Spend a semester

Living In D.C

The Penn in Washington Semester in DC Program is a fantastic opportunity for students with an interest in public policy to live, learn, and intern in the nation’s center of politics. A small group of students live in the heart of Washington, D.C while interning full-time for some of DC’s most prestigious institutions, taking three classes (4 Penn credits), engaging in policy research, and meeting with Penn alumni working in Washington.

Why Apply? 

Once in a lifetime opportunity to take courses taught by Washington insiders, intern at the most interesting DC institutions, and meet other like-minded students. 


Prestigious Internships

Far fewer students look for DC internships during the academic year than during the summer, so your odds of getting your top choice are substantially greater. Throughout the application process, you will receive help from Penn in Washington’s Program Director and our vast alumni network in D.C.

High-Quality Courses

Our professors are policy experts who are well known in Washington and beyond. The courses are designed to accommodate full-time internship schedules. All courses are Penn courses, which means that you won’t need to navigate the credit-transfer process.


An intensive orientation to Washington and regular guest speakers throughout the semester provide multiple opportunities to meet political leaders and policymakers. Orientation typically includes meetings with senior alumni at top think tanks, law firms, and more as well as tours of the Supreme Court, Congress, State Department, and the White House.



A semester in D.C. costs less than being on campus! Tuition is at the regular Penn rate, and housing charges are less than comparable on-campus accommodations in Philadelphia. Additionally, students do not have to pay Penn’s general fee during their D.C. semester. Participants pay tuition, housing costs, and Penn’s technology fee. Students remain eligible for financial aid during their semester in D.C.

Paid Internships

Increasingly, internship sponsors are paying their interns, including Hill internships, an average of $14/hour. Stipends are available from PIW for unpaid internships. Participants are strongly encouraged to contact their financial aid advisor to inform them of participation in the program.


While students can choose the housing option that works best for them, two providers are required. For women, there is the option of living in Thompson Markward Hall, which is a wonderful old building located by the Senate that offers singles and includes breakfast and dinner affordably. A more independent option is Elite Intern Housing, which offers townhomes near the Capitol.

How do I apply?

This year, the Fall 2024 Early Decision Application is February 4, 2024 11:59 pm
and is rolling until the Spring 2025 Application deadline on March 29, 2024 11:59pm. The application to the program is very straightforward, and you will be notified regarding acceptance before the end of advanced registration. The next step after program acceptance is to begin the process of finding your internship. While this is ultimately your responsibility, the program provides considerable guidance and resources to assist you throughout the process. Once you complete the form you’ll receive an email with a link to a PennBox which includes a variety of useful resources for the internship search and to prepare for the semester.
If you have questions about participating in the PIW Semester in DC, reach out to Ravi Arya C’24 W’24 (piw-program@sas.upenn.edu, appointments).
Please contact Ravi and review these materials before making an appointment to meet with the program director.

Penn In Washington FAQs

What is Penn in Washington (PIW)?
  • A small cohort of students spend either the fall or spring semester taking classes and interning in Washington, D.C
  • Classes on various aspects of the public policy world, taught by incredible Washington insiders who invite remarkable guest speakers.
  • Internships at prestigious Washington institutions 
  • The chance to meet alumni working all over D.C.
What Are The Logistics?


The deadline to apply for the program is March 15th for the following academic year. 

Please note that both the fall and spring programs have the same deadline.

Students will be notified of their acceptance to the program by the beginning of advanced registration for fall courses.

Course Credit

Three classes (worth four credits) 

Penn political science credits, but all majors can participate in the program; psci majors are typically less than half a cohort.


A semester in D.C. costs less than being on campus! Tuition is at the regular Penn rate, and housing charges are less than comparable on-campus accommodations in Philadelphia. Also, no general fee.

Students remain eligible for financial aid during their semester in D.C.

How Do I Find An Internship?

Once you complete your application for the program, you will receive a link to the Penn in Washington semester PennBox, with all the information you will need on next steps, including lots of guidance on finding the right internship.

You will meet individually with Deirdre Martinez, director of Penn in Washington, to develop a strategy for your internship application process.

The exact timing of the internship search varies depending on the semester and also on where you are applying.

The vast majority of internships don’t make their application available until around six weeks before the semester begins.

The exception to this are the internship sponsors that require security clearance.

For example, the deadline for the State Department is often February for fall semester and May for spring semester.

What Are Examples Of Past Internships?
  • ABC News
  • Alliance for Health Reform
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Better World Campaign
  • Bipartisan Policy Center
  • Brookings Institution
  • Cassidy and Associates, Defense Team
  • Center for American Progress
  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Department of Education,
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Secretary
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of State
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Gallup Consulting
  • Harbour Group
  • Healthsperien
  • House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Health
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of State
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Gallup Consulting
  • Harbour Group
  • Healthsperien
  • House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Health
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
  • John Snow Public Health Consulting Firm
  • Marlowe & Associates
  • Muslim Public Affairs Council
  • NBC News
  • Office of the Attorney General of DC
  • Public Knowledge
  • Various House Representatives
  • Various Senators
  • Securities and Exchange Commission, Trading and Markets Division
  • Supreme Court, Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice
  • Technoserve
  • Vox
  • WETA
  • White House
  • World Affairs Council
Is There A Stipend For Unpaid Internships?

Increasingly, many internships in D.C. want you to work at least 30 hours a week and are paying $15 an hour

However, many agency (Department of Justice, State…) internships are unpaid. In Congress, who they pay and how much varies widely.

PIW can offer modest stipends for students who have a work study award and whose internship sponsors are not paying interns.

If you have a work study award, PIW can ‘employ’ you and use your entire award to increase the amount we can pay you.

Please read all details here: https://upenn.app.box.com/file/722114042936

You must complete a form for this!


Who Are the Faculty?

The courses taught in Washington are an unusual opportunity to hear from policymakers first-hand. For example, for a class on the Iran deal last spring, students prepared by reading primary documents, were led by a State Department Middle East senior policy advisor teaching the class, and engaged with guest speaker Thomas Countryman, a 35-year career diplomat who retired last year after leading the State Department’s nonproliferation efforts. During the prior spring, students heard from four different Pulitzer Prize-winning political journalists, two former Assistant Secretaries of State, Vice President Joe Biden, and many others.  

Faculty in the Penn in Washington program are hired based on their policy area of expertise, the network of policy leaders they can draw upon for guest speakers, their academic training, and their willingness to meaningfully engage with students and be a resource to students in the future. From a fall 2018 student:

“The professors at PIW are experts in their field and had wonderful networks they reached out to for speaker events who enriched conversations in the classroom. PIW coursework offers a unique curriculum in political science because content is more pragmatic/practical and hands-on, it’s a nice complement to the strong theoretical coursework we receive back at Penn’s campus.  Not only do the professors support and challenge PIW students academically, they are also a wonderful resource for professional development.”


What Are The Classes?

Core Class (2 credits): PSCI 2200 From Theory to Practice in Washington, D.C.

  • Professor: Dr. Deirdre Martinez
  • Designed to complement a policy internship, this two credit course focuses on content and skills that are likely to be useful in typical Washington offices.
  • Includes 1 credit for internship and 1 credit for mostly asynchronous work.

PSCI 2210 Balance of Power in American Politics

  • Professor: Miguel Rodriguez fall, Bill Dauster spring
  • This course explores how each branch of government exerts its influence over the other branches and how non-government actors likewise exert their influence and act as a check on the power of government.

PSCI 2211 The Mechanics of Foreign Policy

  • Professor: Joshua Blumenfeld fall, Abigail Denburg spring
  • This course provides students with an in-depth, practical analysis of foreign policy and foreign policy making, with a view from Washington


What Are The Faculty Like?

Faculty evaluations for PIW are consistently strong. PIW faculty have an average instructor quality score of 3.67 in Penn Course Review. Below for example are selected student comments on Bill Dauster:

  • I learned so much and really enjoyed the creative nature of the assignments. I would 100% recommend to Dr. Martinez to offer this course with Bill to future PIW cohorts; it was one of the highlights of PIW.
  • Loved this class. Professor Dauster was an absolutely wonderful professor. I enjoyed how this class had a very nuanced approach, exploring the constitutional intent, historical context, and present-day realities of the issues/topics discussed. The class also had a great balance between useful lectures and hearing from real-world professionals with experience regarding the subject matters. Also, I found the assignments to be a really useful and informative way to gain first-hand experience in approaching the various subjects assigned, as they forced us to take on an alternate point of view. Expectations and grading were also very straightforward and fair. 
  • Bill is one of the most dedicated, knowledgeable professors I have ever had. His energy and enthusiasm for Congressional procedures and the ever-pressing issues that face Congress. I was completely enthralled with his class and guest speakers and truly gained a greater understanding of how D.C. operates.
  • Loved the course! Bill Dauster is an angel!! 
What Is The Housing Like In D.C.?
  • Student are free to choose the housing option that best fits their preferences. Below are the two providers require students to live in:
    • Women have the option of living in Thompson Markward Hall, which is a wonderful old building ideally located by the Senate that offers singles and includes breakfast and dinner at a very affordable rate. 
    • Elite Intern Housing is a co-ed option located in various neighborhoods around DC.
    • Living and working in D.C. will give you the opportunity to explore and become familiar with a new city.
    • Housing charges are less than comparable on-campus accommodations in Philadelphia.
    • Details will be provide details to accepted applicants.
What Will I Gain From This Program?

“It was extremely influential in giving me insight into which options actually exist to be involved in policy/advocacy as a career. It also gave me valuable work experience that allowed me to gain mentors directly in my field of interest, something I don’t think I could have gained on my own.”

“My experience during PIW has made me want to stay in D.C. after school.  It has also convinced me that going straight into my preferred career path would be more beneficial than going into a job that pays well but isn’t that interesting to me.”

“The semester was amazing. Going back to DC after graduation is definitely an option I am considering now.”

Can international students participate in the semester program?

We regularly have international students participating in the program. While non-US citizens cannot work in US federal agencies, they have worked in thinktanks, advocacy, and non-US organizations.