SURF Applicant and Participant FAQ
The stipend rate for summer 2021 will be $5,400 for 40 hours per week over 10 weeks, prorated for shorter projects at $540 per week,full time. Please see Important things to know about Funding below for more detail regarding stipends.
If after reading this FAQ you find that you still have questions, please contact Heather McQueen at the SURF program email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who is eligible to receive funding for SURF?
Currently, Smith College undergraduate students (and Post Baccalaureate students in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics), in good academic standing, who apply to work directly with a Smith College science research advisor are eligible to be considered for SURF fellowship funding. Students enrolled at other institutions are not eligible to apply to Smith SURF. Students who wish to work exclusively with advisors at other institutions are also not eligible to apply.
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.
Students who have taken a leave of absence are considered not to be enrolled students by the college (even if they enroll for Fall 2021).
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. 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 else do I need to do?
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 if they wish to avoid being taxed (see Important Information about Funding below). The office of International Students & Scholars can assist with this process.
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 10 weeks. It is possible to work fewer weeks. Students should work with their research advisor to determine the appropriate duration. The expectation is that students work 40 hours per week, unless they make other arrangements with their advisor.
Unless otherwise noted, fellowship stipends provided for participation in Smith SURF 2021 will be in the amount of $5,400. Stipends are based on 10 weeks of participation at 40 hours per week (400 hours total) doing independent research working with a Smith science advisor. For projects with shorter duration, stipends will be prorated for participation based on the total number of hours to be worked.
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.)
If you receive an award paid by stipend, your stipend will be paid via Direct Deposit. If you withdraw from the SURF program after being paid, you will be asked to pay back the appropriate portion.
Is this income taxable?
For most students currently enrolled in the semester before the SURF summer, who are U.S. residents, 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.
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. Please contact the accounts payable office at Smith College for more details regarding your particular situation.
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 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 they were 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 $5,400 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 witheld 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, funds have to be paid out on an hourly basis, on the College’s bi-weekly payroll schedule for FY21. The FY 22 schedule has not yet been posted but follows a similar course. 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 witholdings. 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 make arrangements with their supervisors so that their combined total hours do not exceed 40 hours per week OR make arrangements to be paid overtime for one of their positions.
This means that you will receive gross payment of $5,400 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.
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. Graduating seniors are not eligible for campus housing.
Summer Housing is structured differently than it has been in past years due to COVID protocols. Please read the Summer Break Housing info carefully.
Please contact ResLife directly for questions about campus housing.
A limited amount of additional funding will be provided to students with high financial need as determined by Student Financial Services. Students will be notified by the SURF program once this has been determined.
- ABSTRACT – At the conclusion of your summer research project, we require that you write a one-page abstract describing your work. The abstracts are important to demonstrate the nature of student research at Smith, and are essential in annual reporting to the various individuals, institutions and agencies that provide the funding that makes this program possible. Please turn in your abstract on time. Abstracts from previous SURF years can be viewed here under “Past SURF Project Descriptions”.
- SURVEY – We ask you to respond positively to requests from Smith College to complete surveys about your participation in SURF, now and in the future. As part of an ongoing effort to assess the impact of summer research on the careers of our students, we track the career progress of students conducting research through periodic surveys. These assessments are important in our efforts to improve the Smith SURF Program and to secure continued funding for future students. We look forward to your participation.
- 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.
- SURF participants will receive instructions for submitting their abstracts, survey, and thank you letters via email, on or around July 20. SURF 2021 abstract submission and post-program survey can be found here.
Questions? Contact Heather McQueen x3950, 413-585-3950, Burton 115, email@example.com.