Seeking research opportunities for high school students has gained popularity in the past five or six years. Since 2020 the COVID pandemic has boosted the demand for research program opportunities, especially online ones. By 2005, there were only a few highly competitive programs designed for high school students, such as RSI, Pioneer Academics, and Clark Scholars Program.
Now there are easily over 20 companies promoting research opportunities with mentors. The providers range from high school student research mentor finding platforms to college consulting companies arranging research programs online or summer camps for college students.
We also anticipate that more universities will offer programs directly in the coming years to undergraduate students who desire hands-on research work. The big jump of 700% of research promoters reflects the surge of high school students’ strong interest in research program opportunities.
Pursuing research opportunities is a challenging “research” project itself. Should a high school student pursue a paid research project? There are so many paid research projects that all unfold under the name of research, so how can a student choose the one that is the best fit? What are the chances for a high school student to secure a research opportunity with a university lab? What can students do to increase their success with college applications? Will hands-on research help?
If you’re interested in doing research or exploring such possibilities, this article may give you a jump start finding the research program that suits you. We cover the top seven tips for finding and securing research programs suited to high school students like you who wish to gain experience with a reputable program. Whether you are interested in biomedical research, cancer research, or computer science, there are many research projects you can consider.
We’ll also share more about the mentoring research options with Pioneer Academics and how you can learn more about our program.
1. Types of research opportunities aimed at high school students
There are three types of research program options for high school students like you.
- Research opportunities with university labs
- Structured research program options
- Independent studies for students to take on autonomously
It is essential to be open-minded for all three types of opportunities if you are genuinely intrigued by doing research. Pursuing really good opportunities is a complex process, and excellent individual research projects don’t come with a guarantee.
Hunting for a research internship program at university labs is highly competitive, and openings are scarce and far between. The reputable structured research options into topics like technology research, genomic discovery, stem cell research, and other cutting-edge research that have extensive tracking records are very selective.
If you are determined to try out research, independent studies that you conduct on your own will be a great option. The different types of research opportunities are not necessarily mutually exclusive for your planning, career exploration, and career development.
2. Think about the areas you’re interested in researching
Keeping in mind the types of research program options aimed at high school juniors out there, you should look at what interests you most and what would be best for your personal career development. In this process, you must keep your minds open to available opportunities.
Students learn best and achieve higher test scores when interested in a subject. What subjects do you find most fascinating in school? Is there anything in the news that has recently caught your attention? How will the research affect your future career opportunities and career development? Will it help you to learn research skills?
Put a list together of the different things you’re interested in, then think about which ones you think would be fun to explore more in-depth and could positively affect your skills development.
For high school students to explore research, it is more about diving into the research procedure and scientific thinking than showcasing super niche expertise. With research program options for high school students widely available to purchase, students won’t gain an edge in college applications with a project showing exotic research topics.
Because many programs include publication support as part of the service, getting published in a biomedical research publication is no longer as trustworthy as before.
So regardless of what types of research projects you pursue, you should not cross out a well-respected opportunity because you believe another niche is a lot cooler. Labs do not study matters that are dated or meaningless. A reputable program offers educational experts designing reliably progressive methods in driving students to reach the highest level.
It is critical to stay with what you are curious about and appreciate opportunities to empower you with research principles that shape scientific creativity. Your goal should be to gain experience and research skills in something you are passionate about.
3. Match your research skills with opportunities
Now that you have decided on the types of programs you want to pursue and have mapped out a couple of areas you are interested in, it’s time for the next step. You then come to a step that tends to be overlooked by high school students pursuing research program options. In this step, you analyze the skill sets you have and may be good at and check out the requirement of research opportunities.
For example, a computer science research lab internship program may require a related AP course completion. Some of the Pioneer Research Program research areas require skills like java programming, matlab, or python beyond AP course completions.
It is worth noting that not all research has to be STEM areas. You can pursue research program options in humanities and social sciences as well. These research areas are less likely to require beyond-school knowledge and skillsets. Students learn hands-on research techniques.
4. Build your pool of research program opportunities with labs
If you have decided to pursue those research program opportunities that are hard to come by, we at Pioneer would like to congratulate you for aiming high. We also believe that you will learn a lot just through this “reputable research program opportunities hunting journey.” Regardless if you try to get into a lab opportunity or get picked by the scientific research programs that are hard to get in, like RSI or the Pioneer Research Program.
Students can try the following to build your research program opportunities pool:
- Research thoroughly on the websites of universities near you. Universities usually have give-back-to-the-community programs. A lab internship program in which high school students work while enjoying a research training experience may be part of those offerings.
- Expand your search for a remote research internship program. This is a challenging search. You may utilize some articles summarizing those opportunities, but the most promising ones tend to be buried deeply. This kind of search will begin with the areas you decide to look at. Search universities’ websites with those departments and contact them for research internship possibilities.
5. Email College Professors
Now that you have the list of labs, one way to find and secure research program opportunities are to draft a compelling email and send it to the professors on your list.
You’ll want to start the first paragraph by explaining why you’re getting in touch. Then, briefly tell them a little bit about yourself and your interests. It’s a good idea to attach a copy of your CV or resume so they can learn more about you.
Part of their job is to match students to program offers, so it’s up to you to show them you have prior knowledge and a strong interest in the program. Make it clear that you desire hands-on opportunities where you can learn research skills and gain experience.
In the second paragraph, ask about any opportunities they might have regarding supporting any existing research projects for them. You need to explain why you’re well-suited for this project experience. It’s also a good idea to share why you’re interested in working with the particular faculty member and show that you are familiar with their work.
Again, you must talk about your skills that match the internship job description or explain how your skills can add value to the research team. If you have good test scores on the subject, feel free to mention them to support your suitability for the project.
The last paragraph should end with your availability, contact information, and appreciation of their time and consideration. Finding high-quality research program opportunities is highly competitive, so you have to ensure you stand out from the crowd of other students.
If you get through the first step, these will be interviews, where you find out more about each other to figure out whether you’d be a right fit for each other. This is your opportunity to make a final presentation of your suitability for the program.
It is vital to show respect to research mentors throughout the opportunity. Consideration is essential regardless of who they may be in the lab, either the professor leading the team or postdocs for the project, or Ph.D. candidates.
6. Compile a mentor list for your independent study
Since there is a chance of successfully getting into research program opportunities with labs or the best-respected research programs, you may consider doing your own independent research project.
It will be an awe-inspiring accomplishment if you can structure your own project. It is even more challenging for students to pursue a research opportunity independently and carry it through to completion.
Before you jump to get your research project started, you should try your best to compile a mentor list. The following people are the best to be your research mentor:
- Your high school teacher (your high school teacher is the best candidate to be your research project mentor as they are not paid to help you do your project, and they carry strong credibilities in your college applications.)
- Professors of universities nearby
- Technician or specialist at research centers or corporations
Another challenge of independent research is the journal reading and research sources. Research of any kind always starts from exploring an area and then zooming into a direction, and then deciding on a research question of your own.
Reading journal articles and published papers is the first step. Please note that Google searches or Wikipedia articles are not reliable sources for research purposes.
Depending on the research subjects you are interested in, there are some free resources:
- Google Scholar (comprehensive subjects)
- Directory of Open Access Journals (comprehensive subjects)
- The Public Library of Science (Science)
You can go to public institutions like the UN and CDC websites for social sciences or public health research fans to access free sources.
7. Apply to reputable and selective research programs
Getting admitted to a highly selective research program is one effective way to prove how competitive you are. It is more so when it comes to research options for high school students. If you decide to pursue your research through a structured research program, you should first thoroughly research the programs.
Check out program history, track records, reputation, and selectivity. Answer questions like what is behind the program? Is it focused on commercializing research program opportunities? Is it deemed as a “pay-to-play” category in the lens of college admissions?
For the highly selective research programs, applications have to be carefully developed. The Pioneer Research Program, as an example, has a famous admissions principle – high school students are not applying to a niche direction with professor’s information. This principle ensures that applicants truly pursue the research opportunity for their interest and curiosity.
Pioneer admissions examine the authenticity and quality of the application essays carefully. Pioneer’s admissions look for evidence that the applicant is genuinely interested in the research areas and has the motivation and potential to overcome challenges throughout the program.
Remember, Pioneer’s admissions have a tough job of handpicking one thousand applicants from far over four thousand applicants. You need to study the Pioneer Research Program inside out to sound convincing to the admissions.
Pioneer’s Research Program Options for High School Students
At Pioneer Academics, our goal is to offer research opportunities that help challenge and develop essential skillsets for high school students. We offer rising high school juniors, sophomores, and seniors a variety of research options in 30 subject areas, plus the chance to work alongside caring and knowledgeable faculty. Whether you have a strong interest in scientific research, technological research, biological sciences, or a range of other research options, Pioneer will match students with research opportunities in line with their interests.
Pioneer is the only fully-accredited online research program for high school students worldwide. With a range of research options, the program helps students gain research skills far beyond what they’ll learn in their senior year in a high school classroom. Join other students and do some hands-on research on one of the existing research projects.
Spending a summer working on a research project is excellent for career development, and rising seniors are taking advantage of this. If you want to learn more about the Pioneer program, sign up to attend an online information session. We’ll share more about what our program offers, why it will impress colleges and universities, and how high school students can begin the application process.