Application and admission to the program

Note: Some of the information on this page -- especially in the Life as a Cornell Summer Research Scholar section -- may change to reflect the pandemic situation as the program start date approaches.

I am interested in projects in more than one department. Can I apply to more than one disciplinary program (for example, Horticulture and Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology? Will my referees need to send letters of reference for each program?
Yes, you may apply to more than one program, but each application is independent of the other(s), so you will need to complete applications for each program AND your referees will need to submit letters of recommendation for each application (although you may choose different referees for each application).  Although you can apply to more than one program, we strongly encourage you to apply to the ONE program that best matches your interest. The selection process is separate for each program, and we have no way of knowing your preferred discipline if you apply to multiple programs.

My university/college is on the quarter system, and I have final exams as late as June 8-10.  Can I arrive to the program late?
You are welcome to apply, however please note that your acceptance to the program is ultimately at the discretion of your faculty mentor, who must decide whether or not it would be acceptable for you to arrive late and if you will have adequate time to complete the project. We are unable to change the dates to better fit your schedule due to our housing agreement with Hobart and William Smith Colleges. In the past, we have had students begin 7-10 days late, and in an extreme case, one student flew back to take their last final exam. If accepted, we recommend you ask your professors if you can take your final exam(s) early or complete it remotely with a proctor (i.e. your faculty mentor in Geneva).

I will have graduated with my Bachelor’s degree by the time the program begins. Can I still apply?
Unfortunately, no. The funding we have is specifically for undergraduates. We require that by June 1, students must have been enrolled for at least one semester (our STRONG preference is six semesters) and still have at least one semester left prior to graduation.  Also, we cannot admit high school students who have not yet enrolled in a Bachelors degree program.

I am currently a Cornell student. Can I participate in the Geneva Summer Scholars program?
Yes, we encourage Cornell undergraduates to apply and we have funding dedicated to Cornell CALS students.  If you already have summer housing in Ithaca, you might choose to ride the free shuttle van that leaves the Ithaca campus daily at 6:45 am and then leaves Geneva at 5:00 pm (4:00 pm on Fridays).  Shuttling between Ithaca and Geneva is a free option, but you would miss out on the comradery of living with the other summer scholars from across the country in Geneva.

I am not a US citizen or permanent resident.  Can I still participate in the program?Our funding from USDA-NIFA restricts us to only accepting US citizens or permanent residents.  Non-US citizens, especially those who are enrolled in the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, may be eligible for funding from other sources. These applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

I was a Cornell Summer Research Scholar last year, and I loved it. Can I apply to come back to Geneva again this year?
Yes, you may apply and we will review your application, but our strong preference is to give other students an opportunity to participate.

Who can I contact to find out if my application is complete?
It is always best to ask your referees directly if they have submitted their letters of recommendation, but you may also contact the administrative assistant for the program to which you applied.

  • Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology: Kate Keagle (kev35 [at]
  • Horticulture/Plant Breeding: Amy Anderson: ada10 [at]
  • Entomology: Holly Hancharik (hollyking [at]

When will I hear if I have been accepted or not?
Review of complete applications will begin immediately after the deadline for letters of recommendation.  We typically receive well over 100 applications, so we need a few weeks to review them all.  We plan to contact applicants with offers of internships by mid-March, but other applicants may be on a waiting list as we confirm those who accept our offers.  A final decision will be communicated by mid-April at the latest.

If I am offered an internship, what is my deadline for accepting or declining your offer?
Since we will have applicants on a waiting list, we would like to learn your decision to accept or decline our offer as soon as possible, but definitely within a week of receiving the offer.  If you have applied to other programs and want to know if you will receive other offers, be sure to discuss this with your Cornell faculty mentor, so they are aware of your situation.  Typically, almost all of our offers are accepted, but if not, we want to be sure to fill every available internship position.

Do the reference letters have to come from professors?
We hope that you have made real connections with the professors teaching your science courses and mentoring you in a research project, and we strongly recommend the letters come from those professors who have come to know you.  If you are doing research under the mentorship of a post-doc or grad student, they could write a letters too, but we put more weight on the letters from experienced faculty. 

Life as a Cornell Summer Research Scholar

How much science do I need to know?

  • To be eligible for the program, applicants should have completed two, preferably three, years of college level study in one of the life sciences or other relevant disciplines such as computer science or engineering by June. The type and level of scientific training required will vary by project (e.g. some projects will assume a familiarity with essential cell and molecular biology, ecology, evolution, and/or genetics, while others may require experience with computational science, coding, and/or engineering).
  • You do not necessarily have to have previous research or course experience in the specific program to which you apply. The Summer Scholars program is a chance for you to do research in a field you may not be familiar with (or maybe never even heard of before)!
  • As to specific projects, if you are accepted to the program, your faculty mentor will be in contact with you to give you some background on your project. They may send you articles from scientific journals or other resources for you to read. Though not required, you are highly encouraged to familiarize yourself with the basics of your project before you arrive. The more you know going in, the easier it will be to get started in the lab or field.
  • That said, one of the goals of the Summer Scholar program is for you to get one-on-one mentorship and this includes your mentor teaching you the finer details of your project, which will occur over the course of the summer.

What hours are we expected to work?
Summer Scholars follow the following basic work week: Monday-Thursday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Friday 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, with an hour for lunch every day. However, depending on your project you may have field or lab work that occasionally requires flexibility with your schedule.

What is the compensation?
Summer Scholars receive a lump sum stipend of $6,200 for the internship period.  This is reported to the IRS as income, but no tax is withheld, so please consider this when preparing income taxes.  Housing and a number of free meals are provided.  There is no reimbursement for travel expenses.

Can I get academic credit for this internship?
This will depend on your school and we recommend talking to your academic advisor, department chair or registrar’s office about counting your internship for academic credit. If your school asks you to fulfill additional requirements in order to receive academic credit, be sure to discuss these with your faculty mentor before the start of the program, because you will probably need to write an internship plan with expected academic outcomes.

What is the poster session like?
The poster session, on the last day of the Summer Scholars program, is a chance for you to showcase your work to your fellow Summer Scholars and members of the Cornell-NYSAES community in a low-pressure environment. Typically, half of the Summer Scholars present their poster in the first hour of the session, and the other half presents in the second hour of the session. A catered lunch follows the poster session. It is a good idea to bring a nice outfit (business casual) for this day.

What are the transportation arrangements to get to and from Geneva?
You must make your own travel arrangements to Geneva if you are driving or to the Rochester airport (ROC) if you are flying.  Program staff will coordinate arrivals and departures to and from ROC on the designated travel days (see the web site home page) and will arrange for transport from ROC to Geneva and back by program personnel.  There is no reimbursement for travel expenses.

What transportation is available for getting to and from work?
The program provides four University fleet minivans for Summer Scholars to use during the internship period. Summer Scholars are asked to complete a driver questionnaire and background check to obtain approval to drive University fleet and program vehicles.  These fleet vehicles can be used for getting to/from the campus and getting around town during the week. With approval from RAs and the program Director, these vehicles can also be used for weekend trips around the Finger Lakes region. Students who choose to have a car with them for the summer may drive to the campus each day for work – parking is free.  Personal cars are recommended for longer, overnight weekend trips (New York City, Adirondack Mountains, Toronto, etc.), since University fleet vehicles may not be used for overnight trips.

What do alumni of the Summer Scholars program do?

  • Science (usually)! For most Scholars, the program gives them a preview of graduate school and many Scholars do go on to pursue Masters or PhD degrees. A number of Summer Scholar alumni are now graduate students at Cornell, at both the Ithaca and Geneva campuses.
  • Others may continue in science, but in fields other than agriculture.

Housing and recreation

What housing arrangements are there?
Summer Scholars will be living in four or five houses on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS), about a 5 minute drive from the campus. There is a mix of single and double rooms and roommates are assigned by program staff. The houses are not air conditioned and some of the rooms can get hot, so either bring a fan or plan to purchase a room fan on arrival.  Bathrooms, dining/living areas and kitchens are shared and basic cooking utensils and kitchenware are provided. Lunch will be provided about once per week, but Summer Scholars should be prepared to do their own meal preparation the majority of the time.  Two of the houses have washer and dryers that are operated by cards that will be managed by the RAs.  Funds will be provided on these cards to pay for laundry, but it is expected that Summer Scholars will contribute the value of their laundry into a pool to pay for a common meal or activity. If the house you are assigned to does not have laundry, you can use the facilities in one of the other Summer Scholar houses, use HWS on-campus laundry facilities, or go to a laundromat in Geneva.

What kind of additional activities are there?

  • Historically there has been an organized day trip to the Ithaca campus in late June or early July for Summer Scholars to learn about the graduate programs at Cornell, to ask questions of the graduate field directors, and to briefly tour the Ithaca campus. Summer Scholars are also encouraged to participate in field trips to local venues organized around agricultural themes: vegetables, turf, fruit, etc.  Typically there are 4-5 ~half-day field trips that give Summer Scholars a chance to learn about NYS agriculture firsthand.
  • Social activities are up to you! Past Summer Scholars have organized weekend day trips to Niagara Falls, Rochester, Corning, Watkins Glen, and Ithaca (using fleet vehicles) and overnight trips to NYC and camping in the Adirondacks (using personal cars). The Finger Lakes region is particularly beautiful in summer, so get out and explore!

What kind of town is Geneva, NY?

  • Geneva is city of about 13,000 that prides itself on being “uniquely urban” and blends many characteristics of a typical upstate NY town with those of a much larger city. The city center is home to a variety of restaurants, shops, and businesses, just a short walk from Seneca Lake. Like most upstate NY towns, Geneva features copious historical architecture.
  • Geneva is also centrally located, with Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, Watkins Glen and Corning all only an hour’s drive away.

Do I need to bring kitchen supplies? Are we responsible for our own meals?

  • Yes, you are responsible for your own meals. We cannot offer meal plans to HWS dining halls, so most Scholars find it most convenient to cook their own food. There are several grocery stores in town, including Wegmans, and Walmart. Additionally, there are farmers markets and farm stores nearby.
  • Each house has a fully equipped kitchen (i.e. stove, oven, refrigerator, sink, and microwave) with essential kitchen supplies (i.e. pots, pans, cooking utensils, dishes, silverware, etc.) for each house. Summer Scholars may also bring their own supplies, if they choose.

Approximately how many students will I be living with?
This will depend on which houses HWS assigns to us, but on average each house will have 5-7 students. If we are assigned one of the larger houses, there may be up to 12 students in a house. There is a mix of single and double rooms.  Roommates are assigned by program staff. There are two live-in Resident Assistants in the program, who are Cornell graduate students available to help scholars adjust to the program and assist with other residential needs.

Is there a gym available?
Hobart and William Smith Colleges graciously include gym access with housing. You can use the weight room and field house on campus -the Bristol Field House- for free. They will make a temporary ID card for you. Geneva is also a great town for running and biking. Seneca Lake State Park is only about a mile and a half from the housing on the HWS campus.

Can I keep a pet in summer scholar housing?
No, unfortunately pets are not allowed in Hobart and William Smith student housing, so you may not keep a pet there as a summer scholar.