SISE Applicants

Should I apply to SISE?

If you’re interested in energy, sustainable energy, and/or sustainability and can get away for about two weeks in August… then yes, you should apply.

Who's eligible?

An applicant must match one of the following three criteria:

1) be enrolled in an energy or sustainability-related program at an academic institute as a (a) senior-undergraduate, (b) graduate student, (c) in a professional or certificate program;

2) be a recent graduate of an academic program, no more than 6 months removed; or

3) be employed in an energy or sustainability-related field, including but not limited to: the sciences, business, architecture, urban planning, economics, politics, law, etc.

An applicant must reside in the United States at the time of the program.
SISE applicants must be living, studying, or working in the United States. Foreign nationals meeting this criteria are eligible.

Who typically applies?

SISE believes that a diverse pool of participants is extremely important.

Aside from meeting the basic qualifications for entry, there is not a standard profile for participants. Having a group with diverse backgrounds and experiences enriches the SISE program. Some participants have little to no internship or research experience. Others have many years of professional experience and multiple advanced degrees.

During the vetting process, SISE looks for evidence of certain character traits that are crucial for a successful learning environment. Preferred candidates are collaborative, self-motivated, intellectually curious, open to exploring new ideas, have a positive attitude, and a strong work ethic. While experience and accomplishments are valuable and can confirm the possession of these qualities, a resume full of achievements is not required for admissions into the program.

What are your expectations?

If you are thinking of applying to the program, please consider the following.

You'll have a very demanding schedule. Very.

SISE is sometimes referred to as a “boot camp.” Participants should expect a full schedule:

  • lectures from 9AM to 5PM everyday
  • evening activities
  • "free time" spent in collaborative research groups
  • late nights and early morning work to meet deadlines
For two weeks, you will be immersed in a very intense environment. If you are accepted into the program and do attend, be prepared to work hard and spend most of your waking (and sleeping) hours involved in SISE activities. (We promise, you'll have fun, too!)

Be committed to the two weeks. Every day.

Applicants are expected to attend all activities. SISE has strict attendance policies and reserves the right to dismiss participants that miss days or who are continually late to activities. Participants who are expelled from the program may lose financial support.
  • Applicants who plan to miss more than a full day should not apply to the program.
  • Participants may be excused for activities (e.g. work, school, religious observance, etc.), not to exceed one day, provided they are made clear at the time of application. SISE reserves the right to rescind admissions offers at any time if absences are unreasonable or excessive.
  • Absences from some events are not permitted. Check with SISE ahead of time.
  • Except in extreme instances, participants who are ill, tired, or sleep-deprived :) are still expected to attend all events. Participants who fall gravely ill, or experience a personal emergency, will be excused.
If you are accepted into the program and do attend, understand that it is expected that you commit yourself to attend all of the program.

You need to step outside your comfort zone. Get outside the box.

The program is not focused on one specific subject, field, or idea. SISE participants are always surprised by the quality, quantity, and diversity of knowledge they are exposed to during the program. (And sometimes overwhelmed!) Participants are challenged to engage with content in unfamiliar professional fields, and work on projects outside their primary field of expertise.

If you are accepted into the program, you need to be open to intellectual and experiential growth in unfamiliar ways.

Application Process

How do I apply?

Online Application
Be ready with the following information:

1. LinkedIn Profile: Required. Must be viewable to the public.

2. Skype or Google Hangouts Username: At least one is required.

3. Program Conflict Information: An explanation is required if applicable.

4. Essay: Required. The essay prompt is: Tell us why you want to attend SISE. The essay has a 2,000 character character limit, including spaces. Your answer will help us gauge reading comprehension; conciseness; level of knowledge of the SISE program; whether the program and participant expectations align; and English competency (grammar, spelling, capitalization, coherence).

5. Entrepreneurs: Optional. Documentation of your business, if you'd like to share.

Documents to Upload

1. Resume or CV: Required. Upload through the application as a .pdf

2. Letter of Reference: Required; Your letter should come from an authority that knows you well and can speak to your career credentials and/or personal attributes (e.g. a university professor, research supervisor, work supervisor). It must be on official letterhead, signed, and have contact information for the letter writer. The letter should be recent, written specifically for the SISE application. Letter writers will be contacted to verify authenticity. Letters can be uploaded at a later time using a separate form.


You will be interviewed by SISE Program Coordinator, Thomas Aláan. The interview will last approximately 30 minutes. Three specific prompts will be given (below). Followup questions will be prompted by your response so that the interview becomes a conversation.

The three prompts will include:

1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Tell me what you know about SISE.
3. Tell me why you want to come to SISE.

How does admissions work?


SISE accepts applications between February 1 and June 15. All materials must be submitted electronically to SISE by no later than 5:01 PM CST (Central Standard Time) on June 15. Materials received with a time stamp of 5:02 PM CST (Central Standard Time) on June 15 will not be considered. Materials received through post will not be considered. Because of the volume of applications SISE receive, only completed applications will be reviewed.

Admissions Cycle

Completed applications will be reviewed three times: late March, early May, and mid June.

Admissions Decision

All applicants will be notified whether thy were accepted into the program, declined admission, or placed on a wait list. Applications placed on a wait list will be revisited in subsequent reviews. All applicants will receive a final decision in early July.

Applicant Pool

SISE works to diversify and balance the participant pool through 1) academic background, 2) academic affiliation, and 3) academic level. The academic and/or professional profile of participants and how that relates to the theme of the program each year is also considered.

Cost of Attending

What about financial aid to attend?

SISE participants come from all across the United States to stay in Chicago for two weeks. This can be an insurmountable cost for many outside Chicago. To make it possible for participants to join SISE for the duration of the program, scholarships are offered aid to many participants. Applicants should anticipate receiving assistance in some, if not all, of the following areas:

Proram Fee
There is no program fee. All participants attend free of charge.

The most expensive part of coming to SISE is lodging for two weeks. Because of this, SISE provides on campus housing to all participants free of charge. Lodging is on campus in dorms, either on the east or west side of campus. Most participants will share a room with another SISE participant. We strongly encourage SISE participants, even those that live in Chicago, to stay on campus for the duration of the program. Those that stay are more socially involved, and research groups are able to collaborate more effectively.

Transportation scholarships are awarded based on need. The major factors in determining recipients of these scholarships are distance from Chicago, availability of transportation, and the presumed cost of travel to and from Chicago. As a general rule, the closer to Chicago the participant is the less aid he or she will receive. Participants will be notified in their admissions letter if they are to receive a transportation scholarship.

Participants should review our transportation funding map for eligibility. Participants are responsible for securing their own transportation. SISE will reimburse participants a percentage of their final total cost. Reimbursement is contingent on successfully completing the program and will be awarded in the weeks after the program has concluded. Participants who have questions, concerns, or who need suggestions for transportation may contact the SISE Program Coordinator.

What should I expect to pay?

Great news! Attending the program itself is free. There are no program fees, and SISE covers your loding. While not an exhaustive list, SISE participants should plan to pay for the following.

Transportation to/from Chicago
Many participants are granted a partial travel reimbursement for attending SISE after successfully completing the program. Participants not granted a reimbursement should expect to fully pay their own way to and from Chicago.

Transportation in/around Chicago
Except for designated SISE events where transportation is specifically provided by the program, participants should expect to pay for their own transportation around the city. This includes public transit, Divvy bikes, taxis, Uber, or othere modes of transportation, as well as any form of parking, gas, mileage, or other expenses incurred by the use of personal vehicles.

Except for designated SISE events where food is provided by the program, participants should expect to pay for all their meals. This includes breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks during weekdays and weekends.

Site Seeing and Souvenirs
Except for program site visits, participants should expect to pay for any additional trips to local points of interest or to purchase gifts or momentos.

Other questions

What's with all the cat references?

What, you don't like cats? Who doesn't like cats?

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