Last update 07/11/24

SURF Applicant and Participant FAQ

Click here for the SURF 2024 post program survey and abstract collection. A preview of the questions can be found here.

The stipend rate for summer 2024 was $610 per week, for 40 hours per week.


Before you apply/Connect with an advisor

SURF application process

How will I get paid? What about income taxes?

What about SURF funding that is paid hourly?

Housing while participating in SURF

Housing blocks for on campus housing

Receiving and accepting a SURF award

Card access and keys to SURF research spaces

Health services/injuries/accidents while participating in SURF

Printing during SURF

What you need to do at the conclusion of your SURF program participation

Who is eligible to receive funding for SURF at Smith?

Smith College undergraduate students  (including Math Post Baccalaureate students and graduating seniors*) who are:

  • In good academic standing, enrolled the spring before the summer of their SURF**
  • Working directly with a Smith College science research advisor (a faculty or staff member in Smith College’s STEM programs)
  • Working on a multi-week project


*Graduating seniors are eligible to apply for SURF funding, but are NOT eligible under any circumstances to apply for on-campus summer housing. Arrangements must be finalized well before the end of the academic semester, as graduating seniors must be paid their stipend before the semester ends. Graduating seniors cannot be brought into the SURF program after the semester ends on the last day of exams. Graduating seniors who are international students who are international students should contact the International Students and Scholars Office as soon as possible to make an advising appointment for the OPT process.

**Students who have taken a leave of absence during AY 23-24 are considered NOT enrolled students by the college (even if they enroll for Fall 2024). They can still be hired as research assistants paid hourly. However, they are not  able to apply for campus housing.

Who is NOT eligible to receive funding for SURF at Smith?

  • Students working with faculty outside of the Sciences at Smith.*
  • Students enrolled at other institutions (including UMass, Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, Hampshire),
  • Smith students who wish to work exclusively with advisors at other institutions,
  • Smith Alumna (with the exception of the summer immediately following graduation).


*If a faculty advisor has a dual appointment that includes a science department or program and a humanities/social science department or program, it may be possible to apply for a SURF project. Please consult with the faculty member to determine eligibility.

Are there any course requirements or number of credits to participate in SURF? What about research experience?

Prerequisites for participating in SURF vary from discipline to discipline and from lab to lab. Your SURF advisor or potential SURF advisors are best positioned to answer that question.

What do I need to do before I apply? How do find a faculty advisor?

Talk with the faculty that you would like to be your SURF advisor!

SURF is not a program that matches students with faculty in their field of choice. The first step towards applying is the agreement between student and advisor to work on a SURF project.

The Research at Smith page has some guidelines for reaching out to faculty. Look over faculty websites, attend department lunch events where faculty talk about their research, think about professors you have taken classes with. If you are not already working with a research advisor, make an appointment or drop by office hours to speak with the professor(s) you are interested in working with.

It is recommended that you do this in the Fall semester or as early as possible if you are planning on applying for SURF the following summer. You want to be sure that the particular faculty you have in mind will be working with SURF students this year and that your respective schedules align. Your academic advisor may also have suggestions.

Some departments hold an information session for students explaining the available research opportunities during SURF, so be sure to check out the calendar of events for the department or program you are interested in working with.

What are the dates for SURF?

SURF projects can start the Monday after final exams end (usually the third Monday in May) and must end by the day before classes begin in September. Students who stay in campus housing will want to align their project schedule with the housing blocks.

What is the duration of SURF participation? How many hours per week do I have to work?

The duration of a full SURF fellowship is 8 weeks. It is possible to work fewer or more than 8 weeks. Students should work with their research advisor to determine the appropriate duration and schedule. The expectation is that students work 40 hours per week, unless they make other arrangements with their advisor.

Can I do a SURF project remotely?

If a project is suitable for remote work and the advisor agrees that the project can be worked on this way, a remote project can be considered for SURF funding. You MUST have the agreement of your advisor beforehand.

I want to apply for a research program at another institution. Can I still apply for SURF? Can I work on a project elsewhere while doing a SURF project?

You can definitely apply for other research opportunities at the same time as you apply for SURF. We ask that you are transparent about this with your advisor, so they know you are considering something else. This is very common and everyone understands that you want to consider many opportunities. 

It is not typical to participate in two projects simultaneously, as most projects do require a full-time commitment. However, it may be possible to work on a SURF project for part of the summer and another project elsewhere for another part of the summer. Rarely, it may be possible to work on a SURF project on a part-time basis. It may be possible, with some coordination between students and advisors, to work on two shorter SURF projects that add up to 10 weeks. All of these scheduling particulars would need to be worked out with and approved by your SURF advisor.

What else do I need to do before or right after applying?

We strongly suggest that students who have not filled out employment paperwork with the college (I-9, tax forms etc) do so before the application due date so that there are no issues or delays, should they be offered a position that is funded hourly.

International students who do not yet have a social security card should start that process as soon as possible. The office of International Students & Scholars can assist with this process.

GRADUATING SENIORS WHO ARE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: Check in as soon as possible with the office of International Students and Scholars regarding OPT. There may be additional requirements that this office can help guide you with. This can be a multi-month process, so do not wait.

How do I apply to SURF?

Each department and program will have its own application process for summer 2024. Links and additional information will be posted at the top of this page when they are available, usually in late December/early January. If the department or program of the advisor you would like to work with on SURF is not listed, talk with the faculty advisor(s) you would like to work on a SURF project with.

How much do I get paid to participate in SURF?

The stipend rate for summer 2024 will be $610 per week for 40 hours per week.

How/when is the SURF stipend paid out?

The majority of stipend payments are made in one installment on or around June 1. Graduating seniors have to be paid prior to the end of the semester. Students who are added to the application and acceptance process late (after 3/29/24)  can expect their stipend payments to take longer to process  and should not expect to be paid by June 1.We will make every effort to pay them as close as possible to that date, but can make no guarantee.

If you receive an award paid by stipend, your stipend will be paid via Direct Deposit.  If you do not have direct deposit OR  change your direct deposit information and do not update it with the college’s records, a check will be sent to the last primary home address the college has on file. You can confirm and update this address via Workday.

If you withdraw from the SURF program after being paid, you will be asked to pay back the appropriate portion.

Is this income taxable?

Yes. When and how much SURF participants pay in US federal income tax depends on 1)how they are being paid (hourly vs stipend) and 2) their individual situation.

For most students currently enrolled in the semester before their SURF summer, who are U.S. citizens/residents, no taxes are withheld and no 1099 forms or other IRS documents are generated. Please consult your tax advisor about your SURF stipend in preparation for your income tax return, to understand to what degree your stipend may be taxable. The IRS website topic “ Do I Include My Scholarship, Fellowship, or Education Grant as Income on My Tax Return? ” provides some guidance.

The SURF commitment form email each student receives contains the details of the duration of SURF, the stipend amount, and the amount of the additional cost of living stipend, if applicable. Email SURF if you need a copy of this documentation.

Taxes may be withheld on your stipend if you are a citizen of a country that does not have a tax treaty with the US. If there is a scholarship treaty with the student’s country of residence and they have a tax id number (social security card) in the US, then the College does not withhold taxes. If there is no treaty and/or they don’t have a tax id, taxes are withheld, usually at a 14%. The IRS maintains public data on the specific treaties here.

Students whose stipends are subject to this withholding (typically 14% ) receive a 1042s tax form from the College in January with all of the tax withholdings for a non-qualified scholarship from the previous year and will be able to file a US federal income tax form to recoup the taxes withheld if they don’t owe them. Tax treaties vary by country, and may have an annual cap of a specific dollar amount. If all of a student’s income exceeds this amount, additional withholding may be applied.

Please contact the accounts payable office at Smith College to get specific details regarding taxes on your particular stipend.

We strongly suggest that students who have not filled out employment paperwork with the college (I-9, tax forms etc) do so before the application due date so that there are no issues or delays, should they be offered a position that is paid hourly. International students who do not yet have a social security card should start that process as soon as possible so that there are no issues or delays for any type of SURF position. The office of International Students & Scholars can assist with this process. 

If the stipend payment is made after the student graduates (which is done only on a very exceptional basis) then the scholarship exemption no longer applies and the tax rate is 30%.

If the stipend payment is made, and the student was not enrolled in the spring before the SURF summer (which is done only on a very exceptional basis) then the scholarship exemption no longer applies and the withheld tax rate is 30%.

If your stipend is taxable for the reasons cited above, this means that your stipend will be a gross payment of $6,000 for 10 weeks or the appropriately prorated amount. The net payment (the actual dollar amount you receive after taxes) will be less; how much depends on your specific circumstances. Taxes withheld may be refundable at the time of filing income tax for the year. Please consult your tax advisor for information regarding your tax filing.

Are any SURF positions paid hourly?

A number of SURF stipends are funded from an outside grant from an organization such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) or internally from CFCD grants made to faculty. These funding sources do not allow for lump sum stipend payments. Students are hired as casual employees of the College, funds are to be paid out on an hourly basis. Students submit time sheets to be approved by their advisor. Students are then paid on the College’s bi-weekly payroll schedule.  (as of December 2023, the pay schedule for the current year has not been posted) Full-time students should enter 40 hours per week on their timesheets which will be a gross payment of $610 and $15.25 per hour.

PLEASE BE SURE YOUR EMPLOYMENT DOCUMENTS ARE ON FILE WITH THE COLLEGE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO AVOID DELAYS IN STARTING WORK AND RECEIVING PAYMENT. Here is the student employment website that includes links to all of the required employment forms.

During the academic year, no withholding is made from students with a work-study award in the tax or FICA categories due to the regulations that apply to work-study. Outside of the academic year, including the summer, student positions are not part of work-study and so income tax and FICA are taken out each pay period. How much really depends on the individual student’s situation. There are payroll calculators available online that will give a good idea of what to expect for federal and state income tax, and FICA withholding. Students can check how they have filed W4 withholdings and any voluntary deductions in Workday, under “pay”, “withholding elections”. The required employment paperwork and process for submitting it can be found here.

SURF participants who are paid hourly and wish to work another job on campus need to do 1 of 2 things. 1) Make arrangements with their supervisors so that their combined total hours do not exceed 40 hours per week; 2) Make arrangements to be paid overtime for one of their positions.

This means that you will receive gross payment of $610 per week. The net payment (the actual dollar amount you receive after taxes) will be less; how much depends on your specific circumstances.

If being paid hourly, are F-1/J-1 Visa students limited to 20 hours per week as they are during the regular semester?

No. This regulation only applies during the regular semesters, not during the summer. The summer is defined as the day after exams end and the day before the first day of classes.

Does the SURF program provide housing?

No. SURF students are responsible for arranging their own housing. Campus Housing is available as summer break housing through ResLife. Students who want to live on campus during SURF have to apply for summer break housing through the application available through ResLife self service.The summer 2024 application will open on April 12, 2024 and will be sent to all Smith undergraduates via email.

Non-Smith students, including graduating seniors are not eligible for campus housing.

Summer 2024 housing will be charged at a weekly rate of $267 (includes room and board), billed by block period. Students who receive a meal plan exemption qualify for a reduced weekly rate of $160 (includes room only).

Summer Housing is structured differently than it has been in past years. Please read the Summer Break Housing info carefully. It is strongly suggested that SURF students apply for housing during the  April application period to secure their spot. Due in part to the campus Geothermal project, space for summer housing will be more limited than in past years. The Summer Housing Request Form opens on Friday, April 12, 2024 at 10 a.m. via Residence Life Self Service. The priority deadline for summer housing requests is Sunday, April 28, 2024 at 11:59 p.m.

The Summer Housing Request Form will be unavailable from April 29-May 30. Students will not be able to register for summer housing during this time. On May 31, the Summer Housing Request Form will reopen until July 26, 2024 for new and updated requests, IF rooms are available.

Reservations for summer break housing made in April cannot be canceled after May 3.

I’ve heard that there are additional funds for housing for students with financial need, is this true?

Students participating in SURF with a Smith Science Advisor who have a high financial need as determined by SFS (Student Financial Services) and whose departments submit their information by the required program deadline in April, will receive an additional cost of living stipend calculated at $133.50 per week. This stipend is equivalent to half the weekly cost of campus housing (with meal plan) for the duration of their project, up to 10 weeks. Students do not need to provide any additional information or take any additional action (other than confirming their participation in the SURF program) and are not required to live in campus housing to receive this benefit.

How will I know if I will receive the additional cost of living supplement?

The process is, that once departments have made their decisions about which students are accepted, they send SURF the student information. We collect all of that information in one file and share it with SFS to get the need rating which the cost of living supplement is based on. 
The student information from departments is due to SURF on 3/29. As soon as possible after 3/29, students will receive their official award notice from the SURF, confirming information about their SURF participation including any additional cost of living supplements.
How much is the cost of living supplement?
For summer 2024 the additional cost of living supplement for eligible students is $133.50 per week of SURF participation, paid in one lump sum, on or before the start of SURF.
What if I can’t wait for this process to find out if I have a cost of living supplement?
SURF administrators do not have access to individual student’s financial need ratings or any individual student’s financial aid information. Therefore, we cannot tell you if you will receive the housing supplement ahead of the process described above.
How will I receive my cost of living supplement if I qualify?

The cost of living supplement will be paid automatically, in one lump sum, along with the standard stipend, directly to the student. As soon as possible after 3/29, students will receive their official award notice from the SURF, confirming information about their SURF participation including any additional cost of living supplements.

Do I have to pay the bill for all of my summer break campus housing up front?  What if I have to change plans and cancel my housing?

Excerpt from the ResLife Summer Break page:
Students have the option to either make regular payments to their student accounts throughout the summer or make lump sum payments prior to the first day of classes in the Fall. As long as the full amount due is paid before September 7, no late fees will be charged.

Cancellations will not be permitted after May 3, 2024

What are the housing blocks available for summer 2024?
ResLife has set time blocks of 1, 2, 3, 4 weeks during the summer and constrains students to pay for an entire time block that they start on, even for 1-2 days. The start and end dates of your SURF project have to coincide with housing blocks’ start and end dates. The table below indicates the possible dates and durations for projects lasting 5, 6, 8, or 10 weeks. For example, there are two possible 8-week blocks, one from 5/27 to 7/21, and the other from 6/23 to 8/18.


How does the summer meal plan work?

Students who pay for and stay in campus housing have a meal plan. Beginning the week of Memorial Day, students receive dining dollars deposited each week to their one card to buy breakfast and lunch at the Campus Center Cafe. The dining dollars balance has to be used each week, it does not accumulate. Dinner is served in one location. For the Dining locations are kept up to date here.

Adas living on campus (Conway house and anywhere else) have to opt into a summer meal program when they reserve their summer housing.

If Dining Dollars are not working, try reinstalling the Grub Hub app.
If it is still not working, or you don’t see a balance of dining dollars on your OneCard accounting, please contact the OneCard office for additional troubleshooting steps.


What if I need time off? What about holidays?

SURF advisors should work with their SURF students to establish a mutually agreeable work schedule, for any time off including Smith’s observed holidays (scroll down to the Holiday Schedules section, full-year appointments). 

There is no additional compensation for holiday time or any other type of time off for SURF students, regardless of the payment type (stipend or hourly). 

If a student’s SURF payment is distributed hourly and they work on a holiday, they should submit timesheets to be paid for the hours that they work on the holiday.  Hourly paid students are hired as casual workers at the college.  No paid time off is available for these positions.  

For those who are paid via stipend, they should work out with their advisor how to manage the work schedule.

Students who are working during these times should follow the buddy system or approved  “work alone” procedures.

Is there a formal acceptance process for SURF?

Yes. SURF students will receive a confirmation of their 2024 award from sometime early to mid- April. They will be asked to respond to confirm personal information and the duration of their SURF participation. A response will be required before stipends are paid to students.

I’ve never worked with this professor before this summer. I don’t have a key/card access to get into the lab. How do I request keys or card access?
First, please be sure that you do not already have access. If you had card access during the academic year, that will continue for the summer. If you already have a key, you do not need to put in a new request.

If you do need new access by card or key, please submit this form.
Your faculty advisor and/or the person responsible for the space will have to approve. For a few specific restricted areas, additional training or certification is required. Your faculty advisor should provide guidance about what is needed.

Graduating seniors:

On June, 30, student One Cards for graduating seniors are deactivated. Unfortunately, there is not any flexibility on this and we are not given advance notice. If you need exterior door access at times outside of the regular building hours, Monday-Friday 7am to 6pm, OR card access to interior doors and you are concerned about losing access in the middle of your SURF project when your student card is deactivated, you will need to get a visitor card issued by the Science Center. You can request a visitor card here.
After June 30 you can get an alumna card (see the application here). Drop-in hours for new or replacement cards and Campus Cash deposits are: Monday – Friday, 1:30 – 3:30 pm or by appointment at or 413-585-3082.
  • Once you have your alumna card, please submit this form to request the transfer of access to spaces you previously had with your one card. Unfortunately, the OneCard office does not automatically transfer access to SURF participants’ alumna cards.
  • Participants with alumna cards are still able to access Library services. Please see the Services for Alumnae page of the Libraries website.
  • Graduate students who are completing their studies before the end of the SURF program are considered to have the same status as graduating seniors.
The good news is that as SURF students, the OneCard office will waive the $15 alumni card fee. Just let them know you are a SURF student.

Health Services/Injuries While Participating in SURF

What if I need routine medical care while participating in SURF?

The Schacht Center is closed during the summer. No medical services are available on campus. The Schacht Center maintains lists of local health resources including nearby clinics, updated for summer 2023 here.

What if I am injured while working on my SURF project?

● In an immediate, life-threatening situation: Call 911 or Campus Safety x5555 from any campus phone, 413-585-5555
● In the event of an on-campus emergency call 413-585-5555 to reach Campus Safety or 911 for
Northampton Public Safety. Stay on the line until otherwise directed.
● Consult with Campus Safety before calling an ambulance, except during immediate
life-threatening emergencies.
● In the case of a serious accident or emergency and you are off-campus, seek immediate care by
dialing 911.
● If you need assistance and cannot speak, use the Silent Call Procedure; you can indicate your
need for help by pressing digits on your telephone’s keypad.

Students injured while participating in SURF-funded research are covered under Smith College’s worker’s compensation plan.  Injured SURF students should contact Campus Safety/911 and seek medical attention immediately. Do not refuse medical care because of the cost! The College has resources to help cover the cost of medical care due to injuries. Medical expenses for a student injured while working at Smith and/or while participating in SURF are reimbursable through worker’s compensation. Students with costs not covered by worker’s compensation can seek financial assistance by applying for emergency funds through the Dean of the College. Please see this Research and Instructional Safety page for more detail on reporting accidents and worker’s compensation.

Printing while participating in SURF
All SURF students will receive a $35 printing credit, added to their Smith student printing account in early June. Some research labs have FOBs for printing while working in the lab, so check with your labmates or your advisor. If you aren’t able to print email

Poster printing is the same as during the academic year. Due to vacation schedules, you make have to ask another liaison for help if your department poster printing liaison is not on campus.

What do I need to do at the end of SURF?

  • ABSTRACT – At the conclusion of your summer research project, we require that you write a one-page abstract describing your work. Abstracts from previous SURF years can be viewed here under “Past SURF Project Descriptions”.
    • Abstracts should not be more than 400 words (not including references) Include a picture/diagram when possible, in.png format; 1,100 MB max size each
    • If you are co-authoring an abstract with other students who have collaborated with you on your SURF project, please note that on the abstract submission form. We ask that each student answer the survey and submit a copy of the abstract for our records.
  • SURVEY – We ask you to respond to requests from Smith College to complete surveys about your participation in SURF, now and in the future. These assessments are important in our efforts to improve the Smith SURF Program and to secure continued funding for future students.
  • THANK YOU LETTERS – Many SURF awards are funded by endowments established by alumnae and friends of Smith College. In most cases, students will submit this in their internal survey response.




Return to the SURF home page