College Counselor and Tutor
All students, regardless of their academic interests, could do research. Not only is it a great way for you to deep-dive into a subject that interests you, but you can also learn a variety of skills in a hands-on environment and increase the probability of getting into a more competitive college. However, high school students might struggle to know how to secure a position. Here are a few tips on finding opportunities:
- Reach out to local researchers: You may be able to intern at local universities, companies, or even hospitals. While these positions aren’t advertised, you can reach out with a tailored cover letter and résumé inquiring about what positions might be available. You likely won’t get many responses, so be sure to cast a wide net and follow up after a few weeks if you haven’t heard back.
- Join a research program: A structured research program—either throughout the school year or during the summer—is the most beneficial way for you to learn and improve your research skills. Those programs usually have a clear goal of what will be taught and accomplished during the structured program. One example is Rising Researchers, where you’ll not only learn new skills and earn college credit but also write a research paper and publish it at the end of the camp.
- Start an independent research project: This option requires a longer time commitment and dedication—usually at least one year from the time you start your paper, finish it, and submit it for publication. One big advantage is that you can study any topic of your choosing. To get started, make a list of your future career interests; read research journals to think of topics that interest you; figure out what questions you want to ask and answer in your research; and gather your sources to begin writing your paper.
Nancy Hensel, EdD
Executive Officer, Council on Undergraduate Research
(with Diane Husic, PhD, President, CUR)
Admission officers may be able to tell you about research opportunities that are available on a campus you're considering. Also, your college may have an office of undergraduate research. If so, that may be the best place to look once you've matriculated as a student. If your school doesn't have an undergraduate research office, you may wish to check with the department chair of the discipline you're interested in, and they may be able to direct you to a specific professor. Your academic advisor should also be able to assist you in finding a mentor, or a professor you have for class can point you in the right direction.
Director of College Counseling
Collegewise of Millburn
There’s no one path that will guarantee you the opportunity to participate in faculty-led research as an undergraduate, but there are things you can do to help make it more likely to gain access to this kind of opportunity. The first thing you'll want to do sounds like common sense, but I'll share it anyway: Be a good student. Perform well in your college classes, particularly those in the area in which you would like to conduct research. For example, if you want to conduct a study related to genetics, you’ll want to be sure you can demonstrate a firm grasp of the concepts in your introductory biology course. Beyond your coursework, take advantage of the other academic resources available to you. Go to your professor’s office hours. Talk to the professor you would like to mentor you about the project you’d like to undertake. If your ideas are feasible and well thought out, it may be possible for you to do research!
Get more great advice on all things high school and college in our Majors and Academics section.