BELONG in STEM Scholars Program


Building Engagement in Laboratories, Networking and Peer Groups (BELONG) in STEM Scholars Program provides scholarships for undergraduate students that are junior-status and above, and are majoring in biological sciences, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, geology and environmental geosciences, mathematics, or computer science. NIU received a $1M grant from the National Science Foundation S-STEM program to offer scholarships to students with financial need and academic promise. Students selected to be BELONG in STEM Scholars will receive $5,000 each academic year for up to three years. Scholars will participate in peer-group meetings, professional development activities, and research opportunities to support their growth and persistence in their majors.


  • U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status.
  • Demonstrated financial need as determined from FAFSA
    • Filed prior to submitting application.
  • Junior status in fall 2021.
  • Major in one of these seven departments:
    Note: high school level education licensure students in the below departments are eligible. 
    • Chemistry and Biochemistry
    • Biological Sciences
    • Computer Science
    • Geology and Environmental Geosciences
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Statistics
  • Preferred minimum 3.0 GPA


Scholarship applications have closed for the 2021-2022 academic year. Notifications of awards will go out in late June or mid-July. Check your email for updates, if you applied.

Our 2022-2023 scholarship will be open during the Fall 2021 semester, so read below and begin compiling your materials now.

This project is funded by a National Science Foundation grant (#1834076) awarded to Northern Illinois University. Please contact the Principal Investigators for more information: Ralph Wheeler (, Nicole LaDue (, and Timothy Hagen (

Application Preparation

Prior to submitting an application, be sure to file FAFSA and submit an NIU admission application if you are not already an NIU student. To apply, prepare a one-page personal statement and seek two academic letters of reference. Your personal statement should be no longer than one page (i.e. 12-pt font, single-spaced) and should highlight your personal motivation and interest in pursuing your degree. Your letters of reference should be from individuals who can attest to your academic accomplishments and potential. Check the sections below for more information. 

Tips for preparing your personal statement

  • Describe why you are interested in your major.
  • Explain what your motivation is for pursuing a STEM degree.
  • Highlight your ability to manage your time, communicate and write.
  • Discuss any unique qualities that make you an ideal candidate for this scholarship program.
  • Ask a mentor or academic writing center to proofread your personal statement.
  • Be sure to carefully check for grammatical or typographical errors.
  • More tips on writing a personal statement.

Letters of Recommendation

Your letters of recommendation should highlight your academic promise and your skills (i.e., technical, writing, communication). Letters from former teachers, instructors or professors are preferred. However, letters from former employers are appropriate, as well. Please do not submit letters from personal references (i.e. friends, family members, etc.).

For the application, you will be asked to submit the contact information for two letters of reference. Please have your letter writers email their letters to: with your name as the subject and as the file name of their letter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to submit the official NIU admission application before I apply to the scholarship?

Yes, if you are not already an NIU student. Full consideration of your application for the BELONG in STEM Scholars program requires that you complete the official NIU admission application. If you have not already completed the official NIU admission application, and are not already a NIU student, please do so immediately in order to have your BELONG in STEM application fully considered. 

Do I need to submit the my FAFSA application for the upcoming academic year before I apply to the scholarship?

Yes. Full consideration of your application for the BELONG in STEM Scholars Program requires that you complete the FAFSA for the upcoming academic year. If you have not already completed the FAFSA for the upcoming academic year, please do so immediately in order to have your BELONG in STEM application fully considered.

What does it mean to have Junior status?

Having Junior status at NIU means that you have completed 60+ credit hours as determined on your transcript.

What is expected of me if I am awarded a scholarship?

You will be required to participate in weekly peer group meetings and monthly professional development activities scheduled throughout each semester. You will also have to opportunity to participate in research experiences related to your major and volunteer and service work. You will also be expected to participate in the evaluation of the program (ex. surveys and interviews) during your time in the program.

I am an engineering major. Do I qualify for the scholarship?

No, engineering majors are not eligible for the BELONG in STEM scholarship program. Only STEM majors within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are eligible.

Who do I contact for more information?

Please email and we will get back to you shortly.

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Dean's Office
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Zulauf Hall 312

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