Summer Research Programs for High School Students

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We’ve discussed the benefits of doing research in high school before, but know what a challenge doing so can be for students. After all, research often requires long hours in a lab, using techniques and processes you might not have the chance to learn in your high school classes. Indeed, needing to attend school is one of the biggest obstacles to doing research in a lab, since professors and researchers tend to do their work during normal working hours, when you’re stuck in a classroom. 

Summer, therefore, is a wonderful opportunity for high school students to explore serious academic research. In this article, we’ll go over some opportunities for students to get involved in hands-on research, and explore how you can do research while a high school student. You can find additional opportunities in our previous articles on Medical and Engineering summer programs. Let’s get started!

Research Science Institute (RSI)

Run and hosted by MIT, this is a free summer program which introduces students to research in science, technology, and engineering. The program lasts for six weeks, the first is spent doing an intensive course run by MIT faculty, while the next five are spent completing a research internship. Students experience the full course and scope of research, from project ideation, data collection and analysis, and finally presenting their results to their peers. 

You must apply to RSI online. Only 100 students are accepted to the program each year, and it is known to be quite competitive, with fewer than 10% of applicants being accepted. They recommend all applicants be well versed already in math and science, and demonstrate this through their coursework, grades, and standardized test scores. There are not hard cutoffs, but low scores on standardized tests must be offset elsewhere. 

Only current high school juniors are eligible to apply. Both US residents and international applicants are accepted, though they have slightly different application processes. All applications require essay responses, two letters of recommendation (from math or science teachers or a research mentor), an official high school transcript, and standardized test scores from all tests you’ve taken. For more information on the program and its application, see our article specifically on RSI.

Summer Science Program (SSP)

This is an independent summer program, which is hosted on various university campuses around the country. The universities it works with, and the professors involved, vary from year to year. Teams of three students work with a faculty mentor on a hands-on research project over the course of six weeks. Students have classroom and lab sessions for six days a week, where they learn the theory behind what they’re doing, and then apply it. Students live on college campuses during the program.

The program is available to current juniors, and exceptional sophomores in some cases. Students must be at least 15, and younger than 19 during the dates of the program. Each specific program also has coursework requirements, in math or sciences. The program is open to both domestic and international students.

The application may be submitted online or via mail. The application opens in December, and is due on February 3 for international applicants, and March 3 for domestic applicants. You may only apply to a single project of the ones offered for the year. The application requires letters of recommendation from your current science and math teachers, a transcript, and the application form. 

The program costs $8,400, but there is generous aid available. Admissions are need blind, and students are eligible for a full discount, and help with travel expenses. Financial aid applications are due at the same time as the regular applications.

Fred Hutch Summer High School Internship

This is an eight week paid summer internship offered by the Fred Hutch Cancer Center in a partnership with the University of Washington. Students are given training in lab safety and techniques, and work with mentors on biological research. This program is in Seattle, and does not offer housing or accommodation arrangements for students. The program is 40 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. 

You can apply to the program online. The program only accepts domestic students, who are in their junior year of high school at the time they apply. The program is specifically intended for students who are underrepresented in biology, or who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. You must be available for the whole eight weeks of the program.

The application requires the online form, including essay questions, two letters of recommendation, your high school transcript, and a resume. Applications are due by March 31.

Garcia Pre-College Program

This is a seven week program organized and hosted by the Garcia Center for Polymers at Stony Brook University. Students take formal classes, and then embark on independent research projects under the guidance of staff and faculty. The program is focused on polymers research. While the research projects are not explicitly designed for publication, many of them have been published or submitted to science fairs successfully in the past.

Applicants must be 16 or older by the start date of the program. International students are accepted, but the program cannot support visa applications. You must have an unweighted GPA of 3.8, standardized test scores of at least the 60th percentile, and must have taken advanced courses in math and the sciences. 

You must submit an application online or via mail. Thai requires the application form, an official transcript, three letters of recommendation, and an application fee. The program costs $3,700 for the lab fee, there is an additional fee if you are going to stay on Stony Brook’s campus (though you are not required to do so). 

Magee Women’s Research Institute – Summer Internship

This is a four week internship program, where students work under the direction of institute staff to complete independent research projects. This is a paid opportunity, and is intended especially for students interested in pursuing biomedical research at a high level. In addition to this, students will attend regular informal talks to expose them to the full breadth of the field.

Only current juniors and seniors are eligible to apply to the program. Further, all applicants must be local to the institute, and live in the south-western part of Pennsylvania. Students must be over the age of 16; those under the age of 18 will be required to attain a work-permit card. 

Applications must be submitted via email by February 8. Applications require a completed application form, a cover letter, a personal statement explaining your interest in the program, two letters of recommendation, and a high school transcript. Housing is not provided by the program, and students must arrange their own transportation. 

Science Internship Program (SIP)

This is a 10 week immersive internship experience organized and hosted by UC Santa Cruz. Students are inserted into ongoing research projects at the school, and work one on one with mentors to learn how to conduct research, and contribute meaningfully to the goals of the project. Students are trained in lab safety and techniques, and learn about the cutting edge of STEM research. 

The project has both remote and in person projects, and has options for housing, and for students who live locally and prefer to commute. The program itself costs $4,000, there is an additional fee if you wish to stay in housing. There is limited need based financial aid available.

The program is open to current high school students, who will not have graduated by the time the program begins. You must be at least 14 to participate, or 16 for some lab placements. Many of the participants are rising seniors, but this is not required. The application must be submitted online, and includes the form, short essays, a letter of recommendation, an unofficial transcript, and your research area of preference. Admissions is competitive.

Simons Summer Research Program

This is a three week research program organized by Stony Brook University which inserts high school students into ongoing research projects in science or engineering. The program and instruction are free, and it provides a $1,000 stipend to participants at the end. Housing is not provided however, though students may pay for housing on Stony Brook’s campus.

While the program started out solely for students in the surrounding area, it has since expanded in scope, and now welcomes students from across the country. Students must be US citizens or permanent residents to apply, must currently be in their junior year of high school, and must be 16 or older on the program start date. The program looks specifically for students interested in science who have demonstrated their independence and creativity. 

Before being allowed to apply, students must be nominated by someone from their high school, generally a counselor or science teacher. These nominations should be done by February 1. Once you have been nominated, you may complete the online application form, including essays. The form should be completed in a single sitting. Two letters of recommendation are required; letters from math or science teachers are preferred. As part of the application, you will need to note your top choices for faculty research mentors. The full application is due by February 10. 

Welch Summer Scholar Program

This is a program run in collaboration with a number of public universities in Texas, including the UT network, the University of Houston, and Texas Tech. High school students in Texas complete a five week residential program, where they conduct research under the guidance of a faculty mentor, learn about lab safety and techniques, and conduct hands-on research. The goal of the program is to expose participants to life in college and the possibilities offered by research. 

Students must be current sophomores or juniors attending high school in Texas to participate in the program (though homeschooled students in Texas are also eligible to apply). The program is fully funded, including tuition and necessary expenses, though transportation to the program is up to the student. The research conducted is not specifically designed to be published or entered into science fairs, but that has been done successfully in the past. 

Applications open in January. Your application should be submitted online. The application requires an official high school transcript, the application form, two letters of recommendation, your standardized test scores, and an essay response of 250 words. The program has the following prompts, choose one to answer: 

  • Discuss your present academic focus.  What interests you most about chemistry?
  • Describe one or two or your significant accomplishments or life experiences, noting your age at the time, and what each meant to your self-development.
  • Discuss an individual who has influenced you.  What are the attributes of this person that you most admire?  You may draw from fiction, biography, or your own experience.

Final Thoughts

Getting involved with research is a major step for high school students, and can offer you significant benefits, both in applying to college and once you get there. A lot of undergraduates want to find a position with on-campus labs, and already having laboratory experience (and safety training) will give you a leg up on the competition. 

If you are looking for a deeper exploration of research, or to complete your own research project during the school year, we recommend checking out Ivy Scholars’ research mentorships. We pair high school students with experienced researchers, who guide them through their own independent research projects, culminating in publishing a paper. 

If you want to learn more about research mentorships, or explore other ways you can best make use of your valuable summer time, schedule a free consultation today. Our candidacy building service helps students discover their passions, and apply to elite summer programs which will support their enthusiasm. We’ve helped hundreds of students succeed, and are always happy to hear from you.

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