Frequently Asked Questions

  1. 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.
  1. Students in all stages of their Masters or Ph.D studies are eligible to apply. However, if you are in the last year of your Masters or Ph.D. program, it is not advised to apply for this scholarship.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 disqualified.
  1. Detailed instructions on how to complete the SF-424 form can be downloaded here.
  1. All applications MUST be submitted on Submitting a paper application is only acceptable for the following reasons: 1) 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.

  1. All material outlined in the Application Package should be uploaded to in a single Adobe PDF in the correct order, except for the Standard Form 424, which should be uploaded to separately. All material mailed in must be postmarked by the due date as outlined in the Federal Funding Opportunity.

  1. Make sure to enter your zip code in the 00000-0000 format.

  1. It may take 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 can be extremely heavy resulting in further delays. If 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 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. 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.
  1. Your application must be received by the due date as outlined in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) through or postmarked by the due date. Adequate time must be factored into applicant schedules for delivery of the application. It may take up to two (2) business days to validate or reject the application.

  1. Application received with a timestamp indicating it was submitted after 11:59 PM Eastern Time on the due date will be disqualified.
  1. 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.

  1. 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
    • Clear support for the applicant.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.