National Science Foundation Fellowships 2015: Publics vs. Private Elites

Keeping up with the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program grants is an annual project we undertake because the grant stipend, valued currently at $32,000 a year for three years of graduate work plus a separate $12,000 a year paid directly to the university for costs, are so generous that prospective undergrads might want to know graduates of their college of choice perform in the NSF GRFP competition.

The grants go to students with very high college gpa’s (around 3.70 and above) along with outstanding GRE test scores. Grantees must submit proposals to do research in one of the STEM disciplines or social sciences. Most grants are for STEM students.

This year we will list the top 30 universities, both public and private, whose students were named as NSF GRFP fellows in 2015. It is true that many public universities have much larger overall undergraduate enrollments, so one might expect that those schools would have the most NSF fellows; on the other hand, the private elites are far more selective, and one would think that a far higher percentage of their undergraduates should be competitive for the awards. We write primarily for prospective honors students and their parents, so our perspective is that the best students in leading public universities can compete with those coming from private elites, and the NSF awards are one indication that this is the case.

One indication of a rough parity is that the top two universities are far and away the best this year–MIT and UC Berkeley–one private, the other public. Both are perennial leaders in this category.

Below are the leading universities for NSF fellowships in 2015. All the schools had at least 15 NSF fellows.

MIT 63
UC Berkeley 60
Harvard 37
Florida 29
UT Austin 29
Washington 29
Cornell 28
UC San Diego 27
Columbia 26
Caltech 25
Penn 23
Chicago 22
Brown 21
Princeton 21
Georgia Tech 20
Northwestern 20
Michigan 19
Wisconsin 19
Yale 19
Illinois 18
Maryland 18
Minnesota 18
UC Irvine 18
Stanford 18
Texas A&M 17
Rice 17
Arizona State 16
Penn State 16
Washington Univ 15