How Can High School Students Participate in Research?
High school students who plan to apply to selective colleges, particularly in STEM fields, are expected to pursue enriching experiences that show alignment with their intended major. Internships, pre-college programs, volunteering, and part-time jobs are all excellent ways to do this. Participating in research can be another way to show alignment with the major, and research has the bonus of showing colleges that the student is intellectually curious, a critical thinker, and a problem solver – all great traits that any college would like to see in an applicant!
Here are several avenues for high school students to engage in research during their high school years:
- Science Competitions: Students can participate in science competitions such as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Google Science Fair, or local and regional science fairs. These competitions provide an opportunity for students to conduct original research and present their findings to a wider audience. See Society for Science Find a Fair for a list of fairs.
- Internships: Some universities, research institutions, and companies offer research internships specifically designed for high school students. These programs allow students to work alongside professionals and gain hands-on research experience. Students can reach out directly to local organizations (Bay Area Environmental Research Institute or Seattle Children’s Research Institute are just two examples) and to specific professors at local colleges to inquire about opportunities to assist with ongoing studies.
- Mentorship Programs: High school students can benefit from mentorship programs where they are paired with professors or professionals in their fields of interest. Lumiere Education, Pioneer Academics, and Empowerly Research Scholar Program are a few examples. Note that these are expensive but can provide students with an enriching experience.
- Contribute to a community science project through a platform like Citizen Science. These projects are collaborations between scientists and members of the public, and many projects are open to high school students.
- Independent Study: Students can work with their high school teachers to develop independent study courses or a project focused on research. This allows students to explore their academic interests in-depth while conducting research under the guidance of a knowledgeable educator.
- Independent Projects: Students can create their own research projects. For instance, students who are interested in applying as an Environmental Science major can conduct research documenting how low rainfall is affecting a nearby forest or tracking the recovery of the landscape after a wildfire. With such projects, it’s possible to show critical thinking skills without doing groundbreaking research!
- Service Learning Projects: Some high schools incorporate service learning into their curriculum, giving students a chance to engage in research that addresses real-world problems like homelessness or hunger.
- Online Research Platforms: Students can explore online research platforms and databases to access academic articles, data sets, and research tools. Websites like Google Scholar and JSTOR can be valuable resources for high school students to explore.
Engaging in research projects in high school provides valuable experience that can lead to a deeper understanding of the scientific process, a greater appreciation for the scientific process, and can shape a student’s future academic and career path.
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