Q. Can I apply to CIW?
A. Yes, if you are a Cornell undergraduate. CIW is open to all Cornellians, regardless of college or major.
Q. When should I plan to attend CIW?
A. Students typically attend during either semester of their junior year, or during the first semester of their senior year, submitting applications during the semester before they wish to attend. We do admit a small number of applicants for the second semester of their sophomore year under special circumstances.
Q. How do I apply?
A. You may apply on line. You must also submit a transcript, a letter of recommendation from a professor or graduate teaching assistant, and a short statement indicating your research interest. Applications are due in mid-October and mid-March for the following semester.
Q. When do I apply?
A. The semester before you want to participate. If you will be off-campus the semester before, studying abroad for example, you may apply before you leave campus.
Q. How difficult is it to qualify for CIW?
A. There are no specific criteria for admission, and the competition for admission varies each semester depending on the number and quality of applicants. We prefer to see at least a 3.0 GPA, but students with lower GPAs are often admitted when the particular pattern of their academic performance, their faculty letter of recommendation, their personal statement, or other information, suggests a high likelihood of a successful CIW experience.
Q. What are my chances of being admitted?
A. Your chances for admission are based on the number of applicants, which varies each semester. As a general rule, fewer students apply for the fall semesters. It's always best to submit all of your application materials early for only complete applications are considered.
Q. When will I hear if I've been admitted?
A. Admissions are not done on a rolling basis, but every effort is made to inform you during the week following the application deadline, before the beginning of CoursEnroll.
Q. Can I participate in CIW more than once?
A. Yes. Because there are two core course options and several electives each semester, it is possible to enroll in CIW twice. Some students participate in the summer program, SIW, first and then return for a semester.
Q. How much does a CIW semester cost?
A. You pay the same tuition you would pay in Ithaca, and you receive the same financial aid. The rent for your Cornell University Wolpe Center apartment might be a little higher than the rent you would otherwise pay in Ithaca, and your clothing and dry cleaning costs might be a little higher because of the need to dress a little more formally for your internship. On the other hand, books should be substantially less expensive. On the whole, the cost of a CIW semester should not be significantly different from the cost of a semester on campus.
Q. How do I arrange for my CIW credits and grades to get on my transcript?
A. You don’t have to. CIW is part of Cornell. You’re a regularly registered student in regularly listed Cornell courses. Your credits and your grades automatically appear on your transcript, and your grades are automatically calculated in your GPA, just as if you had remained on campus.
Q. Isn’t CIW primarily for Government majors?
A. Not at all. Government majors are among those for whom the benefits of CIW are most obvious, and we generally get a fair share of Government majors (and other political junkies) in the program. But the majority of students each semester come from a wide variety of other majors, and many of these students pursue interests well removed from government and politics. Invariably, CIW students are a diverse group with a wide range of interests. And the program caters to this diversity through its multi-disciplinary curriculum and vast choice of internships.
Q. Does CIW follow Cornell's academic calendar?
Yes. We follow the same start, end, and vacation schedule.
Q. What will my weekly schedule be like in Washington?
You will work at an internship 3 days a week, typically Monday through Wednesday. The core courses are taught on Thursday, Public Policy in the morning and American Experience in the afternoon. Elective courses are offered Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and Friday during the day.
Q. How does Summer in Washington, SIW, differ from Cornell in Washington?
A. SIW is a shorter (eight-week) program, offering fewer courses and a shorter list of available internships, and six or eight credits rather than twelve or sixteen. It is also open to students of all Colleges and Universities, and admission is on a first-come-first-served rather than a competitive basis. We advise Cornell students to consider first and most carefully the fall or spring CIW program.
Q. Can I apply for SIW?
A. Any person who has completed his or her freshman year, at Cornell or any other university or college is eligible to attend the SIW program. Admission is not competitive but is on a first-come-first serve basis, and the registration deadline is in mid-April of each year.
Q. Am I assigned an Internship, or do I arrange one for myself?
A. You select and arrange your own internship, but we provide a lot of help. Each semester, immediately following the admissions process, we hold a special "internship meeting" where we provide advice and materials to those just admitted. We maintain a list of more than 1,000 vetted internship positions, an extensive file of evaluations of specific positions by former students, and useful published information.
Q. How likely is it that I will find an internship that’s right for me?
A. Very likely indeed. The number of internships available in Washington is enormous and their range covers just about any conceivable interest. The admissions process occurs early enough to allow you ample time to explore the possibilities, to talk with and visit potential internship sponsors, and to make the necessary arrangements. Best of all, once you’ve applied there is very little chance you will be turned down—Washington agencies and other employers love to take on CIW students.
Q. Do I have to choose my internship from the CIW list?
A. No. The list is very long and highly varied, but if you want to work in your uncle’s law firm (and that firm is not already on our list), that should be fine. But you should make sure that any internship you have found yourself is going to provide rewarding work of the kind you are looking for, and in general that it is up to the standard we insist on from our listed sponsors.
Q. Why can’t I receive academic credit for my internship?
A. The list of internships is far larger and more varied than it would be if we required internship sponsors to grade you for college credit. In addition, we believe that it is best if only Cornell teaching personnel assign grades that go on your Cornell transcript.
Q. Can I take a paid internship?
A. Yes, though Cornell in Washington discourages taking paid internships as the pay may affect the academic value of the internship.
Life at the Center
Q. Who will be my roommate?
A. It's your choice, as long as s/he is the same gender. If you already know someone coming the same semester, all the better. If not, you'll have an opportunity to select your roommate(s) at the CIW final arrangements meeting held in December or May. You may also request someone on the housing waitlist (a Cornell student participating in the ILR Washington Program, for example).
Q. Should I bring a car?
A. We strongly advise against it. There is no street parking near the Center, and garaging a car in the District is expensive. Besides, you simply don’t need a car. We are very handy to buses and the justly admired Washington Metro, and getting in and out of Washington by plane or train is quite easy. And we’re in a great neighborhood for walking. Give up the guzzler.
Q. Where should my parents stay when they come to visit me?
A. There are many hotels located within walking distance of The Cornell Center which is located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood.
Q. I want to participate in the program two years from now. What courses will be offered then?
A. Courses are finalized the semester before being offered. Take a look at the courses offered this academic year to get an idea of the range of courses offered.
Q. How can I find out more about CIW?
A. Aside from digesting this informative website, you may attend an information meeting held in either late September or early October and again in early March. You can visit Professor Hutchens in M101 McGraw Hall (607-255-3559), or our campus office at M101 McGraw Hall (607-255-4090). You're always welcome at the Cornell Center in Washington, either in person or by phone (202-466-2184) and our general email address is email@example.com.
Explore CIW Meetings on Campus