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NSF GRFP - You aren't necessarily ineligible with an MA


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Hi guys. Some of you may remember me from last time...and the time before...and then another time slightly before that time. 


Long story short, I got my MA in 2013 and finally got into my PhD program of choice, which I'll be starting in about a week. Many people will tell you that you are ineligible for the NSF GRFP if you've already earned an MA, and that's true.......EXCEPT!!!!! If you earned that MA two or more years ago (i.e. 2013 or earlier) and haven't taken any additional graduate coursework, you ARE eligible. So if, like me, you earned your MA and then applied for a PhD the following winter but didn't get in, you are once again eligible. Which is basically the only consolation prize for multiple years of rejection! 

I had heard different things about this but I emailed them and explained my situation in detail and yes, I am eligible. Hopefully this info will stop a lot of us from missing out on an opportunity we didn't know was available!

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Nevermind, found the addition to this years' solicitation. 

It's worth noting that this is a change for the 2016 NSF GRFP, and has not been the case in years past. So the reason many people tell you you're ineligible is that you have been up until about a month ago. To quote from the solicitation for specifics:

  • Applicants who have completed more than twelve months of graduate study or have earned a previous graduate or professional degree are eligible only if they have had an interruption in graduate study of at least two consecutive years prior to November 1, 2015. To be eligible, applicants must have completed no additional graduate study by August 1, 2015. Applicants must address the reasons for the interruption in graduate study in the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement.

The way I read it, you would have had to be off entirely the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school year, and not started again before August 1st- so yes, you're newly eligible. 

And to be specific, when you say 2013 or earlier, you mean May 2013 or earlier. Later than May 2013 wouldn't be two full consecutive years, the way I read it.  

Edited by Eigen
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I think it can be read as no later than October 31st, 2013 technically, though functionally yes, May. So for people like me, or people who end up like me in the future (you graduate with your MA, you apply the following winter, you don't get in, you apply again the next winter and DO get in) there is eligibility once again. Of course that's also true if your MA is older than 2 years and you haven't taken any additional graduate coursework.

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More likely to depend on semester/trimester systems. 

Even if you "finish" in an odd month (say, october) the school will have you enrolled until the end of the semester/trimester. 

And then it depends on how summer enrollments are handled- there's no possibility to graduate in the summer officially here. 

So you would have to finish at the end of the Spring Semester (May) to not be enrolled by November. Possibly a summer finish and not enrolled as of August, depending on the school. 

I doubt they'll split hairs over it- this is a rule provided as an exception, with the caveat that you have to show a purpose for the interruption. If the purpose is good, I doubt they'll quibble over details. There's always been the potential to request an exemption for some graduate work over the limit anyway.

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I have been thinking about applying for the NSF GRFP as well, would first semester MA students be eligible for this too? I've read the solicitation but I just want a confirmation on whether this is possible or not. 


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