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Cornell University

Design Your Own (DYO) Internship Program

The Design Your Own (DYO) Internship Program is an opportunity for students to earn Federal Work Study funds through an off-campus or remote summer internship. Both students and employers must meet certain qualifications to participate—as long as both parties are eligible, Federal Work Study will subsidize a portion of the student’s wages.

Students: This is a great way to earn money and gain relevant work experience over the summer.
Employers: This is a great opportunity for you to work with a qualified, ambitious student at a significantly reduced cost. You only pay about 25% of their total wages, and have until late August/early September to gather the funds.

DYO funds are now available for Summer 2021! We appreciate your patience as we work with a new process this year. If you are an employer interested in hosting an intern, or a student looking to work with a particular employer, please review the information below to check your eligibility. For any remaining questions, you can reach out to the DYO Program Coordinator, Mia Ferraina at


Student Eligibility

  • Basic requirements:
    • Must be eligible for Federal Work Study (FWS), part of your financial aid package.
    • You were registered full time for spring 2021.
    • You intend to register full time for fall 2021.
    • You have submitted a FAFSA application for the next academic year demonstrating federal financial need.
    • You cannot register for six or more credit hours of summer classes. 
  • Must complete the Summer FWS Application through the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment. Visit Summer Session Financial Aid for more information.
    • Generally, if you are eligible during the academic year, you are typically also eligible for the summer. However, you still must complete the Summer FWS Application to verify whether you meet all necessary summer criteria.
    • For questions about FWS eligibility, please contact the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment at +1 (607) 255-5145 or

Employer/Organization Eligibility

Employer must be a US federal, state, or municipal government agency or 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as certified by the IRS. They must also be located outside of Tompkins County. (Non-profit employers within Tompkins County should apply for the Community Work-Study Program, managed by the Public Service Center.)

For-profit employers are NOT eligible for the Summer 2021 DYO program.

Funding is approved for the specific student, and may not be transferred to a different individual. A separate application is required for each student, regardless of previous participation in the program or hiring multiple interns. This requirement also applies to Weill Cornell.

    Due to Federal and/or Cornell regulations, jobs/employers with the following characteristics are NOT permitted:

    • Organizations with direct religious or partisan political affiliation.
    • Lobbying organization (or lobbying function within an organization).
    • Employing organization that restricts its membership.
    • U.S. Department of Education or U.S. Department of Justice.
    • Employing organization that is student-led or run by a student or recent graduate (supervisor must be a seasoned professional).
    • Employing organization is owned by student's family.

    Position Eligibility

    • Internship must be connected to the student's future career goals or current academic studies. The student will be asked to demonstrate this in writing.
    • Employment must be for at least 30 hours per week.
    • Position must last at least 8 weeks, preferably 10+ weeks.
    • For Summer 2021, most internships are required to be virtual, due to COVID safety precautions. Some employers, like health clinics, who have already established and been following rigorous safety protocols MAY be eligible to host an in-person intern.
    • Virtual internships must include regular supervision via phone or video conference.
      • Supervision method is at the discretion of the employer, but must be documented clearly. Some examples you might consider discussing: Google Drive, Microsoft Teams, weekly meetings, daily morning round-ups, Slack or other project management platforms.
      • Any remote working positions must have a completed Remote Work Arrangement form.
    • Internships must be considered a community service (based on the definition below). Cornell University carefully reviews all applications and internship descriptions to determine eligibility. Community services are defined as those services that are designed to improve the quality of life for community residents, particularly low-income individuals, or to solve particular problems related to their needs. Cornell may use formal or informal consultation with local nonprofit, governmental, and community-based organizations to help determine what services fall into this category. These services include:
      • Fields such as health care, child care, literacy training, education (including tutorial services), welfare, social services, transportation, housing and neighborhood improvement, public safety, crime prevention and control, recreation, rural development, and community improvement.

      • Work in youth corps service opportunities or as defined in Section 101 of the National and Community Service Act of 1990, and service in the agencies, institutions, and activities designated in Section 124(a) of that act.

      • Support services for people with disabilities (including students with disabilities who are enrolled at the university).

      • Mentorship roles, including: tutoring, supporting educational and recreational activities, and counseling, including career counseling.

    In order to determine an organization's eligibility, the employer must submit:

    1. Letter of Intent
    2. Job Description Form

    In collaboration with the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment, we will review these forms to verify eligibility. You will be notified of the decision via email. After approval, you would be expected to submit the following to complete your commitment:

    1. Federal Work Study Agreement (contract)
    2. Certificate of Insurance
    3. Articles of Incorporation
    4. Federal Tax Exempt Letter

    How Do Students and Employers Connect?

    1. Student seeks an employer who can provide the experience they desire.
      This is the original purpose of the DYO Program—allowing students to work with an employer to create the unique internship they want. If you would like assistance designing an internship, book an appointment with Mia Ferraina, the career advisor who coordinates the program. You can discuss how to: find potential employers, demonstrate your value as an intern, create a position description, etc. Book online (find "Follow-Up Appointment" and select Mia's name) or by calling the office at +1 (607) 255-5296.

    2. Employer posts an internship position to seek a student.
      DYO is not a matching program—there is not a list of students for employers to search for an intern. Employers can, however proactively seek a student if you would like to hire an intern from Cornell. You would start the process by ensuring your organization and position qualify, then we will post the position for you on our Student Employment portal once approved.
    3. Networking leads to an organic partnership.
      Often times, employers and students connect through networking and organically agree to work together. In these cases, applications to DYO take place after the two parties connect. An official job description must be created and agreed upon by both parties, and all paperwork must still be submitted by both parties in order to determine the eligibility of the student, employer, and position for DYO funding.

    Financial Eligibility

    Student Wage and Rates

    Student's total summer FWS award amount is typically $4,000 - $5,000, so that is the approximate maximum amount earned through the DYO Program. We encourage students to sign up for direct deposit to ensure timely delivery of paychecks, otherwise they will be mailed to their local address on file in Student Essentials

    Students—When considering DYO opportunities, remember to plan for your summer earnings component of your financial-aid package. Federal guidelines require that Federal Work Study earnings during a period of nonattendance be contributed to expenses associ­ated with the cost of attendance for the next period of enrollment. Undergraduate students who earn FWS during a summer period of nonattendance, must bring back 50% of their gross earnings to put toward their educational expenses for the next award year. Essentially, this means that you are expected to use 50% of your summer earnings towards your expenses for the fall semester.

    Guidelines for Establishing Wage Rates

    Employers—In accordance with Federal Work Study Guidelines, the following must be considered and taken into effect when establishing wage rates:

    • The skills needed to perform the job;

    • How much persons with those skills are paid in the local area for doing the same type of job;
    • Rates the school would normally pay similar non-FWS employees;
    • Any applicable federal, state, or local laws that require a specific wage rate.
    • It is not acceptable to base the wage rate on the student's need or any other factor not related to the student's skills or job description.
    • Begin by downloading the Federal Work Study (FWS) FWS Job Description form. Review the instructions and complete the form in full. Return the FWS Job Description form to the Hiring Coordinator via e-mail.

    Employer's Financial Responsibility

    As a participant of the DYO program, an employer should understand the following important requirements:

    • The organization's employee who is supervising the intern will be given access to Cornell's time tracking system, Workday. Students will track their hours in Workday, and the supervisor MUST approve the hours bi-weekly.

    • Throughout the internship, FWS funds pay 75% of the wages, and Cornell Career Services fronts the other 25% throughout the summer to make it easier for organizations to afford having an intern. At the conclusion of the internship, the employer will be billed for that 25% of the student's wages.

    • Employers will be responsible for 100% of the wages if any of the following occur:
      • Student works prior to being appointed or receiving their start-date email notification.
      • Student works any hours outside of the Summer Earnings Period.
        • For Summer 2021, the Summer Earnings Period is Wednesday, May 26-Wednesday, August 25.
      • Student earns wages in excess of their FWS award amount or loses eligibility.
      • Workday time is submitted after the academic-year or summer employment-term for which they were hired has ended and they can no longer be paid with their FWS award.
      • It is the responsibility of both the student and the employer to avoid the aforementioned situations.

    Hiring Timeline

    We review positions and make approvals on a rolling basis, typically beginning in mid-late March. It is strongly encouraged that employers prepare documentation in advance so you can apply as soon as the new term opens—funding is limited for Summer 2021. Funding approval will not be granted to any arrangement without all necessary paperwork from both student and employer. No new positions are accepted after June 16.

    Ready to find an intern? Next Steps:

    • Employer should complete Letter of Intent and Job Description Form
    • Employer should items listed in the Hiring Checklist for Off-Campus Supervisors so you know how you'll go about interviewing and hiring. If you found a student through networking, you are not required to post the job/open it to other applicants and can skip some of these steps.
    • E-mail the Hiring Coordinator, Nicole MacPherson, the student’s name and Cornell net ID, so we can check the student’s FWS eligibility.
    • Once you've decided which student(s) to hire, direct them to sign up for the program training—More info coming soon.
    • You will receive a "Hiring Addendum" via e-mail to be signed by your Fiscal Officer.
    • The student employee and supervisor will each receive an email confirming the student’s appointment to the payroll and their start date.