Undergraduate Student Scholars Program
Frequently Asked Questions
This collection of frequently asked questions provides brief answers to many common questions about the USSP. If you have a question that is not listed below, please send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org. Most questions receive a response within one to two business days, but some may take longer. We appreciate your patience.
Q: I am a recent graduate and am interested in participating in the USSP. Am I eligible?
A: Unfortunately, we only accept students currently enrolled in pursuit of their undergraduate degree; if you already have an undergraduate degree, you are not eligible for our program.
Q: Are international students allowed to participate?
A: International students are welcome to apply to our program provided they have a visa that allows them to be paid to work in the United States. All students must be paid a stipend for their work during their summer with USSP. If you have any questions regarding eligibility to work in the United States, please contact your university's Office of International Program's advisor.
Q: May I forgo the stipend and participate in the USSP as a volunteer?
A: Unfortunately, we are not allowed to accept volunteers into our program. All accepted students must receive stipends.
Q: May I e-mail you my application?
A: You may send the application via e-mail, but we are unable to accept transcripts emailed directly from applicants. We will accept e-mailed letters of recommendation provided they come directly from the professor's e-mail account. All letters of recommendation must be on official letterhead with a signature. A letter drafted in an email will not be accepted.
Q: May I have the transcript faxed to you?
A: A faxed copy is an unofficial transcript. The USSP application requires an official transcript.
Q: Can I email a copy of my official transcript?
A: In order to be considered an official transcript, a transcript must come from the Registrar's Office. Some universities offer an option to directly email transcripts to the email@example.com email address. This will be accepted as an official transcript since it is coming directly from the university. All transcripts sent as PDF files from individual applicants will not be accepted. Other acceptable means of submitting your official transcript is by filling out a form at your Registrar's Office and having them directly mail the transcript to our mailing address or receiving a sealed and signed envelope from the Registrar's Office and mailing it to our address.
Q: I have attended multiple colleges/universities; do I need to send a transcript from each school, or just the one I am currently attending?
A: We must receive an official transcript from each college and/or university you have attended in addition to the one(s) you are currently attending. If you took college courses as a high school student through a dual-enrollment program, we will need an official transcript from that college, as well.
Q: Do I have to send the different components of the application materials separately, or is it alright if I mail them all in one envelope?
A: You may mail the application materials separately or in one envelope. If you elect to send all the components at the same time, each transcript and letter of recommendation must be in separate, sealed envelopes. Additionally, the letters of recommendation should be signed across the seal by the professor writing the letter.
Q: How many letters of recommendation do I need to send?
A: It is compulsory to submit one letter of recommendation written by a college dean or professor. If you have prior research experience, you must also include at least one letter from a prior research mentor. All letter writers must be deans or faculty members at their respective institutions. We understand that in large lectures or labs, contact with the professor may be minimal. Thus we will accept letters co-authored by the TA and the supervising faculty member. If you choose to submit a letter authored by a TA or high school teacher, please know that you will be competing with students who will have letters from faculty members and deans at their university.
Q: Will you accept applications that arrive after the deadline but are postmarked beforehand?
A: No. As stated on the application and the website, all application materials must be received by the deadline. If all components of an application are not received by the deadline, the application will be considered incomplete and will not be considered for the program regardless of when it was mailed out. We recommend mailing the application at least a week before the deadline to help ensure it is received, although this does not necessarily guarantee it will be received in time. It is extremely important for you to know that all USPS mail is first sent to the School of Medicine's mail room. From there it is collected and distributed to the individual departments and divisions - a process that can take several days. If it is within a week of the deadline, we strongly recommend sending materials by way of UPS or Fedex to guarantee delivery. It will not be considered received until it reaches the desk of the USSP coordinator.
Q: How will I know when all of my application materials are received?
A: You will be sent an e-mail once all components of the application are received. Notifications will be sent out one week prior to the deadline to let you know of partial applications. Please realize that in order to be contacted about a partial application, you must have at least submitted an application a week before the deadline in order for us to have an email address to contact you.
Q: Is there a separate application for the stipend?
A: No, the stipend is provided to all students accepted into the program; there is no application procedure for the stipend.
Q: How much is the stipend?
A: The stipend varies from year to year; the stipend for 2013 was $4000, and all students receive the same amount.
Q: When will I hear about an interview?
A: Notifications about interviews are typically sent out mid/late March through early April. Applications that do not garner acceptances are also sent out during this time period. Depending on the number of applications and the results of the interviews, this time frame may be extended.
Q: If my application is not accepted this year, may I apply again next year?
A: Absolutely; we encourage all students to re-apply the following year if they were not successful this year.
Q: Am I allowed to participate in the USSP for more than one year?
A: Certainly; we have had many students participate in our program for multiple summers.
Q: I participated in the USSP last year and want to participate again this year. Do I have to reapply to the program?
A: All former USSP students looking to take part in the program for a second year must resubmit a full application before the deadline. We highly recommend you have your former mentor submit a letter expressing their interest in having you work in their lab again this summer.
Q: Can I pick the lab I will work in and/or the project I will work on?
A: Unfortunately, due to space issues in each laboratory, we cannot allow students to select their lab and/or project. If you have a specific area of interest, you should highlight this in your application, and we will make every effort to address this in your placement. The specific research project will be determined by the student’s mentor.
Q: Would I be able to continue working in my lab after the summer is over?
A: Sometimes a student will continue to work with their mentor following completion of the USSP, but that is something each student must discuss with his/her mentor individually. Not all labs will have the room or funds available to hire additional personnel.
Q: Does the USSP have set start and end dates, or are the program dates flexible?
A: The program does have set start and end dates that everyone must follow. The dates for 2014 will be June 9th - August 15th. In rare cases, we might adjust the dates for an individual student due to extenuating circumstances. If for some reason, you will not be able to start on June 9th, please submit another letter with your application stating the reason you will be unable to attend orientation and your expected date of arrival.
Q: How many hours a week are students required to spend in the labs?
A: Students are required to work at least 40 hours each week in their respective labs.
Q: Will the USSP provide housing?
A: We will assist students in obtaining on-campus housing, but students are responsible for all housing expenses. We are unable to assist with off-campus housing.
Q: How much does it cost to live on-campus?
A: The price varies from year to year. In 2013, the cost of rooms ranged from $195 - $290 per week.
Q: Do I have to live on-campus?
A: Students are under no obligation to utilize Penn’s housing facilities.
Q: Are meals included in the program?
A: Students are responsible for their meals, although a lunch is provided at the weekly seminars.
Q: Will students have access to a gym while at Penn?
A: Students will have access to the David Pottruck Health and Fitness Center which is located at 3701 Walnut St. The summer membership fee for 2013 for 4-6 weeks was $125.