As a student or postdoc, you are likely to apply for fellowships to support your stipend, research or travel. These resources are designed to assist you with this process.
This section focuses on the NIH F31, F31 Diversity, and F32 applications open to US citizens and permanent residents.
- NIH F31 (parent, predoctoral). The purpose of this program is to help predoctoral students to obtain mentored research training while conducting dissertation research.
- NIH F31 (diversity, predoctoral): The purpose of this program is to support research of predoctoral students from underrepresented populations in biomedical, behavioral, or clinical research.
- NIH F32 (postdoctoral): The purpose of this program is to provide postdoctoral researchers with the opportunity to strengthen their scientific background and increase their potential for health-related research.
Note that many of the tips are also applicable to foundation fellowship applications that often have broad eligibility:
The BMSC 8219 Writing the Grant-Style Qualifier course covers many of these points as you prepare a draft application.
GW students and postdocs can also contact Associate Dean for Research Workforce Development Dr. Alison Hall email@example.com to address questions or for individual assistance.
Are you ready? Completion of an on-topic, grant-style qualifier sets a graduate student up for parts of the fellowship application. Depending on the particular fellowship, postdocs might apply after 6-12 months in the lab (note that some fellowships do not require preliminary data, or limit postdoctoral experience at application). There are three standard application due dates for the F31 or F32
|Receipt Date||Review Date||Potential Start State|
|Document||What is This?||Resources||Done?|
|Individual Development Plan (IDP)||
Web-based career planning tool for STEM PhD students and postdocs
|My IDP, AAAS Science Careers|
|Clinician IDP||Clinical career planning tool||CTSI-CN Mentoring Toolkit|
|eRA Commons account||NIH system to manage grant info||GW form
(Begin at least 6 weeks prior to deadline)
|ORCID ID||A persistent identifier that connects you with your affiliations and contributions||Register for a ORCID iD|
|My NCBI||Creates database of publications|
|Administrative Support/Cayuse at least 5 business days before the grant deadline||GW System tool for sponsored project proposals||GW Cayuse 424|
|NIH program officer||Your contact person within NIH to advise on grant application process|
Example F31/F32 Timeline
Preparation of the application while also pursuing research or classes is likely to take 3-6 months, so consider the timeline below:
|The When||The What|
|3 months from due date||Meet with your mentor and start discussions about submitting a fellowship application. Find co-sponsor(s) if your sponsor does not have a training track record|
|3 months from due date||Read the funding announcement for the desired fellowship; identify the correct NIH Institute and program officer who manages fellowships in your area. Tool for finding your PO.
|3 months from due date||Review sample applications|
|3 months from due date||Complete and update your Individual Development Plan (IDP) [My IDP, AAAS Science Careers] or Clinician IDP [CTSI-CN Mentoring Toolkit].|
|3 months from due date||Request an eRA Commons account [GW form]|
|3 months from due date||Draft your Specific Aims and Biosketch, request comments to improve proposal. Expect to make numerous revisions as you address review criteria.|
|2 months from due date||Get to know your NIH Program Officer. Send a draft of Specific Aims and Biosketch and be prepared with questions that you would like to ask.|
|2 months from due date||Prepare all remaining sections of your application (some sections will be done by you, some by your sponsor/co-sponsor(s).|
|2 months from due date||Ask your 3-5 references for letters of recommendation (note: these cannot be your sponsor/co-sponsor(s)). Plan to gently remind them as the due date approaches|
|5-7 days from due date||Submit application through GW Cayuse to GW Sponsored Projects. This must be done about a week in advance to give time to process. You may substitute an updated, revised file before final submission to NIH.|
|Afterwards||Follow your Application in eRA Commons.|
As of July 2019, the fellowship instructions are in Fellowship Instructions for NIH and other PHS agencies (Dec 7, 2018).
Note that the page limits for NIH applications are listed. This chart is advisory only.
Examples of successful fellowships and other grants are posted on the University of Alabama Birmingham Grants Library website.
|Document||What is this?||Length||Who writes it?||Resources||Done?|
|Biographical Sketch||Highlight of your qualifications (includes personal statement, positions and honors, contribution to science etc.)||5 pages each||Each key person (you, your sponsor(s)||
ChemToolman Blog: Fellowships Do’s and Don’t’s
|Title of Project||Brief descriptive title of project||1-2 lines (200 char. Including spaces)||You||Update the title from your Qualifier Exam.|
||Letter to program officer listing title and must contain a list of referees (including name, departmental affiliation, and institution). Can also include IC and study section you want.||None Specified||You/PI||
|Project Summary/ Abstract||Succinct project summary||30 lines||You|
|Introduction||Introduction to Resubmission or Revision (when applicable)||1 page||You||Chasan-Taber, UMass Amherst: Information and Tips about your Introduction for your Resubmission|
|Applicant Background and Goals||
Goals – Personal Essay on long-term and short-term goals
|6 pages Total
(Includes Research Experience, Goals, Activities planned
Hall, GW: Applicant’s Background and Goals Info about what to include in research experience (slide 14)
JEFworks Blog: Research Experience Example
|Activities planned under this award. “Training plan”: conferences, courses, lab meeting, collaborations, seminars, etc.||You/PI||
Hall, GW: Tips for Training Plan: Info about what to include in Training Plan (slide 21)
|Specific Aims||This will concisely state the goals of the research and summarize the expected outcomes, including impacts (2-3 aims)||1 page||You||
BioScience Writers: Anatomy of Specific Aims Page
|Research Strategy||“The Grant”: For each Specific Aim or all together, explain significance, and describe overall approach (includes preliminary data)||6 pages||You||
ChemToolman Blog: Fellowships Do’s and Don’t’s
University of Colorado F31 Sample - Specific Aims and Research Strategy
|Bibliography||References cited in research strategy and aims||No limit||You||NIH Formatting Guidelines|
|Respective Contributions||Describe collaborative process between you and sponsor and respective roles||1/2 page||You/PI||
JEFworks Blog Respective Contributions Examples
|Selection of Sponsors and Institution||Personal essay on why you selected the sponsor and the institution||1/2 page||You||Chapter 3, Hollenbach|
|Facilities & Other Resources||Institutional resources available to support this research||None Specified||You/PI||
Example template from Emory University: Facilities and Other Resources Template
|Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research||Addresses the five required instructional components in NIH’s responsible conduct of research policy||1 page||You/Dean of Graduate Studies/PI|
|Sponsor and Co-Sponsor Statements||Each sponsor will address training environment (ex: funding, mentoring record, etc.)||6 pages||PI|
|Letters of Support||3-5 letters of recommendation (can’t be from PI or co-sponsors)||2 pages each||Verify letters have been sent to NIH||NIH Reference Letters|
|Description of Institutional Environment and Commitment to Training||This describes the research program to show opportunities for training and intellectual interactions as well as resources that will support research||2 pages||Dean of Graduate Studies/PI||GW SMHS Template: Institutional Environment and Commitment to Training|
|Resource Sharing Plan||Certain proposals need to describe how research will be shared||1 page||PI||JEFworks blog:
Resource Sharing Plan Example
|Vertebrate Animals (if necessary – will need IACUC)||Describe the use of vertebrate animals to ensure humane treatment.||1 page||You/PI||
NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare: Description for what is required for this section
|Human subject use (if necessary – will need IRB)||Describe the use of human subjects||1 page||You/PI|
|Estimated Project Funding||The total amount requested for the period of support (includes stipend amount, tuition and fees, and standard institutional allowance)||None Specified||You/Dean of Graduate Studies/PI||GW SMHS Sample Budget for Doctoral Candidate|
|Document||What is this?||Resources||Done?|
|Diversity supplement – Letter from institution||
A letter from the institution explaining how your participation will further the goals of the predoctoral fellowship program to promote diversity in health-related research.
The PDF of the letter must be on institutional letterhead, scanned so institutional official signature is visible, and the file named "Institutional_Ltr.pdf".
Fill out the Candidate Eligibility Statement Template
and send to Alison Hall, PhD, Associate Dean for Research Workforce Development (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Examples of successful NIH F, K, T, and R applications can be found at the University of Alabama Grant Library.
• F31 Sample Application with Summary Statement (Fan 2015)
• F31 Sample Application with Summary Statement (McCollum 2012) - resubmission
• F31 Sample Application (Wrights 2013) - resubmission
• F31 Sample Application (Hauser 2012) - resubmission
• F32 Sample Application (Allie 2015) - resubmission
• F32 Sample Application (Arrant 2015)
• American Heart Association Sample Application (Collins 2015)
• American Heart Association Sample Application (Gohar 2015)
• NIH Guide on How to Apply
• NIH training Modules about rigor and reproducibility and transparency when designing your experiment
• The University of Alabama includes samples of grants to emphasize the importance of Rigor, Reproducibility & Transparency
• The Predoctoral Fellowship Toolbox Video and Predoctoral Fellowship Toolbox PDF describe the process for developing an NIH F31 or AHA pre-doctoral fellowship (Hall PowerPoint provided Jan 30, 2018).
• The Postdoctoral Fellowships Video and Postdoctoral Fellowships PDF describe the process for developing an NIH F32 or AHA postdoctoral fellowship (Hall PowerPoint provided Mar 28, 2018).
• For tips on creating additional sections of the F31 and F32, see the "What's in the Rest of Your Fellowship Application" Video and "What's in the Rest of Your Fellowship Application" PDF (Hall)
• Download A Practical Guide to Writing a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Grant (2014) by Andrew Hollenbach here, especially:
Chapter 3: Who Are You? The Fellowship Applicant. Prompts you to consider your 1) Biosketch, including personal statement, publications, scholastic performance; 2) Goals for Fellowship Training and Career; 3) Selection of Sponsor and Institute; 4) Previous Research Experience; 5) Letters of Recommendation 6) Respective Contributions, and 7) Activities under the award.