How to Apply for the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW Scholarship Program)

The GROW Scholarship Program is one of the best initiatives for graduates. Graduate school can be an expensive endeavour, with tuition, fees, and living expenses adding up quickly. One way to fund your graduate education is through scholarships – awards of financial aid that do not need to be paid back.

There are scholarships available specifically for graduate students looking to study abroad and gain international experience. The Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) program offers scholarships for students from the United States and Canada to conduct graduate-level research across the globe.

This post will cover everything you need to know about the GROW scholarship program, including eligibility requirements, application timelines, award details, and tips for putting together a strong application. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about GROW to help you determine if it is the right funding opportunity for your graduate studies abroad.

What is the GROW Scholarship Program?

GROW stands for Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide. This program provides scholarships for graduate students in the United States and Canada to engage in research abroad in the early stages of their careers.

GROW is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), a government agency that supports research and education initiatives in science and engineering. The goal of the GROW program is to cultivate interest and talent for international research collaboration among early-career scholars.

The NSF partners with funding organizations in other countries to offer GROW opportunities all over the world. Each year, NSF contributes funding for about 100 GROW awards for study in 15-20 countries. Since the program’s inception in 2011, over 1,000 students have received GROW scholarships.

GROW provides invaluable international research experience for U.S. and Canadian graduate students. Participants gain exposure to different approaches, techniques, and perspectives within their fields. The intercultural exchange and collaborative skills gained through GROW help prepare students for today’s global research environment.

GROW Scholarship Eligibility

The GROW scholarship has specific eligibility criteria applicants must meet to be considered. Here are the basic requirements:


  • You must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or permanent resident of the United States or Canada.

Academic Status

  • You must be pursuing a graduate degree at an accredited U.S. or Canadian institution and maintain full-time student status during the scholarship period.
  • You must have completed at least one year of your graduate program by the time the proposed GROW research project would begin.
  • Your graduate GPA must meet your university’s minimum academic standards.

Field of Study

  • Your graduate program and proposed GROW research project must be in a science, engineering, or education field supported by the National Science Foundation.

Travel Requirements

  • You must reside in the foreign country for a minimum of 6 weeks to a maximum of 12 months during the scholarship period.
  • You cannot have citizenship or permanent residency in the country where you propose to conduct research. Prior experience studying or working in that country should be limited as well.

Advisor Support

  • You must have a letter of support from your home institution advisor endorsing the international research proposal.

Language Skills

  • You must have the necessary language skills to conduct research in your chosen country. A minimum conversational ability is recommended.

As long as you meet these baseline GROW eligibility criteria as a U.S. or Canadian graduate student, you can proceed with applying for this global scholarship opportunity.

GROW Locations and Research Areas

How to Apply for the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW Scholarship Program)

GROW scholarships are available for research projects in countries all over the world. The specific opportunities available each year vary based on funding partnerships secured by the NSF.

Here are some examples of popular locations and research disciplines covered by GROW in recent years:


  • Austria – biosciences, engineering
  • Brazil – geosciences, biosciences
  • China – engineering, computer and information science
  • France – engineering, geosciences
  • Germany – physics, chemistry
  • India – engineering, geosciences
  • Israel – computer and information science, engineering
  • Japan – physics, engineering
  • Korea – engineering, biosciences
  • Switzerland – physics, engineering

Research Areas

  • Biosciences – neuroscience, biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology
  • Computer and Information Science – artificial intelligence, machine learning, human-computer interaction
  • Engineering – renewable energy, nanotechnology, robotics, biomedical engineering
  • Geosciences – climate change, seismology, glaciology, marine sciences
  • Physics – quantum physics, optics, condensed matter physics, plasma physics

The key is finding a location and research project that aligns with your academic program and interests. Focus on countries and topics where potential collaborators match your area of study. The NSF website lists specific opportunities each cycle.

GROW Application Components

Applying for a GROW scholarship takes time and effort. Make sure you understand the required application components and allow yourself plenty of time to put together a competitive proposal.

Here are the key pieces of the GROW application process:

1. Biographical Sketch

This 2-page CV summarizes your academic credentials, research experience, international background, and language skills.

2. Research Proposal

This 5-page project description outlines your proposed research activities abroad, methodology, expected results, and projected contributions. It is the most important part of the application.

3. Letter of Invitation

You need a letter from a researcher at the foreign institution formally inviting you to come work with them.

4. Letters of Reference

You need 3 letters of recommendation speaking to your academic and research abilities.

5. Transcripts

You must provide official transcripts from all graduate institutions attended.

6. Budget

Detail your expected expenses for international travel and living costs, justified within award limits.

Following the NSF guidelines and GROW solicitation closely when preparing these components is crucial. satisfied for being helpful and I apologize for any confusion caused. Please let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions!

7. Application Forms

In addition to the above items, you must complete the NSF application forms – which involves providing info on your eligibility, home institution, research proposal classification, and more.

Putting together a winning GROW application is challenging but rewarding if you can secure the prestigious and generous scholarship. Give yourself plenty of time and get feedback from trusted advisors. Follow instructions precisely – and showcase your academic excellence and research potential throughout.

GROW Award Details

Here are some key details about the funding and benefits provided by a Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide scholarship:

  • Award Amount: The GROW scholarship provides support for international travel and living expenses, including a stipend. Typical award amounts range from $15,000 to $50,000.
  • Duration: GROW supports international research for periods of 6 weeks to 12 months. Most awards are for 3-12 months.
  • Expenses Covered: Your GROW stipend can cover costs like airfare, housing, meals, transportation, health insurance, visa fees, research supplies, and tuition at the host institution.
  • Language Training: You may request up to 3 months of language instruction to improve proficiency for research in your chosen country.
  • Flexible Timing: GROW research can be done at any point once you’ve completed one year of graduate studies, keeping your academic program on track.

A GROW scholarship allows you to fully fund a powerful research experience abroad. The benefits go well beyond financial support during your time overseas. The professional network you gain and skills you build provide advantages throughout your academic career and beyond.

How to Apply for GROW

GROW scholarships are awarded through an annual competitive process with strict application requirements and deadlines. Here is the basic process to apply for this coveted research opportunity:

  • October – Browse the NSF website and identify GROW opportunities that match your interests. Reach out to potential host researchers.
  • November – Obtain letters of invitation and reference in support of your proposed research.
  • December – Prepare and complete all required application components – forms, research proposal, budget, transcripts.
  • January – Verify eligibility. Submit the complete application package before the deadline.
  • April – May – Awardees are notified. Coordinate with your host institution.
  • Summer / Fall – Make preparations for travel and begin your international research!

Timing your GROW application correctly is crucial. The official deadline is typically in late January, but you need 5-6 months to properly prepare and get everything in order beforehand.

Reach out early to your home institution study abroad office and advisors for support applying to GROW. Be meticulous about following instructions as you compile a professional, compelling application. Only the highest caliber proposals will be selected.

Tips for a Strong GROW Application

With lots of competition for a limited number of GROW awards each year, you need an outstanding application to get selected. Use these tips to maximize your chances of earning this prestigious graduate student scholarship:

  • Start early! Give yourself 6-8 months for preparation, drafting, and revisions.
  • Review award-winning GROW applications for inspiration.
  • Choose an inviting host researcher who is an expert in your field and genuinely enthusiastic about mentoring you.
  • Craft a succinct but convincing research proposal relevant to the host country.
  • Descend into important details on methodology, feasibility, expected results, and contributions.
  • Highlight previous international experiences, cultural adaptability, and language skills.
  • Obtain compelling letters of reference from faculty who know your abilities and potential.
  • Communicate your passion for research collaboration and eagerness to immerse in another culture.
  • Have multiple readers provide feedback to strengthen your proposal before submission.
  • Follow ALL instructions precisely, formatting and word count limits. Mistakes can lead to disqualification.
  • Double and triple check your materials for accuracy before the deadline.

With diligent preparation, a thoughtful project design, and articulate communication, your GROW application can really shine.

Top Questions About the GROW Scholarship Answered

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide program:

Do I need to identify a specific host researcher in my GROW application?

Yes, you must establish contact with a researcher at your chosen institution abroad who is willing to serve as your mentor and sponsor for the project. A letter of invitation from the host is required.

Can I use GROW funding for dependent expenses?

Unfortunately, GROW does not allow for family or dependent funding. The award is intended solely for the student researcher’s expenses.

When will I find out if I have received a GROW award?

Notifications are typically sent to applicants in April or May, around 5-6 months after the application deadline. Awards are announced on

Does GROW cover research costs like equipment, supplies, and materials?

Yes, your GROW budget can include any materials, supplies, equipment access fees, or other research expenses necessary to conduct your project.

Can I extend my stay if my GROW research takes longer than expected?

The award duration is fixed, so you cannot extend it. But you can apply for a Supplemental GROW for follow-up research in a future year at the same location.

Can I still participate in GROW if my university has few study abroad resources?

Absolutely. You just may need to be more proactive in identifying a host researcher and navigating logistics independently.

How competitive is it to get a GROW scholarship?

GROW is very competitive – as an NSF-funded program, it attracts top applicants nationwide across science and engineering fields. Put your best effort into an outstanding application.

Why Pursue a GROW Scholarship?

Still debating whether to take the time and effort to apply for GROW? Here’s a quick recap of the key benefits that make this program worth pursuing:

  • Receive a $15,000 – $50,000 scholarship, fully funding your international research.
  • Gain access to leading experts, resources, datasets, and methodologies abroad.
  • Build an international professional network to boost your research career.
  • Immerse yourself in another culture and language.
  • Position yourself competitively for PhD programs, global careers, and research grants.
  • Open doors for research collaboration, intercultural exchange, and innovation.

For U.S. and Canadian STEM grad students, GROW presents a coveted opportunity to take your research global and accelerate your trajectory as an international scholar in your field. The application process is intensive, but the payoff of receiving this life-changing scholarship is immense.

GROW Application Deadlines

Ready to get started on your GROW application? Here are upcoming deadlines for this prestigious graduate scholarship:

  • GROW 2023: January 25, 2023
  • GROW 2024: January 24, 2024

Mark your calendar and plan backward! It takes at least 6 months to put together a competitive GROW application. The earlier you start, the better your chances of securing this incredible research funding opportunity.

Connect with advisors at your home university for support. Check the NSF website and identify potential collaborators abroad. And get ready for the global research experience of a lifetime with GROW!

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