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The Winter Intersession Program (WISP) is designed specifically for ILR students and provides an opportunity for sophomores, juniors, seniors, and first-year MILRs to develop on-the-job experience through a short-term assignment with a project sponsor over winter break. Opportunities typically last two to three weeks.

How Does It Work?

  • WISP opportunities are typically offered in a variety of fields and organizations across the country, including corporate human resources, labor relations, labor, government, law, arbitration/third-party, nonprofits, consulting, and financial services.
  • Students must attend an information session and register to participate.
  • Participants are responsible for their own housing and transportation to and from the WISP opportunity.
    • Thus, students are encouraged to choose a WISP opportunity in or near their hometowns or where they have family/friends with whom to stay.
  • There are two types of opportunities:
    • Paid WISPs are posted on Cornell Handshake, and students apply for them as they would any internship or job. Sponsors select WISP interns through phone or video interviews. Specific instructions are sent to registered students.
    • Unpaid opportunities are posted on the ILR Office of Career Services website. Students select the opportunity through a random lottery in mid-November. Specific instructions are sent to registered students.
      • Unpaid opportunities allow students to select a project rather than go through a screening process by the sponsor. This enables a student with relatively little formal employment history to gain valuable experience and to prove his or her abilities on-the-job.
      • Sponsors who offer unpaid opportunities must ensure they meet the six federal guidelines set by the FLSA.
  • Specific opportunities vary from year to year, though many sponsors participate annually. Visit past sponsors to see a sample list of past sponsors.
    • We encourage you to review the locations and career fields from last year. Although we add sponsors each year, they are generally in the same geographic regions; if you do not see your hometown listed, please meet with a career advisor to learn about how to go about setting up an independent WISP.

STUDENT DEADLINES are typically in mid-to-late September. To participate, students must attend an information session which are typically announced through email.

EMPLOYERS: To become a sponsor, please fill out the sponsorship form.

How do I apply?

To participate in WISP, you must complete two steps:

  1. Attend the required info session, which occurs early in September.*
  2. Register and submit your résumé through the online application.

*Important deadlines will be covered at the required info session. Failure to comply with these deadlines may compromise your eligibility to participate in the program.

What is the WISP lottery, and how does it work?

The WISP lottery is the process by which most students obtain their WISP internships (some students set up an independent WISP; more information is below). The process will be explained via email to registered students. Briefly, it is a unique placement method, in that you, as a student, get to choose your sponsor, rather than the other way around. This is intended to level the playing field for all participants, regardless of previous experience, and allows everyone equal opportunity to explore various career options.

The lottery functions much like the campus housing lottery. You will be randomly assigned a lottery time. Prior to the lottery day, you should review all the available positions on the WISP website and develop a list of your top five or six WISP choices (you must meet the minimum qualifications for each, be available on the specified dates, AND have housing/transportation already secured). On the day of the lottery, you will come to the office with your list and select a WISP from the remaining opportunities. Once you have selected a WISP in the lottery, you are obligated to complete that internship.

Lottery times are non-transferable and non-changeable. If you absolutely cannot be present, you may authorize someone (including the WISP coordinator) to act on your behalf (please do not leave class or an exam to participate). To designate someone else, you must contact the WISP coordinator prior to the lottery day.

How can I get a paid WISP?

A limited number of paid WISPs are available each year. For these, the sponsor has the option to select a particular student to fill the position through a résumé collection and often, an interview. All paid WISP opportunities will be posted on the WISP website and on Handshake. You will receive an email with instructions for applying for paid WISPs on Handshake in mid-October. It is your responsibility to check the page periodically and keep abreast of all available paid opportunities. Students will be notified if they have been selected for any of the paid WISPs prior to the WISP lottery in order that those students not selected may still choose an unpaid position. Sponsors who offer unpaid opportunities must ensure they meet the six federal guidelines set by the FLSA.

There are no WISPs posted for my geographic area. Can I still participate?

Absolutely. Although we are always trying to expand our geographic base of available WISPs, there are students who come from areas where internships are traditionally scarce. In these cases, it is possible to work with a career advisor in OCS to arrange an independent WISP opportunity. This will require extra work on your part, but is well worth the effort. If you are interested in pursuing this option, it is very important that you meet with a career advisor as soon as possible to get started. The earlier you begin your search, the better your chances of securing a WISP in your preferred geographic area and career field.

Are the dates for WISP flexible?

In many cases, yes. The WISP posting for each opportunity specifies the dates and whether or not they are flexible. Please play close attention to this. If the sponsor says they are not flexible, then you must not select that opportunity unless you are available for the entire listed time period—all day, every day. The standard WISP period runs from just after the fall semester is over until just before the spring semester begins, though not every opportunity begins in December. Please read the postings carefully.

What if my plans change?

We expect all students to honor their WISP commitments. It is expected that you will determine your availability prior to being selected for a paid WISP or choosing a WISP on lottery day. Be sure you talk with your family about the program to ensure you will have transportation available to you and to make sure they have not made other plans for you over winter break. In addition, if you are participating in fraternity or sorority recruitment, please check those dates and select opportunities that fit with your available time. If an unforeseeable circumstance impacts your participation, please notify your sponsor and our office immediately.