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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the eligibility requirements for applying?
The program is open to undergraduate and beginning graduate students (not yet accepted into a Ph.D. program) who are either currently enrolled or between enrolled semesters. Recent college graduates (internship appointment must begin within 12 months of graduation date) are also eligible to apply. U.S. citizenship is not required to participate in this program.

What are the application deadlines?
There are THREE application deadlines. An applicant should submit according to the appropriate deadline for the period of year he/she wishes to begin the project at the Smithsonian.
The deadlines are as follows:
For spring appointments beginning January - May,
deadline is postmark November 15.
For summer appointments beginning May - August,
deadline is postmark February 1.
For fall appointments beginning September-December, deadline is postmark June 1.

How long does the review process take?
Due to the high volume of applications received for our internship programs, it usually takes between 6-8 weeks for the review process to be completed. All applicants will receive notification by email at that time as to what their final status is. 

Is the program very competitive?
Yes, the program is very competitive. During the summer the application pool is largest (anywhere from 20-60 applications per project) and therefore the most competitive, but the chances of being selected are dependent on various factors ( ie., essay, transcripts, letters of reference, availability, etc.). The goal of the SERC Internship Program is to host students who have a genuine interest in and a commitment to environmental research and education.

Is there a minimum GPA necessary to apply?
No, there is no minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) in order to apply to the Program. The selection process takes many factors into consideration when making a decision on the applicant's competitiveness. Generally, a GPA below 2.0 (based on a 4.0 scale, or below 50% on a 100% scale) is not considered competitive through the selection process.

Is it acceptable to use unofficial copies of my transcripts when applying?
Yes, it is fine to use unofficial student copies of your transcripts. We know (all too well) the hassle of trying to get official copies sent quickly when a deadline is pending. We will confirm any academic questions by contacting the university officials directly.

I am applying for more than one project, can I use the same referee letters and essay for each project?

Can my letters of reference be submitted by email?
No, the new system SOLAA will automatically generate an email to your referee on your behalf but it is only as reliable as the information it is provided by the applicant.

What are the living arrangements at the dormitory like? What are my options for housing if there is no space in the dorm or I decide not to live in the dorm?
There are two dormitory facilities located on the grounds of the Center's 2,800 acres. Both are a convenient 5-minute walk from the research facilities and vehicles are available for transportation to research sites. SERC has the capacity to house 24 students on-site. Green Village dorm consists of double (each with two single beds, dressers, and desks) and single rooms, a communal kitchen, communal living and dining areas, and bathrooms. Whereas, the Schmidt dorm only has single rooms (with the same furniture as the GV dorm). Cooking utensils are supplied, as well as, a washer and dryer (free use). The cost of living in the dorm is $105.00 per week, and does NOT include maid service. Residents are expected to follow dorm rules and be considerate of other dorm residents. Interns are not expected to live at the dorm and may arrange for outside housing at their own discretion. The closest city to live in would be Annapolis, MD which is about seven miles north of SERC. Another alternative, but not as convenient, is Washington, DC which is about 30 miles west of SERC. There are several apartment finder services on the web that would be of assistance. Bringing personal transportation is optional but highly recommended for interns staying in the dorm, and necessary if not.

What should I include in my personal essay?
As part of the application, each applicant is asked to submit a short personal essay (2-3 pages) outlining past and present interests and academic and non-academic experience. The essay is a way for the reviewer to learn more about you and your interests in environmental research or education.
In general reviewers are looking for answers to questions like:
"What are your career or educational goals?"
"What background or research experience has the applicant been involved in to support these goals?"
"Why does the applicant want to participate in this program? What are the applicant's expectations from participating in this program?"
"What areas of environmental research or education is the applicant especially interested in?".
The essay should discuss your special interests, academic and career plans, motives for applying for participation in the SERC Internship Program and how you feel this experience will further your educational and intellectual goals. We are particularly interested in why you want to participate in the SERC Internship Program and what you hope to gain through your participation.

Where is SERC?
We are located seven miles south of Annapolis, MD, and 35 miles east of Washington DC.

Who can I contact if I still have questions?
Please contact SERC's professional training coordinator at or 443-482-2217.