NSF stipend as service-free, meaning one that generally does not require service to be performed in order to receive payment.
    • As such, no funds or taxes are withheld from stipend payments.

On an annual basis (by January 31 of each year), HR Processing will send stipend recipients a letter regarding taxability and what forms (if any) to expect from Vanderbilt University. [3]

The stipend is awarded to the Fellow but managed administratively by Vanderbilt, through the Graduate School.

    • The stipend is pro-rated in monthly increments and paid on the last business day of the month.

Fellows are not permitted to receive more than 12 months of GRFP stipend support during a single Fellowship Year.

No Fellow is eligible to receive more than 36 months cumulative GRFP stipend support.

While on Tenure, Fellows are exempt from paying required tuition and fees normally charged to graduate students of similar academic standing.

    • All living expenses are the responsibility of the Fellow. 

 Cost of Education (COE) Allowance

The Fellowship provides a fixed COE allowance to Vanderbilt, not to the Fellow.  The use of the COE allowance is at Vanderbilt’s discretion.

    • The current COE is $12,000 per Tenure (stipend) year, typically paid in two installments:  $6,000 in the fall and $6,000 in the spring.

Vanderbilt uses the COE to pay a Fellow’s health insurance (unless waived by the Fellow), required activity and recreation fees [4] , and a portion of tuition charges for the years the Fellow is on Tenure.

Should a Fellow reach 72 hours and still be on Tenure, the COE is used to pay health insurance (unless waived by the fellow), required fees, and the nominal tuition (currently $200) for a student to remain in good standing.  The Fellow may request the use of COE funds for approved professional development expenses, while the Fellow is still on Tenure, up to the limit of what is available after those charges have been paid.

    • A brief request for funds, with proposed budget, is submitted in advance of any expenditures to the CO.  The Fellow’s mentor must also provide a brief statement in support of these expenses.
    • Funds are available up to the limit of the COE allowance available and must be expended in the semester the COE is received.

Key Websites

GRFP Program website

 2016 Program Solicitation

Administrative Guide for Fellows and COs

NSF GRFP website


Upcoming Deadlines

Applications Must Be Submitted by 5:00 pm Central Standard Time

October 24, 2016 (Monday)

    • Geosciences
    • Life Sciences

October 25, 2016 (Tuesday)

    • Computer & Information Sciences & Engineering
    • Engineering
    • Materials Research

October 27, 2016 (Thursday)

    • Psychology
    • Social Sciences
    • STEM Education & Learning

October 28, 2016 (Friday)

    • Chemistry
    • Mathematical Sciences
    • Physics & Astronomy

Number of Applications Limitation

Effective as of the 2017 competition (Fall 2016 deadlines), graduate students are limited to only one application to the GRFP, submitted either in the first year or in the second year of graduate school. An exception is provided for first-year graduate students who applied to the 2016 GRFP completion in  Fall 2015; these individuals may apply a second time in Fall 2016 if they are otherwise eligible.

  • First year graduate students should check with their department/program for guidance on submission in first or second year of graduate school.

[1] Federal Fellowships are defined by NSF in this instance as “awards that are made to individuals from the US Government (e.g., Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Agriculture, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration)” – Administrative Guide, pg. 27.

[2] Currently Mary Michael-Woolman, Assistant Dean, Graduate School. 

[3] Please note:  Vanderbilt University does not provide tax guidance or assistance; this information is provided as a service and reminds all recipients to seek the counsel of a qualified tax advisor to determine their individual circumstances.

[4] All students who are registered in academic classes are assessed these fees. Activity and Recreation fees appear as a combined charge on University statements: Act/Rec Fees.  For additional detail about what is provided by these fees, please go to .