Applications for the 2021 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program, administered by the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, will not be accepted this year due to continuing uncertainty over the COVID-19 national health crisis and its impact on field research operations.

Since the pandemic began, NOAA has restricted field research activities across the National Marine Sanctuary System out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our staff and their families, volunteers, and visitors.

NOAA plans to announce a decision about the 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program in Fall 2021.

In order to have a competitive application for the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program, it is recommended that you review the following bullets to assess whether or not you should apply for this scholarship.

  • Your research proposal aligns closely with NOAA's mission, with particular emphasis on meeting the science needs of the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. This is 20% of your application score.
  • Your financial need statement documents a strong financial need due to challenges, hardships, or other information through a compelling personal narrative. This is 25% of your application score.
  • You (likely) have exceptional letters of recommendation. This is 10% of your application score.
  • Historically, proposals that do not support the science needs of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary System do not rank as high.
  • If you are in the last year of your Masters or Ph.D. program, it is not advised to apply for this scholarship.

Application Process

Each year a Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) is published in the Federal Register announcing the federal funding opportunity for the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program. Please be advised that the FFO is the official document for the scholarship opportunity and it is highly recommended that you download it as your guide for applying for the scholarship.

We encourage all applicants to begin the application process at least several days before the application deadline. All applicants should be aware that 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. 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.

Hard copy submissions are only allowable for the following reasons: 1) the applicant does not have access to the internet; or 2) the person providing the letter of recommendation does not wish for the applicant to see the contents of the letter. Otherwise, all applications must be submitted via Paper applications and other information in hard copy may be requested from:

Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
1305 East-West Highway, 11th Floor Rm 11622
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Application Package

Each application package must be included within the single Adobe PDF document in the correct order as outlined in the official Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO). Failure to submit any items as described in the FFO will disqualify the application from consideration. All detailed information is included in the FFO, yet a summary of what is required to be considered a complete application package is briefly listed below. The FFO contains the official instructions for applying to the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program.

  1. Standard Form 424 (SF-424), Application for Federal Assistance is located on the portal and must be completed with information pertinent to the applicant. View the detailed directions here to complete SF-424.
  2. Table of Contents
  3. General Information Sheet
    1. Personal Data
    2. Optional Personal Data
    3. Degree Sought
    4. Education
    5. Academic Honors
    6. Relevant Work Experience
    7. Knowledge of Scholarship
  4. Statement of Intent
    1. Academic, Research, Career Goals and Aspirations
    2. Communicating the Importance of Your Research
  5. Transcripts
  6. Enrollment Verification or List of Graduate Schools Applied
  7. Research Proposal
  8. Two Letters of Recommendation
  9. Statement of Financial Need
    1. Department of Education's Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Determination
    2. Yearly Tuition Documentation
    3. Financial Need Information Questions
    4. Statement of Need Essay
  10. Declaration Statement

Submission Deadline

The application period for the 2020 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program is now open. Applications are due by December 6, 2019 at 11:59 pm Eastern Time. Download a copy of the Full Funding Opportunity (FFO) announcement with directions to apply.

The Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program is administered through the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and subject to appropriations. It is funded annually with 1% of the amount appropriated each fiscal year to the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to carry out the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

October 2020 – FY21 Application Period Cancelled due to COVID-19 and its impacts on field research operations
October 2021 - Decision on FY22 Application Period Determined by the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Paper applications should be sent by the deadline listed above to the address below:

Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
1305 East-West Highway, 11th Floor Rm 11622
Silver Spring, MD 20910


This checklist is provided to assist applicants in completing the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program application. Download the checklist.

___ Standard Form 424 (SF-424).

NOTE: Item number 21 on the SF-424 cannot be used as a replacement for the declaration statement required in Item 10 below. The SF-424 must be uploaded to separately than the items outlined below.

___Table of Contents on a single page, please list the items and page numbers of the required information

___General Information Sheet that does not exceed two typewritten pages

___Statement of Intent that does not exceed one typewritten page

To strengthen this section of your application, please provide one letter of support from a community organization or group with which you would partner or collaborate to communicate your research.

___I have provided Transcripts showing all complete years of academic training, including training in progress. These transcripts reflect a current GPA of 3.30 or higher.

___ I have provided an Enrollment Verification from my current university. If I have not enrolled in graduate school, I've included a list of graduate universities that I've applied to or a letter of acceptance to a U.S. accredited graduate program.

___ Research Proposal that does not exceed three typewritten pages with the understanding that my research area should be in support of NOAA's mission, particularly the mission of the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the science needs of one or more national marine sanctuaries.

___ I have included two Letters of Recommendation with written signatures on the actual letter, one being from someone in my current academic career, or if not currently enrolled, from a professor who has knowledge of my academic career. It is recommended that each letter of reference is no more than two pages long.

___ Statement of Financial Need describing my financial need and the impact this scholarship award will have on my education plans that does not exceed one typewritten page.

___ Student Aid Report (SAR) that contains the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and my name or last four digits of my social security number.

___ I have provided documentation of Estimated Yearly Tuition for each school I am applying to.

___ I have responded to all Financial Need Information Questions that does not exceed one typewritten page.

___ I have signed and submitted the Declaration Statement.

___ I have provided accurate Contact Information, such as a telephone number, email address and permanent mailing address at which I may be reached during the summer.

___ All documents have been submitted to in a single Adobe PDF file in the specific order outlined in the official FFO, excluding the SF-424, which can be uploaded as a separate attachment.