WEP Frequently Asked Questions
*** The Work Exemption Program is currently accepting applications for fall 2015. The application deadline is September 16, 2015. Click here to apply.***
A significant increase in applications for the Work Exemption Program has been seen since the creation of WEP in spring 2009. Unfortunately, it is not possible to award all applicants with a Work Exemption Program grant and selection for the program is competitive. The Work Exemption Program committee includes administrators from both Columbia College and Columbia Engineering, as well as staff from student services, student affairs, and academic affairs offices on-campus. Decisions are made by the complete committee who look for applicants to present a compelling case for a substantive unpaid internship, research, or community service opportunity which demonstrates the synergy between their academic coursework, personal interests, and professional goals.
To be competitive for WEP, applicants must first meet all program eligibility requirements. During the selection process the WEP committee will carefully review the applicant's personal statement. To be competitive for the program students should take the time to provide the committee with a detailed, thoughtful statement about the opportunity they would like to pursue. The statement should include information about what they hope to gain personally, professionally, and/or academically from the experience. Students who are reapplying to continue an opportunity with the Work Exemption Program should make sure that their personal statement also addresses what they have learned so far from participating in this opportunity and how continued work with this organization will advance their personal, professional, and/or academic goals. Please review the instructions for preparing the personal statement provided on the application process page of the Work Exemption Program webpage.
To be competitive for the program students should also pay attention to all program requirements and application deadlines and make sure that all parts of the application and all required supporting documents are submitted by the deadline. Failure to submit all documents by application deadlines will impact an applicant's competitiveness for the program.
For more information on the application process and personal statement please visit the “How To Apply” section of the Work Exemption Program website.
If I apply for the WEP during my first semester at Columbia I will not have a GPA yet, am I still eligible to apply since there is a 3.0 minimum GPA requirement?
Students who do not yet have a Columbia GPA are still eligible to apply for the Work Exemption Program. Since a transcript is required as part of the application review process students in their first semester should upload a screenshot from SSOL displaying their class enrollment.
I did not have an opportunity secured at the time of the application deadline. Why is the deadline so early? Am I still eligible to apply?
Deadlines for the Work Exemption Program are set after carefully considering a date that will allow the greatest number of students an opportunity to take advantage of the program. The WEP committee aims to notify students of a decision on their application with enough time for them to accept an employment offer or have time to consider their employment plans if they are not selected for the program.
The WEP committee begins reviewing applicants immediately following the application deadline. Students who are selected for the program are chosen within the context of the applicant pool for that semester and additional, individual reviews for students who miss the application deadline are not offered.
I've already interviewed, but am still waiting to hear if I have an offer. Can I still apply for the Work Exemption Program? Can I get an extension?
If you will be waiting to receive a final offer of employment at the time of the application deadline please contact the WEP committee directly at email@example.com to discuss where you are in the interview process. Because the WEP committee meets to review applicants immediately following the deadline, extensions to the deadline are not offered.
I have multiple opportunities that I plan on pursuing; can I apply to be considered for each of them?
If you will be pursuing more than one unpaid internship, research, or volunteer opportunity during the semester or summer you may apply to have the Work Exemption Program grant support these multiple opportunities. You will need to submit Employment Verification Forms for each organization you will be working with and submit the online application twice providing contact information for each unique opportunity in each separate application. Your personal statement should address not only each opportunity, but also how you plan on balancing your time commitment to each organization.
Students can use the “grades” page from SSOL as an unofficial transcript as it shows all of their course enrollments and grades. To use this page as an unofficial transcript you can print a copy of the page and scan the printed page to create an electronic copy of the document. You can also take a screenshot of the page and save the information as an electronic document to upload with your application.
Who should write my letter of recommendation? I don’t have any Columbia professors that I know that well.
Your Work Exemption Program application letter of recommendation should come from an individual who can speak to your personal characteristics and academic or professional interests. This could include your leadership potential, commitment to a project, character, and/or maturity. It is not required that your recommender be a Columbia faculty member or professor. Other individuals you could request a recommendation from include a current or former supervisor at a part-time job or internship, a coach, a club advisor, or your Advising Dean.
Students who are reapplying to continue with the same opportunity in a consecutive semester do not need to submit a new letter of recommendation. If you are reapplying between the fall and spring, spring and summer, or summer and fall semesters information obtained from your supervisor during your mid-semester verification will be utilized in place of a recommendation.
You will receive an on-screen confirmation when your application is successfully submitted through the CCE website. Please make sure that pop-up blockers are deactivated to ensure that you will receive the on-screen confirmation.
How is my Work Exemption Program award provided to me? Will I receive a check? Will it be credited to my student account?
The Work Exemption Program award is a grant, not a stipend. Students who receive the award will have their semester or summer earning’s expectation in their financial aid package replaced with a Columbia grant. Once the award is made you will receive an updated financial aid award letter that will show that the earning’s expectation has been replaced with a grant.
The Work Exemption Program is covering my earning’s expectation, but what am I supposed to do about covering my living expenses while I’m pursuing this unpaid opportunity?
The Center for Career Education website has information about funding an unpaid internship opportunity including programs offered by Columbia, as well as outside organizations. For more information please visit our the How to Fund an Internship section of our website.
Institutional funding through this program is made available with the sole intention of supporting students’ living expenses (such as housing, food and travel expenses). This support enables students to participate in unpaid opportunities. Funding is not provided in lieu of compensation for work and supervisors are required to acknowledge in the Employer Verification Form that participating organizations are compliant with the US Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other applicable state and local legislation.