Summer Funding Program expands to support middle-income students

Student Registration & Financial Services and Career Services partner to support students with $500,000 in new funding

Person walking in distance on Penn’s campus past a building in the autumn sunshine.
For students beginning to think about summer plans, Student Registration and Financial Services, along with Career Services, have additional funding to support middle-income students in their pursuit of opportunities.

Student Registration & Financial Services (SRFS), in partnership with Career Services, will expand their Summer Funding Program this year with an additional $500,000 to support 125-150 middle-income students pursuing summer research and internship opportunities.

Priority eligibility will be for students whose families have an annual income of between $65,000 and $140,000 with typical assets. The first of three application deadlines occurs on Feb. 28. The application requires a detailed budget for an award of up to $4,000.

This program builds on the highly aided summer internship funding program managed by SRFS for those with family incomes up to $65,500 with typical assets. The partnership with Career Services fills a gap by funding internships for students whose family incomes are above these limits, says Matt Sessa, executive director of SRFS.

“With the highly aided summer funding program able to provide guaranteed support to undergraduates with the highest levels of financial need, SRFS is thrilled to partner with Career Services to expand the initiative to include students from different income levels,” he says.

“Our funding process really is focused on helping students getting started in their careers,” says Barbara Hewitt, executive director of Career Services. Her team will be looking for student applications that explain how the summer internship will help them achieve a goal or get their foot in the door, she says.

Funding can help with expenses such as food, lodging, and travel for students whose targeted opportunities are not in their hometowns. “We really want to help students both explore what they want to do with their lives after they leave Penn and take steps towards achieving those goals,” Hewitt says.

In previous years funding has supported students with internships in government, the arts, the nonprofit sector, or start-ups, which are often unpaid, but Hewitt encourages students interested in any field to apply.

“While many students report that their internships solidified their career goals, sometimes people will come back and say, ‘I didn’t really like this, so I’ve shifted my career goals,’” Hewitt says. “That’s okay too. If they decide it’s not for them, that’s helpful to know early on in your career.”

Career Services last year awarded funding to Stephanie Acquaye, a senior from Woodbury, Minnesota, for a summer internship at a doula organization in Minneapolis that provides education, wellness services, and other resources to expectant parents. As a nursing major, Acquaye was drawn to doula work, supporting expectant families “through a process that can be as challenging as it is beautiful,” she says.

Acquaye says the opportunity gave her “a front seat to watch, learn from, and support the efforts” of a community-based organization during the large-scale health crisis created by the pandemic. “Through this experience, I gained real-world knowledge of some ways in which health policy directly impacts healthcare access, grew in my knowledge and experience as a women’s health advocate, and strengthened my passion to work to improve family and community health in my future career as a nurse,” she says.

Sophomore Mark Wasuwanich says he is passionate about reducing adverse impacts on the environment, hoping to help transform Penn into a zero waste community. A mathematics major from Orlando, Florida, Career Services funding made it possible for him to take a summer internship with OLIO, a mobile food waste application company, learning leadership, communication, and sales skills.

“I was initially reluctant to take an unpaid internship,” says Wasuwanich, explaining that the pandemic has been “especially tough” on his family’s business. “It was because of this funding that I could explore the sustainability field.”

Sessa says that the team often hears from students about how important a summer experience can be to augmenting their coursework, and the impact it can have towards their overall education and progression.

“We really hope financing doesn’t get in the way of somebody turning down a great opportunity, because it was underpaid or unpaid,” says Sessa. “The hope for this program is that it will allow a greater number of Penn students to take advantage of these rich experiences to help them prepare for their future professions.”

Learn more about the Career Services Summer Funding Program. Additional questions may be directed to Robin Chakrabarti at Questions about financial aid can by addressed by contacting SRFS at or 215-898-1988.