The stipend rate for summer 2023 will be $6,000 for 40 hours per week over 10 weeks, prorated for shorter projects at $600 per week, for 40 hours per week. 

SURF Applicant and Participant FAQ

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
  • 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.

**Students who have taken a leave of absence during AY 22-23 are considered NOT enrolled students by the college (even if they enroll for Fall 2022). They can still be considered for SURF funding, but there are implications that affect how they are paid (see the taxable income section below) and they would not be 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.

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 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 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. All of these scheduling particulars would need to be worked out with and approved by your 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 if they wish to avoid possibly being taxed. 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 2023. Links and additional information will be posted here when they are available. If the department or program of the advisor you would like to work with on SURF is not listed below, 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 2023 will be $6,000 for 40 hours per week over 10 weeks, prorated for shorter projects at $600 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.)

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 14% withholding 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.

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 $5,700 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, funds have to be paid out on an hourly basis, on the College’s bi-weekly payroll schedule for FY22, through 6/30/22. The FY 23 schedule (beginning 7/1/22) 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 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 $5,700 for 10 weeks, or the appropriately prorated amount for shorter SURF projects. 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. Please read the Summer Break Housing info carefully.

The cost of housing for summer 2022 was $250 per week, with a 5 day meal plan. The rate for 2023 is $257.50 per week. Details regarding the meal plan have not yet been published.

Students with high financial need as determined by Student Financial Services will receive an additional cost of living stipend, equivalent to half the weekly cost of campus housing for the duration of their project, up to 10 weeks. This will be paid automatically, along with the standard stipend, AND stated in the commitment form for eligible students. Students do not need to provide any additional information (other than confirming their participation in the program) and are not required to live in campus housing to receive this benefit.


What if I need time off? What about holidays?

Students should work with their advisor on a mutually agreeable work schedule, including time off and Smith’s observed holidays. There is no additional compensation for holiday time during the SURF program, regardless of the payment type (stipend or hourly).

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

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. 

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.

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

  • A sample of the form and questions can be found here.   The survey and instructions for SURF 20323 will be posted here sometime in July.
  • 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”.
  • 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. 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.



Return to the SURF home page