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Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about PREP relate to the following topics:

Program Expectations and Requirements

Q. What is the goal of PREP?

A. The overall goal of PREP is to encourage individuals from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences and who have recently obtained their baccalaureate degrees to earn high quality Ph.D. degrees in biomedically relevant sciences through well-designed academic enhancements and extensive research experiences. In accordance with this goal, applicant institutions should recruit students from targeted groups who have expressed a strong desire to pursue biomedical Ph.D. degrees, particularly those who may have already applied to Ph.D. programs at research-intensive institutions but for reasons such as lack of research skills and experience and/or less competitive academic records, were not admitted into these programs. Institutional PREPs must be designed to provide these students the necessary academic enhancement and research training combined with thoughtful faculty mentoring and supportive peer group interactions that might make the students competitive to enter highly selective Ph.D. programs after a 1 year internship.

Q. How should success of institutional PREPs be measured and what are the expectations of the TWD Division?

A. Success of the institutional programs should be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. Measurable outcomes may include, but are not limited to:

  • The number of PREP participants who have obtained Ph.D. degrees and postdoctoral positions.
  • The type of institutions that granted the Ph.D. degrees.
  • The impact on the applicant institutions' student diversity demographics.

The TWD Division expects that after 4-8 years of funding, the PREP institution, particularly in the participating departments, will see a doubling in the enrollment of underrepresented groups in their Ph.D. programs, and/or an increase in the quality of research output of their underrepresented predoctoral students. It is expected that after one funding cycle, at least 90 percent of PREP participants will apply to high quality Ph.D. programs and, of these, at least 75 percent will be admitted to and enroll in these programs. It is also expected that at least 75 percent of those enrolled will finish Ph.D. degrees within 6-8 years after participating in PREP. After 10 years, the expectation is that at least 90 percent of the students who obtained their Ph.D.s will obtain postdoctoral positions or employment within 2 years of obtaining their degrees. Thus, it is expected that the institutional PREPs will continue to monitor the career paths of the PREP participants for at least 10 years after completion of the program.

Q. Is an assessment plan for the program required?

A. Yes. All institutional PREPs must have an assessment or evaluation plan. The efficacy of the program interventions, as well as impacts on the participating departments, must be determined. Program implementation must be regularly assessed and, if needed, changes for further improvement should be carried out. Assessment plans should include measurable objectives and outcomes relevant to the Ph.D. preparation and completion of PREP participants. In order to measure the impact or changes due to PREP, baseline information must be provided. Expectations by the institutional PREPs must be clearly described based on this baseline and should be congruent with the expectations of the TWD Division.

Q. What baseline and outcomes data are needed in order to assess the institutional impact of the program?

A. Baseline information on the institutions' graduate student demographics in the participating departments must be provided and should include:

  • Ph.D. admission rate of target and non-target groups.
  • Graduation rate of doctoral students (both target and non-target groups).
  • Overall number of students (target and non-target) with predoctoral training/fellowships grants.
  • Overall number of individuals (target and non-target) with competitive postdoctoral fellowships or positions.

The targeted groups are individuals underrepresented in the biomedical sciences (see the PREP Program Announcement for more details). The impact of PREP on the institutional student demographics should be provided in renewal applications using the data above and should compare the numbers before and after the PREP grant was awarded.

Q. What will happen to the application if an assessment plan is lacking?

A. Applications submitted without an assessment or evaluation plan and plans to track the career path of the PREP participants will be considered noncompliant and will not be reviewed.


Q. What types of institutions are eligible to apply and what are the other institutional requirements for an application?

A. Eligible institutions include public/state or private institutions of higher education. Applicant institutions must be research institutions that have a significant number of faculty mentors with NIH or other extramural support in the biomedical science fields. These institutions must have strong Ph.D. programs in the relevant biomedical fields and demonstrated experience in training Ph.D. candidates. The institutions must be able to provide the PREP students with challenging, but supportive, peer groups.

Q. Who is eligible to participate in the institutional PREPs?

A. PREP participants must be recent baccalaureate graduates in the biomedical sciences and must belong to underrepresented groups in these sciences. For groups considered underrepresented in biomedical sciences, see the PREP Program Announcement. These individuals must be U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals or permanent residents and must have obtained their baccalaureate degrees from an accredited U.S. college or university no longer than 36 months prior to their application to PREP. Each institution will set their own student selection criteria, which must be in line with the objectives of the TWD Division and PREP.

Q. Can participants be appointed for less than 12 months?

A. No. The individual student development plan must be designed such that students will have to carry out and finish a research project as well as take courses, workshops and/or supplemental instruction that will allow them to enhance their research skills and academic credentials within a 1-year period. This is an intensive Ph.D. preparatory program and not a financial assistance program for students who have already been accepted into a Ph.D. program and are just waiting for the enrollment period.

Q. Can a PREP apprenticeship be longer than 1 year?

A. Appointment of PREP participants will be for 1 year with a possibility of a second year extension. In preparing the PREP application, if a second year apprenticeship is anticipated, the PD/PI must explain or justify the need for this extension and should plan for activities different from those that will be carried out during the first year. The expected accomplishments for the second year apprenticeship should also be given. Support for the second year apprenticeship will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Following the completion of the apprenticeship, PREP participants are expected to enroll directly in high caliber Ph.D. programs.


Q. Is there a limit to the number of departments that can participate in PREP?

A. No. Although the institution is allowed to apply for or hold only one PREP award, participation of all departments relevant to biomedical sciences is strongly encouraged.

Q. How many students can participate in an institutional PREP and is there a cap on the amount of funds that can be requested?

A. PREP institutions may request from 5-10 postbaccalaureate positions. This number should not exceed 10 per year for each year of the grant or 40 participants for a 4-year grant period. Total direct costs are limited to $400,000 annually.

Q. Can I appoint more students than the number allotted for the program?

A. No, you can only appoint the number allotted for the program. Request for additional students must be discussed with the designated TWD Program Director.

Q. What do I need to provide in the progress report for competing renewal (Type 2) applications?

A. For renewal applications, an explicitly identified, detailed progress report (in place of preliminary studies) must be included and must contain:

  • The original and specific measurable objectives, anticipated milestones and outcomes.
  • An overall summary of program and institutional outcomes during the 4-year funding period following the PREP cumulative report for competing renewal (see Sample Format Table 1 or use a narrative format as long as the information needed is included.
  • A summary of student participants and outcomes during the 4-year funding period following the PREP cumulative report for competing renewal (see Sample Format Table 2 or see Section IV.6 Other Submission requirements of the PREP Program Announcement or use a narrative format as long as the information needed is included.
  • A description of how PREP program activities impact the enrollment, academic environment and graduation rates of underrepresented students in the participating departments of the applicant institution in accordance with the baseline information provided.
  • A description of what has been learned through the program assessment and any changes made in the program as a result of the assessment.

Allowable/Unallowable Costs

Q. Can PREP funds be used to attend international meetings in a foreign country?

A. No, PREP funds cannot be used for foreign travel, including presenting at a scientific meeting or visiting a laboratory in another country.

Q. Can PREP funds be used for a GRE workshop?

A. No, costs of workshop or courses with the limited focus of preparing students for a specific test such as the GRE is not allowable. However, expenses for courses, supplemental instructions, or workshops that could help students build their vocabulary, writing, communication skills, verbal reasoning, analytical and critical thinking and that might help not only to gain entry to but also completion of a Ph.D. program are allowable. The description of these workshops, expected outcomes and long-term impacts must be described.

Noncompeting Annual Progress Report

Q. How do I submit and what do I include in my noncompeting annual progress report? What is the page limit?

A. Progress Reports must be submitted following the Streamlined Noncompeting Award Process (SNAP) as defined by the NIH Grants Policy Statement. Information about eSNAP is available on the eRA Commons Web site. If your institution has never used eSNAP before, please review the eSNAP User Guide [PDF, 1MB] as it has information on how to enable the eSNAP feature for your institution as well as step-by-step instructions on how to submit your annual progress reports electronically.

The progress report should summarize the progress achieved in the reporting period with respect to the PREP program goals. The narrative part is limited to three pages and numerical and other data may be presented in tabular form (tables and figures are not included in the three-page limit). Follow instructions for the e-SNAP as well as the NIH Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) Instruction Guide [PDF, 2.4 MB].

Q. What can I include in the appendix of the progress report?

A. The appendix should be limited to the summary of the evaluation report.

As the Award Ends

Q. What happens if there is money left over at the end of the year? Can I request a carryover of funds?

A. The funds awarded for any year must be spent in that grant year. PREPs now have expanded authority ( meaning that unobligated unspent funds for a particular year can be carried over into a new budget period. These funds can be rebudgeted within the scope of the PREP program; however, the PI/PD must contact their TWD program official to rebudget any funds originally requested for program-supported participants.

Q. Can I apply for a no-cost extension if the program is on its last year? If so, how do I do this?

A. The grantee institution has the authority to extend the final budget period of the project using eRA Commons for up to 12 months if the request is submitted on or before the anniversary date of the parent grant and there is no change in the scope of the program. Additional extensions require NIH approval and will be considered if no additional funds are required. Having funds left at the end of a grant is not sufficient justification to extend the program period, and only students already in the program can be supported while a grant is on a no-cost extension.

This page last reviewed on January 21, 2016