A look inside the Duke Career Center program offering $4,000 for summer internships

This Career Center program is helping students make their summer experiences more affordable.

The Duke Career Center Internship Funding Program provides up to $4,000 in funding for select undergraduates participating in summer internships with less than $1,500 in total compensation.

Is $4,000 enough? 

In Washington D.C., senior Randi Jennings received full funding from the IFP for her internship at the Office of International Affairs at the Department of Justice. The internship was unpaid — she had to pay for her own rent, groceries and transportation over two and a half months.

In a high-cost-of-living area such as Washington D.C., however, $4,000 may not be enough. Jennings described that her total rent was $2,800, leaving $1,200 for everything else. 

“It was a little stressful,” she recalled. “I had to dip into savings a lot for groceries, but I was fortunate to have enough saved to make it work.”

IFP does not “check on [the students] in terms of how they spend their funding, but we hope that they spend it in the spirit of what it’s for,” Leigh Ann Waring, IFP coordinator and the Career Center’s assistant director of employer relations, said.

“We have two cost-of-living calculators that we use,” Waring said. The calculators compare the cost of living at the internship’s location to Durham’s. She added that IFP is “currently in conversations about redefining that part.”

How competitive is the program?

IFP’s acceptance rate fluctuates from year to year, and the number of admitted students depends on funding availability. For summer 2023, 64 students received funding out of around 160 total applicants, according to Waring.

All applicants are judged by a committee consisting of the University’s faculty or staff invited by the Career Center. The general process is that committee members will give the applicants a number score based on a rubric. Students with the highest scores are accepted.

Although financial need is a part of the consideration, and the application asks if the student would continue their internship without IFP funding, financial need is not the deciding factor.

“Financial aid isn’t always truly the real picture for a student,” Waring said. “We don’t get access to detailed [financial aid] information.”

Who can apply?

The IFP has an extensive eligibility criteria list. Students need to satisfy all requirements to receive consideration.

Applicants need to come in with a somewhat prepared summer plan, and the funding can only be used on expenses related to one internship opportunity.

Graduating seniors, incoming first-years and DKU students are ineligible. Students simultaneously participating in another Duke-funded summer program, research or interning with another Duke department or office cannot receive funding.

Regarding the internship, students must engage in on-site work at least two days a week and complete at least 240 supervised hours during the entire summer. The student must also have a professional supervisor at the internship’s host organization.

International internships are also eligible as long as they comply with Duke’s Global Travel Policy and Restricted Regions List.

IFP does not limit which industry the student is interning in. A student does not need a confirmed internship to apply for IFP.  A student needs to indicate intended internship experiences in the application and the funding can only be used on the indicated internships.

Application process and advice

The IFP application consists of two rounds, Regular and Late Application Periods. For summer 2024, the former opens on Jan. 29 and ends on Feb. 29, while the latter opens on March 4 with a deadline of April 4.

Applicants can apply for up to three qualifying internships. For students who are still waiting for internship offers, this means that there are additional factors for consideration.

“The most difficult part for me was narrowing down which three positions I would apply for the funding,” Jennings said. “You're not just considering which internships you want the most, but which ones you think that you might actually be qualified to get more than others.”

For interested students, the Career Center offers a variety of resources to assist in the application process, such as appointments with the IFP Coordinator and drop-ins with the advising team.

After approval, students should also provide an outline of goals to the Career Center and attend virtual summer reflections, and students are required to write a reflection paper and thank-you letter shared with donors. 

What do other colleges do?

Some universities or colleges have similar programs. For example, Stanford University’s CareerEd Fellowship provides up to $6,500 in funding for unpaid and full-time summer internships.

Columbia University’s Columbia College Summer Funding Program contributes a maximum of $6,500 for both unpaid and low-paying summer internships.

Claremont McKenna College, a liberal arts college in California, has the Sponsored Internships & Experiences Program. It does not specify a maximum funding but requires applicants to complete a comprehensive budget plan.


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