Summer funding options are diverse, disorienting

The Lang Center has recently opened up application for the last funding opportunity for the summer, its summer internship support program. The college offers many different funding opportunities, ranging from money for self-designed projects to funding for unpaid internships. Despite the abundance of opportunities, many students are unaware of them.

There are approximately 40 individual scholarship funds available on Swarthmore’s summer opportunities website. The grants are broken into four main categories: social sciences, humanities, natural sciences & engineering, and social action grants. Most of these grants are for specific research projects. Many people find navigating the different funds difficult.

“A lot of the things that’s really confusing for the students is there’s really opportunities in many places,” said Administrative Assistant to the Provost Debbie Thompson.

“So what the provost office is just for the academic divisions. The Dean’s Office does do some summer research or summer funding for lack of a better term because it’s not always research. And then the Lang Center does a bunch of social action kind of stuff.”

The Summer Opportunity Fair, which takes place in the Fall, is the only place where all the Summer funding opportunities are presented in the same place. If students miss this event, they have to do the research themselves. Tyler Huntington ’18 is a Lang Opportunity Scholar who understands the confusion with the funding process.

“It takes some work to understand the landscape of funding for the summer. You hear about a lot of opportunities through different channels but there’s not really a combined platform where you can kind of see all your options at once,” said Huntington.

This confusion can leave students in the dark about different funding opportunities. This results in many students applying to the first opportunity they hear of. Mariah Everett ’19 applied for the Lang Opportunity Scholarship but said that she was unaware of different opportunities.

“For me I guess it was just the one scholarship that I knew about. LIke being a transfer student and also being a sophomore, … guess I honestly didn’t know all of the different grants that they offer. I read about the Lang Scholarship and talked to Jennifer Magee about it and I was really interested in it, obviously,” said Everett.

Another source of confusion comes from the funding processes. According to Thompson most of the funds come from endowed funds. Some of the donors specify a specific use for their money while others are really broad. In addition to endowed funds, there are also funds from the Board of Managers and outside sources.

The different programs vary widely in competitiveness. Around 30 people apply for the Lang Opportunity Scholarship and a max number of six people are accepted each year. On the other hand approximately 50 people apply for summer internship support grants and the majority of applicants get funded. Research funding is also more competitive for younger students. According to Thompson, rising seniors are prioritized for research money since this is the last time they are able to have this opportunity.

There are several pathways students can take if they are seeking funding. Some students come in with a specific plan of what they want to do over the summer and apply for a grant that matches. Other students attend info sessions or one-on-one appointments with staff members to develop a plan. According to Associate Director for Student Programs at the Lang Center, Jennifer Magee, people who know about the programs often come to info sessions and follow-up with an appointment.

When advising students, both Thompson and Assistant Director for Student Programs at the Lang Center, Deb Kardon-Brown, encourage students to attend the summer experience fair that is held in November.

“I do a lot of one-on-one advising, and try to understand what the student’s interest is, what their academic interest is, what’s the intersection of those two things … It’s a very intensive process and I would say that the individualization of the process of getting an S2A2, an SIS grant, or a CCF grant while time-consuming leads to really really good results,” said Kardon-Brown.

Huntington believes that consolidating the format would help students navigate the process easier. Specifically, it would help students avoid having to piecemealing different funds together. In the meantime, Thompson recommends having an idea of what you want to do with your summer before entering the process.

“I would say start with finding out what you want to do over the summer … I think you have to figure out what you want your summer to look like. If you’re trying to do an internship, that’s certainly one experience. If you’re trying to do research, that’s a very difference experience …. Talking to upperclassmen about how to pursue those interests and funding for it [is also very helpful],” said Huntington.

The application for the Summer Internship Support will remain open until April 30th or until the funds are depleted.

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