STEP-UP Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility Requirements for High School & Undergraduate Students

NIH encourages institutions to increase diversity in their student and faculty populations. To promote diversity and equity for students, and access to science, STEP-UP strives to increase research and educational opportunities for individuals who are underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and social sciences fields.

When applying to STEP-UP, applicants must meet all of the general and academic requirements at time of application submission, and one or more of the diversity and equity requirements.

Please read the eligibility requirements carefully, as they may differ from other NIH-funded programs.

General Requirements

  • Be a U.S. Citizen, non-citizen national, or legal permanent resident
  • Be 16 years of age or older
  • Give proof of personal medical/health insurance coverage throughout the duration of the program. Exceptions will be made for students residing in the following U.S. territories: Marshall Island, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Saipan, and Guam.
  • Commit to completing the program

Academic Requirements

  • Be enrolled in a high school or an accredited U.S. college or university, or plan to be enrolled in the fall
    • High school students should be in their junior or senior year of high school during the application period
    • Undergraduate students should currently be enrolled as a full-time student at a U.S. accredited two-year or four-year college or university. Graduating college seniors are not eligible for the program.
  • Have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 or better (on a 4.0 scale), although exceptions may be granted

Diversity and Equity Requirements

For additional questions regarding the eligibility requirements, please visit the STEP-UP FAQs or contact the NIDDK STEP-UP Program Staff.



Can I apply if I am not a citizen, permanent resident or non-citizen national of the United States?

No. Only citizens, permanent residents, and non-citizen nationals of the U.S. are eligible to apply to this program.

What is a non-citizen national?

Non-citizen nationals are persons born in American Samoa, Guam, Saipan certain former citizens of the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and certain children of non-citizen nationals born abroad (view Certificates of Non-Citizen Nationality).

Do I have to prove citizenship prior to the program?

Yes. All students are required to submit a copy of a U.S. passport, U.S. birth certificate, or a government-issued photo identification document to their coordinating center once accepted into the program.

I am currently a senior scheduled to graduate high school at the end of the school year. Am I eligible for the STEP-UP?

Yes. High school students who are currently in their senior year of school are eligible to participate in the program. If you are a graduating high school student, please apply to the high school STEP-UP Program. Graduating college seniors are not eligible for the program.

Is there a minimum GPA to participate in this program?

Yes. Students must have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).

Do I have to prove that I have health/medical insurance prior to the program?

Yes. All students are required to submit a copy of their health/medical insurance policy to their coordinating center. If you do not have insurance prior to the start date of the program, you can inquire from your coordinating center on how you can obtain a short-term insurance policy. Exceptions will be made for students residing in the following U.S. territories: Marshall Island, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Saipan, and Guam.

Qualifying for the Program

What constitutes an Underrepresented Minority (URM)?

Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis (view Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering).

The following racial and ethnic groups have been shown to be underrepresented in biomedical research:

  • Blacks or African Americans,
  • Hispanics or Latinos,
  • American Indians or Alaska Natives,
  • Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders

In addition, it is recognized that underrepresentation can vary from setting to setting; individuals from racial or ethnic groups that can be demonstrated convincingly to be underrepresented by the grantee institution should be encouraged to participate in NIH programs to enhance diversity.

For more information on racial and ethnic categories and definitions, see the OMB Revisions to the Standards for Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity.

What is the definition of "disadvantaged background?"

Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, defined as those who meet two or more of the following criteria:

  1. Were or currently are homeless, as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act;
  2. Were or currently are in the foster care system foster care system, as defined by the Administration for Children and Families;
  3. Were eligible for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program for two or more years (view Lunch Program Eligibility);
  4. Have/had no parents or legal guardians who completed a bachelor’s degree (Read about First-Generation and Continuing Generation College Students);
  5. Were or currently are eligible for Federal Pell grants (view Pell Grant Eligibility);
  6. Received support from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) as a parent or child (view WIC Eligibility Requirements).
  7. Grew up in one of the following areas: a) a U.S. rural area, as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Rural Health Grants Eligibility Analyzer, or b) a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-designated Low-Income and Health Professional Shortage Areas (qualifying zip codes are included in the file). Only one of the two possibilities in #7 can be used as a criterion for the disadvantaged background definition.

What constitutes an individual with a disability?

Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amendedSee NSF data.

Still have a question? Contact the STEP-UP team