Top Scholar Awards (TSA) are a significant and long-standing part of the Graduate School’s efforts to help programs attract outstanding students to University of Washington. We do this by partnering with units to build competitive financial packages for their top student prospects. TSA only supports recruitment of applicants to your programs, and the award funding is only for use during the student’s first year in your program.
Requests are made by degree-granting units in MyGradProgram (MGP) and not by individual degree programs. As described below, units may only request one type of TSA and should thoroughly consider which type of award will serve their recruitment needs best. Those units that offer multiple graduate degree programs make their own determinations on how and where to use a TSA to recruit prospective students.
Within the Awards section of MGP, units will need to first choose the type of TSA they are requesting. The request will require a one-page narrative about the unit’s recruitment process, and how the TSA will be used — and matched by departmental resources — to attract a top applicant.
With the exception of recruitment travel funding, which is part of the block grant category and intended to bring prospective students to campus, funding offer letters must specify that the individual is being offered a Graduate School Top Scholar Award. If a TSA offer is initially rejected, it may be offered to another top applicant so long as they are one of the program’s top applicants AND the TSA offer will potentially influence that applicant’s decision to attend the UW. TSAs may not be offered to applicants who have already accepted an offer of admission. Requests to defer a TSA to a subsequent academic year may be approved under exceptional circumstances. Such requests must be made to the Graduate School’s Fellowships & Awards office.
TSA requests are submitted biennially but available to use in each of those years of the biennium. The current request cycle covers students applying to your programs for autumn 2023 admission (and sometimes summer 2023, for those who admit early). The award will be duplicated to use for students applying to your programs for autumn 2024 admission (and sometimes summer 2024, for those who admit early).
Current Request Cycle
Request deadline: Thursday, January 5, 2023, noon (PT)
The current TSA funding request cycle is for the 2023–2025 biennium. TSA proposals are submitted in MyGrad Program, through the Awards portal. Please make sure that the department staff or faculty member submitting the request has the proper MyGradProgram access well in advance of the deadline.
Fellowships & Awards staff will host online office hours during the month of December to answer questions departments may have about the types of awards, the request process, or any other questions around how to use these awards. These are informal, drop-in sessions.
Top Scholar Awards Zoom Q&A Office Hours
Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, 2–3 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, 11 a.m.–12 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, 1–2 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, 10–11 a.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, 12–1 p.m.
Top Scholar Awards Request Format
Requests are submitted through the Awards portal in MyGradProgram (MGP) and must include a request narrative of no more than one page that includes the following content:
- Briefly describe your department’s recruiting process
- For the category of funding you’re requesting, outline:
- Why this particular type of funding is integral to your successful recruitment efforts
- How such funding will be leveraged with departmental funding as required (see Award Categories below for those details)
To provide flexibility in meeting departmental needs, the Graduate School has four different categories of funding from which we support the TSA program. Departmental requests are limited to only one of these categories.
Why just one option? Our funding sources are multiple and cannot be easily mixed. For instance, RA quarters come from a specific state budget and include benefits and centrally funded tuition waivers. Our tuition waiver category is really a “credit” pool rather than a specific amount of money, and it cannot be converted to cash or used for anything else. Our fellowship quarters come from a mix of endowments, gift, discretionary and other funds, some of which have very specific rules. We have tried, through the options listed below, to create flexibility within the funding limitations we face.
Your own history in recruitment top students or desired changes in recruitment should guide your choice of the option that serves you best. As discussed above, our goal is to help you compete effectively for your top prospective graduate students. Please pick the option that you believe best helps you accomplish this goal.
Please note that in most cases, due to the specific funding sources, awards are not available to help recruit students enrolling in fee-based degree programs. The only possibility to use TSA funds for students in such programs is block grant funding.
Research Assistant Quarters
TSA RA quarters include salary, insurance benefits under the Graduate Appointee Insurance Plan (GAIP), and tuition waivers typical of an RA job (NRD as necessary, operating fee, building fee, tech fee, UPASS fee). All TSA RA awards must be regular service appointments, although the type of research can be defined to fit the needs of the recruited student. TSA RA quarters must be matched 2:1 by commensurate department funding to create funding packages of at least one academic year. These awards are not available for students in fee-based programs. Specific parameters/highlights are as follows:
- Units may request no more than THREE quarters.
- Salary rate is the standard RA rate of the unit.
- Units must provide the student at least two quarters of departmental funding for each one quarter of Top Scholar RA to create a minimum funding offer of one academic year. This departmental match must be an equivalent appointment in terms of salary/benefits/tuition but can be in the form of a TA or fellowship/traineeship instead of an RA. It cannot come from other Graduate School recruitment funding (e.g., GSEE awards).
- Units may divide quarters among multiple recipients if they wish (e.g., one quarter each to three different admitted students) or give all quarters to one recipient.
- Units should assign RA work overseen by a faculty member, although the nature of the research can be defined to fit the needs of the recruited student.
Quarterly Fellowships (Graduate Fellow Stipend w/Benefits)
TSA quarterly fellowships provide a monthly stipend, GAIP insurance benefits noted above, and full coverage of all tuition and the following fees: building fee; services and activities fee; tech fee; facilities renovation fee; IMA bond fee. It does not cover the UPASS fee. TSA fellowship quarter recipients may not have RA or TA work assigned as part of the award. These awards are not available for students in fee-based programs. Specific parameters/highlights are as follows:
- Units may request a maximum of THREE quarters.
- Monthly fellowship stipend rate is equivalent to the standard monthly TA/RA rate of the unit.
- Units must provide the student at least two quarters of departmental funding for each one quarter of TSA fellowship to create a minimum funding offer of one academic year. This departmental match must be an equivalent appointment in terms of salary/benefits/tuition but can be in the form of a TA/RA/traineeship instead of a fellowship. It cannot come from other Graduate School recruitment funding (e.g., GSEE awards).
- Units may divide quarters among multiple recipients (e.g., one quarter to three different admits) or may give all quarters to one recipient.
- This is a non-service appointment intended to fully support the student and allow them to focus on academic coursework in their first year. Recipients may not have RA or TA work assigned in exchange for this funding.
TSA tuition waivers are available to supplement departmental endowment and gift budgets that support fellowships. These waivers must be matched with departmental fellowship appointments during the quarter(s) in which the tuition waivers are used. TSA tuition waivers provide full coverage of all tuition and the following fees: building fee; services and activities fee; tech fee; facilities renovation fee; IMA bond fee. They do not cover the UPASS fee. These awards are not available for students in fee-based programs. Specific parameters/highlights are as follows:
- Units may request a maximum of NINE quarters of tuition waivers.
- TSA tuition waivers must accompany departmental fellowships (non-service awards) paid from departmental resources. Waivers may not be used for RA or TA appointments. TSA tuition waivers also can’t be used to supplement other Graduate School recruitment funding (e.g., GSEE awards).
- Units may divide quarters among multiple recipients (e.g., one quarter to nine different admits) or offer up to three quarters to one recipient.
- Students who receive a TSA tuition waiver/departmental fellowship must receive funding for their entire first academic year (nine months). This can be three quarters of TSA tuition waiver/departmental fellowship OR it can be a mix of TSA tuition waiver/departmental fellowship with other quarters funded by a commensurate departmental fellowship or a standard 50% tuition waiver-eligible RA or TA position. Other Graduate School recruitment funding (e.g., GSEE awards) cannot be used to meet this requirement.
- Departmental fellowship funding paired with TSA waiver must be a minimum of $1,200 per month with GAIP benefits eligibility. Funding at a RA/TA level will be more competitive in recruiting top students.
- If you plan to pair these tuition waivers with fellowship appointments at the minimum monthly level, describe in your proposal how that is effective in recruiting the very top applicants to your program.
Block grants are available to fund two different types of TSA: “top-off” fellowships and recruitment travel awards. The amount a unit can request is based on the average number of admissions offers over the last three years. For top-off awards, it is 10% of admission offers using the last three years’ historical average (pulled from BI portal statistics for 2020, 2021, 2022 admission cycles). For recruitment travel, it is 25% (at $300/student). Units may consider both types of block grant funds in their total request. Units are then free to use the TSA block grant funds between these two types of awards in whatever ways best aid in recruitment during the recruiting season. These funds may be used for fee-based programs. Additional specific parameters/highlights are as follows:
- The top-off component of a TSA block grant request is limited to no more than $20,000 in total.
- Top-off awards (per student) must be for a minimum of $1,000 up to a maximum of $7,500. Departments that offer over the maximum will be required to pay the differential from their own resources.
- Top-off awards must be paired with first year departmental funding to the student of at least one academic year (nine months/three quarters) at standard departmental TA/RA appointment (including tuition/benefits coverage).
- The recruitment travel component of a TSA block grant request is limited to $300/student (at 25% of the historical admission average described above).
- Travel awards are only for airfare or mileage. No hotels, per diem, unit event costs, etc.
- Your overall request can be for an amount that includes both top-off and travel funding.
- Once this award is made, you can choose to allocate it for travel, top-off fellowships, or a combination, whatever fits your needs at the time of recruitment.
- These awards can be used for tuition-based and fee-based programs.
- Historical averages are determined using admissions data from the BI Portal. You must use this data source when calculating your totals.
Allocating and Paying Top Scholar Awards
MyGradProgram Allocation Process
Units will need to allocate TSA to recipients in MyGradProgram. The final deadline to do this will be May 1, 2023. Requests to make allocations to new recipients beyond this date will need to be made to the Graduate School’s Fellowships & Awards office.
Research Assistant Payments
Units are responsible for TSA RA appointments in Workday. The Research Assistant (E S UAW ASE) job profile should be used in Workday with the compensation grade profile and step applicable to the awarding department. Full instructions on cost center/work tag information will be available closer to July 1, 2023, when Workday Finance goes live.
Quarterly Fellowship Payments
Units are responsible for TSA quarter fellowship appointments in Workday. The Graduate Fellow Stipend w/Benefits job profile must be used unless the recipient has indicated that they do not need/want benefits eligibility. Full instructions on cost center/work tag information will be available closer to July 1, 2023, when Workday Finance goes live.
The Graduate School’s Fellowships & Awards office will be responsible for covering the tuition cost associated with these quarterly fellowships. As a result, units should not enter tuition payments for TSA quarterly fellowships in SDB.
Tuition Waiver Payments
The Graduate School’s Fellowships & Awards office will enter the tuition waivers into the SDB during the first two weeks of each academic quarter, after accompanying appointments are confirmed. Please contact Fellowships & Awards if a TSA tuition waiver has not been applied to a student’s account after the tuition deadline.
Top-Off Fellowship Payments
Units using block grants to award top-off fellowships should make the payment via SDB as a one-time scholarship. Full instructions on this process, including cost center information, will be available closer to July 1, 2023, when Workday Finance goes live.
Units using the TSA block grant to support applicant recruitment travel should pay from their current individual GSF (75-17XX) budget only for the 2023 recruiting cycle. Full instructions on the change to this process with Workday Finance will be provided closer to the 2024 recruitment cycle.