The FAFSA form is undergoing major changes and improvements. This redesigned and streamlined FAFSA
form will not be available until December 31, 2023.
If you are applying to the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program, this means that you will likely run
into issues when requesting a Student Aid Report in order to meet the Foster Scholarship Program due
date of December 20, 2023. Therefore, we have provided guidance below on how to navigate this issue.
The previous year's Student Aid Report is acceptable for this requirement if no major
changes have occurred. Therefore you will not be impacted by the FAFSA overhaul.
For applicants that have never received a Student Aid Report through the FAFSA process OR
that have major changes to their Student Aid Report as compared to last year:
As soon as the FAFSA form becomes available, please email your Student Aid Report and the
calculations or your Estimated Financial Need as outlined in the Notice of Funding
Opportunity to FosterScholars@noaa.gov. Please clearly identify the name you applied under and your FAFSA
calculations in the body of the email. This must be received by January 19, 2024 to have
application deemed compliant.
United States citizens, permanent residents or a citizen of a U.S. territory that are attending
U.S. accredited institutions and are pursuing an advanced degree in oceanography, marine biology,
maritime archaeology—these may include but are not limited to ocean and/or coastal: engineering,
social science, marine education, marine stewardship, cultural anthropology, and resource management
disciplines are eligible to apply for the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program. Women and members of
minority groups are particularly encouraged to apply.
If you are pursuing a degree in one of the three eligible degree fields at a foreign institution,
you are NOT eligible to apply for the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program.
Students who are applying to graduate school at the time of the application deadline are eligible
to apply. In lieu of the institute certification from the graduate program, applicants should submit
a list of schools where the applicant has applied. If selected, applicants must have an accepted
offer to a U.S. institution at the time the award is made.
Only two signed letters of recommendation should be included with your application materials.
Applications with more than two letters of recommendation will result in the application being
All applications MUST be submitted on Grants.gov.
Submitting a paper application is only acceptable for the following reasons: 1) Grants.gov is
unable to accept applications electronically in a timely fashion; 2) if the applicant does not
have access to the internet; or 3) if the person providing the letter of recommendation does not
wish for the applicant to see the contents of the letter.
All material outlined in the Application Package should be
uploaded to Grants.gov in a single Adobe PDF
in the correct order, except for the Standard Form 424, which should be uploaded to Grants.gov
separately. All material mailed in must be postmarked by the due date as outlined in the Federal
It may take Grants.gov up to two (2) business days to validate or reject the application. Please
keep this in mind in developing your submission timeline. Electronic applicants are advised that
volume on Grants.gov can be extremely heavy resulting in further delays. If Grants.gov is unable to
accept applications electronically in a timely fashion, applicants are encouraged to exercise their
option to submit their application in paper format by the due date outlined in the Federal Funding
Opportunity. NOAA may allow more time for application submission due to a "systems issue" at
Grants.gov that takes place at the time of application submission that are beyond the control of the
applicant. In these limited circumstances where there is a systems issue, the applicant must contact
the help desk for the relevant system (e.g. www.grants.gov) and obtain a help desk ticket number.
The applicant must contact the NOAA Office of National
Marine Sanctuaries immediately upon discovering the issues and must still submit the
required application documents by the submission deadline in order for their application to be
considered for review.
Your application must be received by the due date as outlined in the Notice of Funding
Opportunity (NOFO) through Grants.gov or postmarked by the due
date. Adequate time must be factored into applicant schedules for delivery of the application. It
may take Grants.gov up to two (2) business days to validate or
reject the application.
To strengthen the Statement of Intent section of your application, you are allowed to provide one
outreach letter from a community organization or group with which you would partner or collaborate
to communicate your research. Please make sure it is on official letterhead, signed, and inserted
after the Statement of Intent. The letter should outline your strategy for the outreach and
education work you plan to undertake with this partner, their role in the collaboration, and the
potential for success.
Inclusion of this letter will be taken into consideration during the review process. Your
application will not be disqualified if you do not include this letter. However, an outreach
letter is factored in when applicants are scored and is worth up to five (5) points in the
evaluation rubric. No more than one outreach letter will be considered.
No. The outreach letter is different from your two letters of recommendation. The outreach letter
outlines your strategy for the education and outreach work you plan to undertake with a community
organization, group, or partner. The outreach letter is not required, but it is worth up to five
(5) points if it is included.
The two letters of recommendation are completely different from the outreach letter and are a
required part of your application. Each application must include only two (2) letters of
recommendation with written signatures on the actual letter from individuals who have knowledge of
your academic record, research effort, and work and/or life experience. It is recommended that
each letter is no more than two pages long. One of these letters must be from someone in your
current academic career. If you are currently not enrolled, one letter should be from a professor
who can provide knowledge of your academic career. Relevant paid work, such as internships and
volunteer efforts, are applicable. Letters of recommendation should include:
Statements of the applicant's ability to succeed in the program proposal;
Familiarity with the applicant’s work;
Statement that the individual writing the letter has a clear understanding of the goals and
aspirations of the applicant on a personal and professional level; and
In order to make sure the application process is equitable for all applicants we must strictly
follow the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). In the NOFO, it states "Applicants must have a
cumulative 3.30 grade point average to be eligible to apply and maintain a minimum cumulative and
term grade point average of 3.30 for every term and for the duration of their award."
The GPA for eligibility will be calculated the following ways:
If you are not in graduate school yet, we use the cumulative GPA of the most recent degree
awarded and it must be a 3.30 GPA or higher to be eligible to apply.
If you have completed at least one year of graduate school, we use your current cumulative GPA
and it must be a 3.30 GPA or higher to be eligible to apply.
If your GPA includes coursework from an international institution that does not align with the
U.S. system for grades following a 4.0 GPA system, please have an advisor or independent reviewer
confirm that the student met the GPA equivalent requirement of a 3.30 GPA. Please include a GPA or
equivalent in your pass letter from your international institution, otherwise your undergraduate
GPA will be used as the determination for eligibility.
This paragraph clarifies sec. IV.B.8, para. 2 ("Letters of Reference") of the Dr. Nancy Foster
Scholarship Program Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) announcement, which applies to a NOAA
employee who engages with or who has engaged with an applicant only in his/her official NOAA
capacity. If a letter of reference is based on a current NOAA employee’s engagement with an
applicant prior to his/her NOAA employment or if the letter of reference is based on a current
NOAA employee’s present engagement with an applicant in his/her outside teaching or other personal
(non-official) activities, then the letter of reference must be written in the recommender’s
personal capacity. For example: If a NOAA employee is teaching as part of his/her official duties
and engages with an applicant in that capacity, the existing NOFO language should continue to
apply to letters of reference.
This FAQ clarifies sec. IV.B.8, para. 2 (“Letters of Reference”) of the FY2023 Nancy
Foster Scholarship NOFO, which applies to a NOAA employee who engages with or who has engaged
with an applicant only in his/her official NOAA capacity.
If a letter of reference is based on a current NOAA employee’s engagement with an applicant prior
to his/her NOAA employment or if the letter of reference is based on a current NOAA employee’s
present engagement with an applicant in his/her outside teaching or other personal (non-official)
activities, then the letter of reference must be written in the recommender’s personal capacity.
Note: If a NOAA employee is teaching as part of his/her official duties and engages with an
applicant in that capacity, the existing NOFO language should continue to apply to letters of