SURF Awards: Preparing a Successful Application

SURF Application Questions
Successful Proposal Writing
Preparing a Budget
Preparing a Timeline
Letters of Recommendation
International Travel

SURF Application Questions

The PDF below outlines information that will be collected in the online SURF application and what you should include in your PDF proposal document, timeline, and budget.

Information that will be collected in the online application: 2024 SURF Application Outline

Academic Integrity

Please be aware that the final question on the application will ask you to certify that you have prepared your application materials in accordance with University standards for academic integrity. Learn more about academic integrity.

Successful Proposal Writing

The strongest SURF applications show a thorough understanding of a research or creative project. Plan to spend some time working through your proposal both on your own and in collaboration with your faculty advisor. Starting early and planning ahead will make the process a lot less stressful!

Successful SURF proposals:

  • Describe the project in a way that is clear, concise, and free of grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Follow application instructions carefully, and provide documentation of appropriate research compliance approvals (IRB, IACUC, IBC, SCRO), if needed for the project.
  • Demonstrate the student’s knowledge of the subject and the research or creative work to be conducted.
  • Outline a clear timeline for research or creative activities to be completed.
  • Show how the budget requested will be spent and used in as much detail as possible.
  • Explain in the student’s own words both the connection between the student’s project and the supervising faculty member’s area of expertise, and the aspects of the project where the student will operate with most independence or take most responsibility.
  • Indicate, via the faculty advisor’s letter of recommendation, how a student will be mentored during the project.

The review committee uses the Rubric for SURF Applications to assess proposed projects. Applicants are encouraged to review the rubric as they draft and revise their application materials to ensure that they meet the criteria associated with strong proposals.

The Proposal Document

The uploaded proposal PDF should include the project proposal and references. Please name this file LastName-FirstName-Proposal.pdf.

Project Proposal – This section must be double-spaced in 12 pt. Times New Roman font with 1-inch margins and numbered pages. This part of the proposal can include any necessary graphs, charts, pictures, etc. which will help reviewers better understand your project; make sure to cite all figures appropriately. The project proposal must not exceed 8 pages. You do not need a title page; include your name in the header or on the first page of the proposal document. Please address the following questions in the proposal:

  • What is the basic idea, problem, or question your project will examine?
  • What is the purpose of this research or creative project? What is its significance or importance to the broader field? How does it build on or relate to other research or creative work?
  • What is the research/project design? What procedures and methods will you use? Describe the steps you will take to conduct the project, demonstrating that the project is feasible within the time frame.
    • For projects in hypothesis-driven fields, what hypothesis (or hypotheses) will you test?
    • For projects involving the collection of data, provide details about your data collection strategy and the types of data you will collect.
    • For projects involving the analysis of data, provide details about your planned analytic procedures and show how your analysis will answer your research question(s).
  • Describe where your work will be performed and the materials you will need to use.
  • What will the outcome of this work be? What do you expect to learn and accomplish? Describe anticipated products and any planned dissemination of your work (e.g., performance, poster presentation, thesis, journal manuscript, exhibition).

References – List appropriate scholarly references cited in your proposal to demonstrate your understanding of the field. References should be formatted in the style appropriate to your discipline; this section may be single-spaced. If you refer to a grant proposal made by your mentor, please cite the grant proposal as one of your sources. References do not count in the 8-page project proposal length limit.


Preparing a Budget

You must submit a detailed budget for your project with information about your request for both the SURF stipend (up to $4,000 to be used as a stipend for living expenses and/or for travel expenses) and the SURF research supply award (up to $500). If you do not anticipate research supply expenses with your project, you do not need to request funds for the SURF research supply portion of the SURF award. You may single-space this document, which is not included in the 8-page proposal limit. Please name this file LastName-FirstName-Budget.pdf.

Make sure to review the SURF Budget Tips and Samples page for further information on constructing your budget request, to see examples of different project budgets, and to ensure that your budget conforms to SURF funding guidelines.

Preparing a Timeline

As part of your application, you must provide a timeline of your project, including start and end dates, anticipated number of project work hours each week, total number of project hours, and a week-by-week listing of planned project milestones. All weeks of summer research must be completed between May 6 and August 23, 2024. For projects extending beyond the summer, you may list key project activities/milestones that will precede or follow the SURF project period so as to provide context for the summer activities and demonstrate their feasibility. Account for your planned enrollment in summer coursework, participation in study abroad programs, and/or any other substantial commitments in your timeline. Note: Unless the development of a synthesis of the literature is a major component of your proposed summer project, timeline weeks should not be allocated solely to literature review. You may single-space this document, which is not included in the 8-page proposal limit. Please name this file LastName-FirstName-Timeline.pdf.

One timeline preparation method that works well for many people is to work backwards. Start by considering the outcomes you envision for the project and then outline the major steps you will need to take to achieve those outcomes. From there, break each step down further into smaller tasks, and evaluate how much time it will take you to accomplish each task. Think about what you will have achieved or produced through each of those steps and tasks in order to identify project milestones. We recommend that you include communication with your faculty advisor as part of your timeline – for example, you might schedule meetings for discussion and feedback following particular milestones.

Consult the Sample SURF Timelines for examples of how to break down a project into weekly activities and milestones.

Letters of Recommendation

Your application must include two letters of recommendation from faculty members. It is your responsibility to contact these individuals, discuss the final SURF proposal, and secure their willingness to complete and submit letters of recommendation directly to the Office of Undergraduate Research by the deadline. The Information Sheet for Faculty Recommenders lists the topics each recommender should address and outlines the procedure for submitting letters.

Your first letter of recommendation must be from the faculty member who will serve as your research advisor and will supervise the summer work. Please ask him/her to address all of the following in the letter:

  • His/her knowledge of and familiarity with your research project.
  • His/her role in the research project – Is this a project that you created and for which the faculty member is serving as an advisor? Or is this project a component of a larger project that is part of the faculty advisor’s ongoing research/creative activity? In the latter case, the committee seeks evidence that you have contributed to the design and development of the SURF project.
  • His/her estimation of your academic and personal traits which would contribute to a successful SURF experience.
  • His/her assessment of your chances for success and why your project proposal would be important to your field and to your development as a scholar.
  • His/her plan for supervision and mentorship, including his/her ability and availability to commit to advising you throughout the project. If you and your advisor will be working in different locations over the summer, your advisor should also outline a plan for communicating with you and supervising you from a distance.

Your second letter of recommendation must be from another faculty member. This person should know you well enough to address the following in his/her letter:

  • Your academic qualifications for this award;
  • The quality of your proposal and contributions your project might make to the field;
  • Your personal characteristics that would contribute to a successful SURF experience; and
  • The impact of this award on your development as a scholar.

Note: In most cases, both letters will be written by UConn faculty. The exception is a case in which you are proposing to conduct research at another institution under the supervision of someone who is not a UConn faculty member. These occasional exceptions to the normal rule will only be approved if (1) the faculty member elsewhere has a close research relationship with UConn (e.g., a shared grant or a cross-institutional affiliation) AND (2) the project will have a secondary supervisor who is a UConn faculty member and that individual provides the second letter of recommendation.

Our information sheet on asking for a letter of recommendation addresses common questions and provides advice on how to approach faculty and other professionals. In addition, our Information Sheet for Faculty Recommenders gives you the information you will need to provide your recommenders after they agree to write a letter on your behalf.

Deadline for Submission

Students will request letters via the online application system ( Faculty recommenders should follow the link emailed to them in order to upload their letter of recommendation. Letters should be submitted online no later than Monday, January 29, 2024. Please note that project advisors will also be asked a series of questions about the status of research compliance approvals when they submit their letters of recommendation.

Prior to the application deadline, students are encouraged to check in the online application system to confirm that both letters of recommendation have been received.

Any questions or concerns about recommendations should be emailed to our@uconn.educhevron-up-thick

International Travel

Students interested in traveling outside the United States as part of their projects must demonstrate that they have made adequate preparations for the logistics and challenges of research and creative work abroad. The review committee will look for evidence that applicants have researched these matters as part of their assessment of the viability of the project.

If you are proposing international travel as part of your SURF project, you will be required to complete an additional series of questions concerning your preparation to complete research or creative work abroad. The International Travel Questions are available on page 6 of the SURF Application Outline.

If your proposal is selected for funding, you will be required to register with UConn’s Office of Experiential Global Learning (EGL) in accordance with the UConn Student International Travel Policy. Students will be enrolled and covered by Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) Health Insurance for the duration of their trips upon their completion of the Global Affairs undergraduate student travel registration form. Learn more about health insurance costs and the Global Affairs registration procedure.

Travel Restrictions

The most updated travel guidance is available at International, university-sponsored travel by students to destinations with a Level 3 or 4 U.S. Department of State travel advisory requires an approved waiver from Global Affairs. Information on international travel and access to the travel waiver application is available here. OUR will not fund a student to travel internationally unless the student has secured all necessary travel registrations, waivers, and approvals.

Please contact the Office of Undergraduate Research with additional questions or concerns related to funding for international travel.