10 Research Opportunities for High School Students

Indigo Research Team

Indigo Research Team

April 18, 2024
Last Updated:
April 20, 2024
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Engaging in any type of academic research in high school (scientific, anthropological, political, or humanities-driven) is an easy way to demonstrate to admissions officers that you’re intellectually curious and willing to expand your mind beyond the bounds of a traditional high school classroom. Let's take a look what are the research opportunities for high school students.

1. School Curriculum

Some high schools will offer research opportunities as part of fulfilling academic requirements for graduation. For example, the IB program requires students to produce an extended essay, an independent research piece. Cambridge International AS & A Level Global Perspectives and Research is a skills-based course where students write a research report. If you are unsure if your school offers these programs, talk to your academic advisor to discuss your options.

2. University Summer Research Programs

Many universities offer hands-on research opportunities for high school students in the form of summer research programs, where students can take part in undergraduate research. These programs cater to both science and humanities students. Some examples include: Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program, Rockefeller University Summer Science Research Program, and High School Youth Researcher Summer (HYRS) Program.

See more suggestions of summer research programs for high school students that we recommend.

3. Research-based Internships

Through research-based internships, high school students can gain first-hand immersive research experience whilst working with a professional in their industry of interest. These internships aim to sharpen students’ research skills whilst providing a platform for students to discover if research is a career path that interests them. Examples of research-based internships include Research in Science & Engineering (RISE) Internship, Stanford Institutes of Medicine Research Bioengineering Internship, A*STAR Research Internship Award, and Research Assistant Program (Singapore).

4. Academic-based Essay Competitions

Essay competitions ask students to write an essay based on a subject matter of their choice and typically encourage students to read and research beyond the school curriculum. Some examples include John Locke Institute Essay Competition, Robert Walker Prize for Essays in Law.

Kick off your Research Project this Summer with the IRIS Program!

Indigo Research Intensive Seasonal (IRIS) Programs is an intensive research program that is designed specifically for high school students. You'll have the opportunity to work alongside top professors from prestigious UK and US universities, who will mentor you in your chosen field. Don't miss out – the next IRIS Program begins on July 8, 2024!

Explore the IRIS Program
Explore the IRIS Program

5. Non-academic competitions

Non-academic competitions can also promote research but in a more applied and practical manner. For example, the Community Problem Solving Competition (CMPS) requires students to identify and address a local or national social problem. In the process, students gather data and research these problems then present them to a panel. Projects may focus on categories such as Civic and Cultural Issues, Education, Environment, Health Concerns, and Human Services.

6. Extracurricular activities/clubs

Certain student clubs such as Model United Nations, Debate, and/or Moot Parliament Programmes can also provide research opportunities in the form of weekly training events, helping students hone their persuasive and oratorical skills. For more science-inclined students, these same opportunities exist in Robotics and/or Math & Sciences Clubs.

7. Established research institutes

Aside from research programs provided by universities, there are also research programs provided by established institutions designed specifically for high school students. Students in New York for example could consider working with the NYC Science Research Mentoring Consortium, which is organized by the American Museum of Natural History and is composed of more than a dozen programs throughout the city. Another example is the Summer Science Intensive, which is organized by the US Department of Energy and the Joint BioEnergy Institute.

8. Non-formal school projects

If you decide not to embark on formal research programs, you can consider pursuing a research project via a non-formal arrangement within your school. Such an independent research project provides more flexibility as you can plan your own research topic and timeline. To undertake this kind of project, you will have to find a mentor/teacher within your school and negotiate arrangements around the fulfillment of the project. Again, try talking to your academic advisor about this option.

9. Non-formal outside-of-school projects

Alternatively, if your school is unable to provide you with the manpower and resources to embark on a non-formal school project, you can consider searching for resources outside of school. To do so, identify researchers and/or labs that can support your proposed research project and start cold emailing as many relevant people as you can. Be sure to attach a cover letter explaining the project and a resume to these emails!

10. Indigo Research Intensive Seasonal (IRIS) Programs

IRIS Program is an online group-format research program for high school students. You can choose to join courses in Genetics, Computer Science, Economics, or Psychology, collaborate with professors and researchers from Stanford, Columbia, and Cornell, and complete a publishable research paper in weeks. The next IRIS Program starts on July 8 until August 18, 2024. The registration is open now!

In conclusion, engaging in academic research in high school is an excellent way to demonstrate intellectual curiosity and stand out to admissions officers. From school curriculum and university summer programs to research-based internships and non-academic competitions, there are numerous research opportunities available for high school students to explore.

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