CUSP Independent Research & Creative Projects Funding

The CUSP Independent Research and Creative Project provides partial financial support for Scholars who wish to conduct their own independent research or creative project under the guidance of a professor or creative professional.

The Independent Project Fellowship affords scholars the opportunity to engage with the methodological framework of independent academic research and/or the creative process. A branch of the summer enhancement fellowship, the independent program differs from the practicum in that it aims to familiarize students with the skill set specific to formal academic writing and researching, which includes preparing a research statement, developing an appropriate research question, working with an academic mentor, and utilizing academic resources, such as the Columbia University archives. The fellowship thus serves as an invaluable foundation for students who might be interested in writing an undergraduate thesis, pursuing a graduate degree or producing a portfolio.

Students considering the independent project should be aware that the process requires sustained and serious commitment. In order to qualify for the fellowship, students must attend a series of preparatory workshops facilitated by the Graduate Student Mentors, find a faculty supporter who will support their project, prepare drafts of their work for feedback ahead of the submission deadlines, and present their work to their peers in a panel session during the fall semester following the summer experience.

All Scholars funded for Summer 2024 are expected to:

  • Post a response on an educational blog on a weekly basis during the summer, beginning in June. The final blog entry will consist of the abstract.
  • Provide a budget reconciliation report listing their CUSP-related expenses and appropriate original receipts. This will be due by the Welcome Back Dinner & SEF Showcase at the start of the Fall 2024 term.

  • Submit a paper with at least one visual representing the project at the start of the Fall 2024 term.

  • Present the results of their research at the SEF Independent Projects Panel in the Fall 2024 term.


* Welcome Back & SEF Showcase (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)

Wednesday, September 20, 2023
6:00-8:00 p.m. ET
Rennert Hall, Kraft Center


* SEF Independent Projects Panel (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023
6:00-8:00 p.m. ET
Alfred Lerner Hall 401


* SEF Information Session (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)

Wednesday, November 1, 2023
6:00-8:00 p.m. ET


* SEF Independent Projects Workshop #1 (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)

Thursday, November 9, 2023
6:00-8:00 p.m. ET

What is the difference between an independent research project and a creative project? What does an independent project proposal entail? Graduate Student Mentors will introduce the components of the research proposal beginning with the title and ending with the budget. This workshop will address how to formulate appropriate problem statements, research questions, bibliography, finding a mentor, etc. GSM's will introduce students to resources on campus such as the writing center, Columbia library info services, etc. 

The workshop will cover the following items: 

  • What is expected of students who receive the grant

  • Overview of deadlines, requirements, budget guidelines, codes of behavior

  • Identifying and developing a research question or topic

  • IRB/RASCAL Training

  • Writing the research proposal and thesis

  • Finding a mentor



Sunday, January 21, 2024
  • The proposal should explain a plan or suggestion for the CUSP Independent Project Summer Fellowship
  • Identify possible faculty supporter
  • Prepare a tentative goal/pitch, work plan, and timeline for feedback
  • Please send proposals to CUSP (
  • Any draft submitted after January 21 will not be considered.
* SEF Independent Projects: Workshop #2 (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)
February 2024 (ongoing)
Working with their draft proposals, students break into small groups to discuss their proposals with the GSMs and their peers. Fellow students will provide constructive feedback. 
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
* CUSP SEF Online Application Opens
Friday, March 8, 2024
An email will be sent with instructions.
* CUSP SEF "Making The Most of your Summer" Questionnaire Opens
  Friday, March 8, 2024
  A reminder will be sent to all scholars
* DEADLINE: SEF Online Application Closes
Tuesday, April 16, 2024 - 11:59pm ET
A reminder will be sent to all scholars.
* CUSP SEF "Making The Most of your Summer" Questionnaire Deadline
  Tuesday, April 16, 2024 - 11:59pm ET
  A reminder will be sent to all scholars
* DEADLINE: Submit Faculty Support Confirmation Forms
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
A reminder will be sent to all scholars.
* SEF Award Announcements
End of May or Early June 2024


For the summer, we will revert back to our pre-pandemic process where all CUSP scholars (CC, SEAS) traveling outside the 50 U.S. states for internships, research assistantships, volunteer work, or independent projects will need to complete the Undergraduate International Travel Policy process. If you have any questions, then please feel free to contact us at cusp@columbia.eduThe deadline to submit your plans for the International Travel Policy process is Tuesday, April 16th, 2024.

International travel clearance must be applied for by students, and approval must be received by CUSP, before CUSP can consider the application and determine funding. CUSP SEF funding will not apply to travel projects with start dates prior to when CUSP awards funding.



  • For international students who are from a country that has a tax treaty with the US, there may be a tax responsibility of up to 14% taken from the SEF award amount.  Please review the explanation of tax liability of your stipend as described on the IRS website. You can find guidance also on the ISSO webpage
  • If you are entitled to an exemption from taxation of the SEF award, then complete the Foreign National Information Form and return it to the Human Resources Service Center. Students interested in more information about the tax exemption must email Carlos Liro-Coppa ( from Columbia University's Human Resources Service Center. 



CUSP strongly recommends that all applicants register for Direct Deposit.  Direct deposit to a U.S. checking or savings account is the University's preferred method for issuing stipends to students.  International students need to set up direct deposit for Refund and Stipend separatelyQuestions about direct deposit and timing of disbursement must be directed to the Student Service Center.



* APPLICATIONS FOR SUMMER 2024 WILL BE DUE TUESDAY, APRIL 16th, 2024 BY 11:59PM ET.  Applications will be available online on Friday March 8th, 2024. 

Unique for Independent Project applicants - your primary faculty supporter must be a full-time Columbia University faculty member and must be able complete the online support form as part of your application.  A survey link will be sent to you (and the faculty supporter) via an email confirmation following your application submission. Faculty supporters will need only to respond to multiple choice and short answer questions regarding your project proposal.  Recall that the role of the faculty supporter is to lend assistance to you in the development, implementation, and/or conclusion of the project.  At minimum, the faculty supporter must be able to comment on the feasibility of the project proposal.  They have the option to lend additional support by sharing resources, helping to check project logistics, and/or making connections through networks.  The faculty member must submit their support form no later than Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024. You will receive a confirmation email after the faculty member submits their form.


The online application can be saved as a draft, reviewed, and revised before your final submission. However, you should have available at the time of your submission: the logistical information about your internship/research assistantship and contacts; your budget breakdown (e.g. amount for housing, food, supplies) that you will enter into the form fields; and, an essay answering the supplementary questions as a .doc or .pdf. The supplemental questions will ask you to describe your internship and what motivated you to this opportunity; to explain what you intend to learn during the summer; and to list the CUSP events that you attended and how each event contributed to your understanding of this year's theme of "Absence." If you were approved to attend alternate events due to academic conflicts, then you will have to reflect on your experiences and on the theme from those events. 

Preparation Tips:

  • You must participate in and complete the reflection forms for at least 8 CUSP events or alternate events (if applicable) by Tuesday, April 16th, 2024, at 11:59pm;
  • Have readily available your employment/position confirmation letter for those pursuing internships, research assistantships, or volunteer positions (more below). 
  • Prepare your responses to Supplemental Questions in advance
    • What was the inspiration for your project?
    • What was the most challenging part of writing your project proposal?
    • How did the CUSP events (or alternate events) contribute to your understanding of this year’s Speaker Series theme of Emergence? [List your events and explain.];
  • Consider a realistic budget – on average, awardees receive up to about $3,000 for a 12-week summer experience.  With the recent economic climate and an uptick in student interest in the SEF, the amounts for this year will be variable.  You must be able to justify your budget in the application.

Applications will be evaluated by a selection committee on the basis of their overall fulfillment of the selection criteria (see below).  Incomplete applications and candidates who do not meet the criteria will not be considered. Notification of the final decision will take place in early June.


* Criteria for Selection: To be considered for the funding, applicants must: (1) have a GPA of at least 2.6; (2) be in good academic standing with Columbia College and the School of Engineering; and (3) be in good standing with CUSP. All scholars should have participated in CUSP or alternate events during the 2022-2023 academic year, including students that were studying abroad.

Applications for Independent Projects will be evaluated on: (1) the basis of the originality and scholarly promise of the project; (2) the feasibility, clarity, and coherence of the proposal; (3) the ability of the applicant to undertake the research; and (4) the commitment of a faculty sponsor.

* Human Subjects Research: Many applicants wish to undertake “human subjects research” in which they interview or survey people.  Because of the importance of treating human subjects ethically and ensuring that no harm comes to someone who participates in research, all universities are federally mandated to oversee approval of all human subject research through an Institutional Review Board (IRB). Given the short duration of SEF Independent Projects, CUSP will not support projects by Scholars requiring IRB approval unless they are listed as an approved researcher by the faculty sponsor.  For applicants wishing to undertake such research, the letter from the faculty sponsor must include a statement confirming that the IRB process has been fulfilled. For questions regarding IRB permits, please contact Annie Barry (, Assistant Manager, Institutional Review Board (IRB). 



To apply for the SEF Independent Project award, please check back here in March 2024.  The application will be open from March 8th through April 16th, 2024.

Good luck! We look forward to reviewing your applications.

Questions about the SEF application? Contact us at

*IMPORTANT: CUSP does not vet the safety or security of the setting in which Scholars intend to pursue their projects. It is the individual students’ responsibility to take the appropriate precautions following the approval and recommendations of the Undergraduate Travel Committee. The nature of this fellowship is solely for financial support.   

Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program


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