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Frequently Asked Questions

Is the stipend taxable?
You will have to follow your school's policy regarding taxes because you receive your fellowship from your school. From IRS Publication 970:

Tax-Free Scholarships and Fellowships

A scholarship or fellowship is tax free only if:

  • You are a candidate for a degree at an eligible educational institution, and
  • You use the scholarship or fellowship to pay qualified education expenses.

Candidate for a degree. You are a candidate for a degree if you:

  • Attend a primary or secondary school or are pursuing a degree at a college or university, or
  • Attend an accredited educational institution that is authorized to provide:
  • A program that is acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor's or higher degree, or
  • A program of training to prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.

Eligible educational institution: An eligible educational institution is one that maintains a regular faculty and curriculum and normally has a regularly enrolled body of students in attendance at the place where it carries on its educational activities.

Qualified education expenses: For purposes of tax-free scholarships and fellowships, these are expenses for:

  • Tuition and fees required to enroll at or attend an eligible educational institution, and
  • Course-related expenses, such as fees, books, supplies, and equipment that are required for the courses at the eligible educational institution. These items must be required of all students in your course of instruction.

However, in order for these to be qualified education expenses, the terms of the scholarship or fellowship cannot require that it be used for other purposes, such as room and board, or specify that it cannot be used for tuition or course-related expenses.

Expenses that do not qualify: Qualified education expenses do not include the cost of:

  • Room and board,
  • Travel,
  • Research,
  • Clerical help, or
  • Equipment and other expenses that are not required for enrollment in or attendance at an eligible educational institution.This is true even if the fee must be paid to the institution as a condition of enrollment or attendance. Scholarship or fellowship amounts used to pay these costs are taxable.

Is the program open to foreign students or U.S. students in foreign universities?
No, the program is only open to United States citizens or permanent U.S. residents who attend U.S. colleges or universities.

What do I include in my personal statement? Is there a length limit?
The personal statement is an essay about you and why you think that you should get into the program. Use it to describe yourself and what you would like to do with your future. Often this letter can give the reviewers the information they need to recommend acceptance into the program. The SURF Team also uses this information to match you with a summer project, so make sure to mention if there is an area you really like. There is no page limit.

What should be on my resume?
Expected graduation date, relevant classes and skills, hobbies, awards, publications, honors, activities, work experience.

What type of clothes should I bring with me?
The dress around the NIST campus is "business casual." Slacks or jeans, usa-button-down shirt. One nice outfit for special occasions. Sandals, open-toed shoes, and high-heels are not allowed in most laboratories. No suggestive clothing.

How do I get my stipend?
Your college or university fills out the proposal and the school gets the money. The school is then responsible for giving you your fellowship and stipend.

How much detail do you need from the school for the grant proposal?
Only as much as is needed to verify that your school has a creditable program and that it can properly administer the grant. Web links can be used. Descriptions of the students' qualities from a department chair, dean, or counselor who knows the students are highly recommended. Ideally, the narrative should consist of an independent recommendation of each nominated student, not summaries of the recommendations of others and not a mere listing of the students' names.

How important are good letters of recommendation?
Very important.

What is not allowed?
Alcohol, drugs, firearms, pets. Tobacco allowed only outside the buildings if over age 21.

How soon may I arrive in Boulder?
The program starts on Monday, May 18, 2015, unless students have made other arrangements with the SURF NIST Boulder administrator. Students are strongly encouraged to check-in to their apartments on May 16 or 17 in order to meet each other and to enjoy activities in Boulder. Information on activities will be sent to accepted students in the spring.

I'm a Freshman. What are my chances of getting accepted?
Most successful applicants apply as Sophomores or Juniors, after they have taken several courses in their majors. However, some Freshmen with strong high school backgrounds and letters of recommendation have been accepted.

Why do I have to accept or decline my offer in only 7 days? What if I want to wait to hear from other programs?
To be fair to students on the waiting list, SURF NIST Boulder requires students to accept within 7 days. If you receive an offer from SURF NIST Boulder, we encourage you to contact the other programs to which you have applied and ask about the status of your other applications.

Created October 6, 2009, Updated December 30, 2016