I had an amazing time at my REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) last summer. I would really love to do another one this year.

Problem is, I am about to graduate, so I will technically not be an undergraduate this summer. I do intend to continue my education in graduate school in the Fall, and have been admitted somewhere.

I've been told that I should just kick back and relax this summer so that I'm fully unwound for grad school, but I don't have any money to travel, all my friends will have left for their grad school already, and there's really nothing that would stress me out more than sitting around and doing nothing for three months. I love to travel, make new friends, and learn cool stuff, so I think doing another REU would actually be the perfect way for me to unwind.

At my last REU, we had a student who had graduated that year and was about to go into a Master's program. It was rumored that she had omitted/lied about this on her application and the admissions people just didn't look into it carefully. I don't know if this is true, though. It seems possible that the program staff simply felt her application was strong enough to warrant making an exception - after all, she wasn't going to grad school yet.

Is it possible to be admitted to a mathematics REU the summer between undergrad and graduate school?

If not, would offering to go without pay (for only room and board) make any difference? What about REUs in physics, or compsci, or other sciences which might want somebody with a math background?

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    Why not write to the REUs you would like to apply to and ask them? (It's best to check their web sites first - for example, d.umn.edu/~jgallian/inst.html says Duluth will not admit students in your position.) I suspect most will not, but policies might differ between sites, so looking into each case individually is the only way to know for sure. Mar 11, 2013 at 5:13
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    Incidentally, I think this is largely a funding issue. The NSF funds REUs partly to help students decide whether to go to grad school, and from that perspective there's no point to admitting a student who is already going to grad school. I don't know whether NSF forbids admitting such students, or just discourages it, but even if they forbid it some REUs may also have alternative sources of funding. Mar 11, 2013 at 5:15
  • (Actually, on second reading the Duluth link I gave above does not say you cannot be admitted, just that you cannot receive a stipend. It's hard to know how carefully it is meant to be read, but it suggests that perhaps the "go without pay" option might help there.) Mar 11, 2013 at 5:17
  • I think I've seen (but am too lazy to find) REUs (probably physics) that would accept people at your stage, sans the 'already accepted' part. As others have noted, that kind of runs counter to the point of REUs. I agree with the other ideas posted - offer to go without pay, or look for other gap programs (research or otherwise). If you like travel but have no money, you might look into volunteer programs (possibly having nothing to do with your field of study).
    – hunter2
    Jul 2, 2013 at 9:30

5 Answers 5


I quote from the NSF REU guideline (emphasis mine):

Eligible Student Participants: Undergraduate student participants supported with NSF funds in either REU Supplements or REU Sites must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents of the United States. An undergraduate student is a student who is enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time) leading to a baccalaureate or associate degree. Students who are transferring from one college or university to another and are enrolled at neither institution during the intervening summer may participate. High school graduates who have been accepted at an undergraduate institution but who have not yet started their undergraduate study are also eligible to participate. Students who have received their bachelor's degrees and are no longer enrolled as undergraduates are generally not eligible to participate. For REU Sites, a significant fraction of the student participants should come from outside the host institution or organization. Some NSF directorates encourage inclusion in the REU program of K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Please contact the appropriate disciplinary program officer for guidance. Within the framework of the basic eligibility guidelines outlined here, most REU Sites and Supplements further define recruitment and selection criteria, based on the nature of the particular research and other factors.

So this means that (a) your host will not be able to receive funding for you from the NSF if s/he accepts you into the program (b) on the other hand if you and/or the PI of the grant is able to secure funding otherwise, there's generally no rule saying that a student in your position cannot be involved in research in some way.

You will need to individually contact the REUs you are interested to find out whether they'd be willing to grant you the leeway.


There do exist programs for this period of time (between undergraduate and graduate programs). The ones that comes to mind are EDGE (which you can see on their webpage is limited to women) and the PCMI summer school. I believe there are others, as Henry points out one should google 'summer school' instead of 'REU' to get at them.


REUs are almost all a specific NSF program which, as Willie points out, generally doesn't allow students in your situation.

However the programs called "summer schools" (not to be confused with credit bearing courses offered by universities in the summer) often do allow graduate students (and some have graduate students as their main target).


You could consider doing an internship (for statistics openings, see http://www.amstat.org/education/internships.cfm), although doing this mid-March is jumping on a train that had left the station, judging by the deadlines. You also need to have something more applied in your resume than pure math to be of interest to industry folks, too.


Not all REUs allow graduating undergraduates, but some do. I know for a fact that the RIPS programs (both the ones in UCLA and Hong Kong) do. I personally did the REU in Hong Kong after my senior year and it was an amazing experience.

Note that this is an exception since the REU funding isn't directly REU funding but through the math institute IPAM, so maybe there are similar practices at other math institutes such as the REU in Minnesota run by IMA, though I am not certain because I do not have personal experience with the others.

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