Emergency and Opportunity Funding

Welcome to Penn’s Emergency and Opportunity Funding application. Any enrolled undergraduate, graduate, or professional student is potentially eligible for this financial assistance. Students do not need to identify as FGLI or highly aided to apply.

Graduate and Professional Students

Visit the Graduate Emergency Fund website for information about the scope of funding, process, and timeline.  

Undergraduate and Sub-matriculated Students


Scope of Funding

Undergraduate students can seek and receive support for needs including, but not limited to:

  • Laptops, academic technology, internet access
  • Tickets to travel home or to see family in an emergency
  • Medical bills (hospital, vision, dental)
  • Winter and professional attire
  • Academic course materials
  • Graduate school exam prep or application fees
  • Academic or pre-professional opportunity, such as conference participation or travel to reach an internship/job

Process

VPUL’s Student Intervention Services (SIS) leads the Emergency and Opportunity Funding process. SIS works closely with Student Financial Services, Penn First Plus, and Alumni Relations, which also contribute funds and expertise in evaluating student applications.

We strongly recommend that students speak with their assigned financial aid counselor to discuss any award that may be received. The team strives to honor requests, but some students may not be eligible for emergency grants. Students with denied requests will still receive guidance and support from the team to identify other possibilities. To learn more about other, non-grant options please review our Funding FAQ section.

Timeline

Submit a complete application, including any supporting documentation

  • Student receives an email, typically within 48 hours, inviting them to schedule a one-on-one meeting with SIS staff member
  • Student meets with SIS staff member to review the application and discuss any related issues
  • Grant team meets weekly, reviewing applications
  • Student typically notified of a decision within 48 business hours of the weekly funding meeting

Student receives an email, typically within 48 hours, inviting them to schedule a one-on-one meeting with SIS staff member

Typically within 48 hours
Based on student's schedule

Student meets with SIS staff member to review the application and discuss any related issues

Grant team meets weekly, reviewing applications

Weekly Meetings
Within 48 hours

Student typically notified of a decision within 48 business hours of the weekly funding meeting

Success Stories

Professional Clothing

“I am a recipient of the one-time grant of $200 to support the purchase of professional clothing… This summer I had the amazing opportunity to intern at the United States House of Representatives. Because of [this funding] I was able to purchase professional clothing for this position and feel confident about my presentation. I lost my job during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, I have experienced a lot of stress about the future, but this grant alleviated some of that.”

BA Student, LPS ‘21

Laptop

“Recently, my laptop broke and a repair would have cost near to 1000 dollars. Through the Penn Emergency that you are a donor for, I was able to get a replacement laptop for no charge, which I’m truly grateful for. I’m an undergraduate senior studying computer science and business at the university’s management and technology program. Technology is important to me and is engrained within my studies here at Penn.”

BSE Student, SEAS ‘20

Winter Clothing

“I received very generous grant of $300 to assist me in the purchase of winter clothes. This is a substantial gift to me and will enable me to buy warmer, proper boots for winter and a few other winter things. On a very tight family and personal budget due to my father’s unemployment, I am working to earn as much money as I can through my student job with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia… I am especially thankful for my opportunities at Penn and I intend to work very hard to achieve my long-term goal of becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner.”

BSN Student, School of Nursing ’23

Flight and Laptop

“During the depopulation of campus in March 2020 because of COVID-19, I received a flight ticket to go to my sister’s place in Canada. I also received a laptop to do my online work. The flight ticket and laptop have been really helpful. The ticket was booked for me when I couldn’t afford one myself and I was even given an extra bag. As for the laptop, it allowed me to do my work without having to worry about technical difficulties. My previous laptop was old, and I frequently got my work done at the library before the pandemic, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to even watch my lectures let alone work on assignments when I moved to my sisters’ place. It arrived really quickly, too.”

BA Student, College ’20

Technology Repair​

“My apartment was damaged by rainwater coming from a broken drainage pipe. The water soaked into the room and damaged my works and stuffs, particularly my laptop. The grant you gave me significantly makes me able to repair my laptop and recover my invaluable data, especially my dissertation. Above all, this also makes me feel that I am not alone, but a part of Penn family. I am very honored and proud to be a Penn student.”

PhD student, Weitzman School of Design ’21​

Academic Advancement​

“I am applying for the Moelis Advance Access Program in hopes of continuing my education at Penn with a Wharton MBA, which requires testing that I would not have been able to register and study for without this grant. I recognize the generosity of donors like you and I am grateful for this opportunity. I am looking forward to graduating this May and continuing your legacy of contributing to our alma mater. I hope to help Penn students and open doors for them like you have helped me.”

BA Student, College ’19

Medical Expenses​​

“As a former foster youth who aged out of care, I am a completely independent student and thus solely responsible for all my expenses. Because of this, even with the financial aid I receive from Penn, working as much as possible, and adhering to a strict monthly budget, there is little if any wiggle room financially. This in and of itself can feel very precarious and stressful, but also means that there no room for anything to go awry. After being diagnosed with a chronic illness and having to undergo a variety of procedures, I have incurred a significant amount of medical bills. Therefore, I truly cannot articulate how impactful it was to receive this grant to pay off a portion of my medical expenses. A tremendous burden has been lifted, and I cannot thank you enough for helping make this happen.”

BA Graduate College ’20, SP2 Student ’21

Emergency Funding FAQ

GENERAL

Emergency funding is meant to cover one-time, unexpected expenses such as a technology
need, clothing need, minor medical expense, emergency travel, etc. It is not intended for
ongoing expenses such as regular medical expenses, rent, utilities, or tuition.

Opportunities that qualify for this type of funding should reinforce applicants’ academic
pursuits during their present degree programs, such as training, academic conferences,
professional school entrance exams, test prep, etc.

Yes, all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students are eligible and encouraged to
apply.

Yes, international, undocumented, and DACA students are eligible and encouraged to
apply

No, you do not have to be highly aided/FGLI to be eligible.

Yes. However, we do highly recommend you contact Student Registration and Financial
Services as a first step to address your financial concerns and needs for comprehensive
support.

Grants from this award process typically range from $200 to $1000. The average amount
received is $500.

Additional grant funding awarded to you through your student account is tax reportable
if it is intended for non-qualified expenses (i.e. anything other than tuition, fees, books,
and supplies). This funding is reported on your annual 1098-T form, which you can use to
help you file your taxes each year. For specific questions about your personal tax
situation, you will need to consult with a tax professional, as Penn cannot provide
personal tax advice.

This grant may affect your financial aid package or work-study award, and we strongly
encourage you to contact your assigned financial aid counselor to discuss any award you
may receive.

Our funding comes from several sources, including alumni groups and other donor grants. We are very grateful for their support, and we ask grant recipients to write a note of thanks that we can share with our donors.

Yes, you can qualify for funding if you are married or living with a partner who earns an
income. This funding was made available to help enrolled students pursuing their
academic goals. In other words, funding will not be awarded to help your partner or family
members’ financial challenges. We do suggest that you and your partner seek alternative
sources (e.g. governmental resources) for their needs and support if that serves the
purpose for them.

This funding process was established with the intention to provide short-term and onetime relief for emergency financial circumstances. Housing funding is an ongoing expense
that requires a larger and more comprehensive solution.

While personal travel is an opportunity, funding is limited to opportunities that are directly
related to an applicant’s current degree. Personal or recreational travel likely will not fit
this category.

Each application will be reviewed fully by the committee. Sometimes, we cannot provide a
grant because of the limits on financial aid packages or the scope of what our grants can
support. Even if a student is not assisted with a grant, our team will always try to work
with a student to find resources or solutions for their particular situation if possible; this
can include loan options.

PROCESS

Student Intervention Services provides support and advocacy for students and their
communities. A staff person from Student Intervention Services will work with you
collaboratively to further provide advocacy to the review committee with your
application. In addition, the staff from Student Intervention Services might be able to
identify resources or support to assist you in additional ways.

We understand that your personal situation is sensitive, and we respect your privacy. The
questions we ask are necessary for accountability in the distribution of our limited source
of funding. We also try to understand your situation as fully as possible so we can identify
any additional resources or support that may be helpful for you.

A committee of staff members from Student Intervention Services, Penn First Plus, Student
Financial Services, and VPUL reviews each application. We try to exhaust every avenue of
support we have available to a student, whether financial or otherwise, in the outcome of a
case.

The average time from application to notification of a decision is 2 weeks. Student
Intervention Services will do the best to meet with applicants within 5 business days of
their application submission to prepare to advocate for each applicant in the committee
review. The committee reviews applications weekly. If a student’s case is particularly
complex or comes at a particularly high-volume time of year (such as the beginning of a
semester), this process might take longer.

Yes. You may contact your assigned Student Intervention Services case manager and/or
SRFS counselor as a first step for their guidance.

RESULTS

The committee assesses the reasonable amount of funding for the requested items (e.g.
laptop, winter clothing, food expenses). We must also consider applicants’ financial aid
packages to comply with federal regulations. If federal regulations prohibit us from
awarding a grant, our team will counsel applications about other options (i.e. loans,
reviewing refund use).

It is not likely that the awarded amount will be adjusted after the committee’s
decision. However, you may discuss your concerns about the amount of the award with
your assigned Student Intervention Services case manager.

Funding should be reflected on your student account and disbursed via direct deposit (if
you have signed up for direct deposit with SRFS) within several business days upon your
receipt of the award letter issued by Student Intervention Services. If you need an
expedited process for the funding distribution, you should contact Student Intervention
Services.

You do not have to write a thank you/testimonial but are encouraged to do so. Testimonials
have direct impact in helping the University secure future funding help your fellow
students who might be experiencing similar challenges. Your name and other identifiers
are not included when testimonials are shared. University administrators are required to
complete trainings on privacy and handling of your personal information. Also, University
administrators will NOT ask for your personal information, including but not limited to
Social Security number or bank account number via e-mail or over the phone. Please be
extra careful of phishing or scamming in general.

You should always consult with your assigned SRFS counselor as a first step for discussing
financial concerns. We do coordinate with other sources of emergency financial assistance,
such as funds based in the schools, to direct students’ requests to the single most
appropriate fund and maximize the number of students we can help

Campus Collaboration and History

The care and support of Penn students through Emergency and Opportunity funding is a collaboration among University support services and donors.

Student Intervention Services works closely with Student Registration and Financial Services, Penn First Plus, Alumni Relations, and other partners to review applications, refer students to resources, and make awards to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

Emergency and Opportunity grants are made possible by the generous support of multiple campus funding sources, including:

  • Penn Student Government
  • Penn First Plus
  • Student Financial Services
  • The Provost’s Office
  • The James Brister Society
  • The Association of Latino Alumni
  • The Association of Alumnae
  • The Trustees Council of Penn Women
  • UMOJA
  • Makuu: The Black Cultural Center
  • Wharton Undergraduate Executive Board

The Emergency and Opportunity grant process was formally established by a 2017 donation from the Class of 1967 to the University Life division. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn Student Government made a significant gift from unspent programming funds to assist classmates facing unprecedented academic, medical, personal, pre-professional, or technological challenges.

The University of Pennsylvania values diversity and seeks talented students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds. The University of Pennsylvania does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status or any other legally protected class status in the administration of its admissions, financial aid, educational or athletic programs, or other University-administered programs or in its employment practices.