Strategy for NIH Funding
Timing for Submitting Your Application · Create a Cover Letter
This strategy page gives you action items for each step of electronic submission starting with ensuring your application is ready and understanding expectations and due dates. Learn what constitutes an on-time submission to Grants.gov and how to confirm that you have the right system and security settings.
If your application does not make it on time, read about NIH's late application policy. We also recommend including a cover letter and tell you for which purposes you must use one. During submission, you need to know who your contacts are, should you need help from Grants.gov or the Commons.
This page applies to any application using electronic submission.
Know your deadlines ahead of time.
Avoid potential application problems.
If you haven't done so already, make sure your application:
Allow enough time to prepare since revisions in one section may trigger other changes.
Use the right version of the Adobe forms and Reader.
If your institution uses its own proprietary system to submit your application, be alert for how the timing and instructions may differ from NIH's description for Adobe forms.
Check that your forms are in order.
Know how to avoid pitfalls that could cause the Center for Scientific Review to return your application to you without a peer review.
Just the Facts
Master the Application in Part 3
Get Ready Now to Apply Electronically in Part 2
Prepare to Submit in Part 4
Submitting a grant application involves multiple steps, even more if you encounter problems.
Learn your internal institutional due dates early on.
Note that the NIH Guide announcement for your funding opportunity announcement will give you a receipt date, but your internal submission deadline is your key deadline, not the NIH receipt date.
Ask your institution to apply well before the receipt date so you'll have enough time to address any validation problems.
Understanding the entire submission process and deadlines will help you work with your authorized organizational representative so you can:
Applying for a Grant questions and answers
Grant Application, Electronic SOP
Find NIH receipt dates.
For an investigator-initiated application, find receipt dates at NIH's Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications.
If you are responding to a request for applications or an institute-specific program announcement, you can find the receipt date in the NIH Guide announcement for the funding opportunity announcement (FOA).
If you are unsure, check the FOA.
Choose Approach and Find FOAs in Part 2—information on investigator-initiated and targeted research
Know what constitutes an on-time submission to Grants.gov.
To submit on time, your institution will need to allow enough time for your application to get through Grants.gov and eRA Commons validations, including the possibility of having to submit a corrected application.
Your application is on time if Grants.gov timestamps it by 5:00 p.m. your institution's local time on the receipt date listed in the funding opportunity announcement.
Grants.gov confirmation usually arrives within minutes, but it can take 48 hours or more during busy periods.
Your application must pass Grants.gov validation to move on to the next step, eRA Commons validation, which may take up to 24 hours.
Don't count on submitting late.
Draft a cover letter.
Know when a cover letter is required.
You must have a cover letter for the following applications:
To create your cover letter, use the format in the SF 424 Application Guide.
Read below for other uses of a cover letter.
Do You Qualify for Continuous Submission? in Get Ready Now to Apply Electronically in Part 2
Use a cover letter for other purposes too.
We advise that you use an application cover letter for other actions relevant to you:
To read about choosing a study section, go to Ensure You Get the Right Assignments in Part 5.
Create a Cover Letter in Part 4
NIH Center for Scientific Review
Know your contacts.
Review your NIH contacts before you apply.
Know where to get help at Grants.gov and the Commons.
Contact your scientific review officer for issues with your application before review.
NIH's list of Help Desks
Contact Staff for Help in Start Here to Use the Strategy for NIH Funding
Prepare to submit.
Confirm that you have the right software and security settings.
Use one of Grants.gov's Compatible Versions of Adobe Reader.
Know the pitfalls: you can inadvertently corrupt your application if you or others who work on your file open it with the wrong version of Adobe Reader and Acrobat.
Browser security settings can interfere with your submission.
Get tech tips from the links at right.
Troubleshooting Tips at Grants.gov
Get Your Technical Ducks in a Row in Prepare to Submit in Part 4
Go over your grant application package.
Use the "Check Package for Errors" button at the top of the grant application package page to ensure you completed all the fields required for submission to Grants.gov.
Know the administrative and formatting requirements NIH checks for once your application passes validations.
Give your grants business office enough time to complete institutional actions.
Grants.gov's Compatible Versions of Adobe Reader
Understand NIH's late submission policy.
Submit late only if you are allowed.
Valid reasons for late submission include federal electronic systems issues, natural disasters, personal tragedies, and some types of service on an NIH study section.
When submitting a late application, you must include a cover letter describing the reason for the delay.
Know what NIH staff check after submission so you can avoid a failure that would force you to withdraw and submit late.
Neither CSR nor NIAID guarantees it will accept a late application. Depending on which organization conducts the review, some practices are different.
Late Applications SOP
NIH's Extramural Response to Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies
Don't Be Late for a Very Important Date in Prepare to Submit Part 4
Strategy for NIH Funding
See the other sections of
Part 4. Submit Your Application
Table of Contents for the Strategy
We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email email@example.com.
Last Updated September 23, 2013
Last Reviewed September 30, 2011