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10 Prestigious Research Opportunities for High School Students

Research programs have proven to be a valuable opportunity for students on their academic journeys. And while there is a wide variety of research programs out there, you should also be looking for prestigious ones in particular. Prestigious programs are usually associated with renowned universities or institutions, select only high-achieving students, and tend to come for free or with a paid stipend. Such programs can lend substantial weight to your resume or college application as it demonstrates your drive to go beyond schoolwork.


Due to the high selectivity, gaining admission to these programs can bolster your academic profile. Moreover, college administrators recognize the value of the hands-on experiences provided, particularly viewing completed research projects as tangible evidence of a student's commitment to intellectual exploration. 


Here are 10 prestigious research opportunities for high school students:

 

Application deadline: February 15, 2024

Location: Texas Tech University

Eligibility: Juniors and seniors who are at least 17 years of age

Program dates: June 16, 2024 – August 1, 2024

Stipend: $750


Only 12 high-achieving students are selected to attend this research program at Texas Tech University. Its prestige comes from the program’s history of academic excellence as well as the high level of competition, featuring an acceptance rate that usually falls below 3%. As a participant, you will engage in hands-on research under the guidance of faculty members. You can choose from one of seven research areas including nutritional science, computer science, mechanical engineering, history and more. This is a very selective program but it has the potential to give your college applications a significant boost. You can read more about the benefits of this program here


Application deadline: January for US citizens and March for international students (tentative, based on previous years)

Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Eligibility: High school juniors (international students can apply as well). Recommended scores are as follows: 740 or higher for PSAT Math, 700 or higher for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score, 33 for ACT Math and 34 for verbal scores. Low scores must be supplemented with other signifiers of academic excellence.  

Program dates: 2 months in between June and August (tentative, based on previous years)

Fee: Free


The Research Science Institute is a highly respected program for high schoolers due to its global nature, excellent curriculum, and association with MIT. Its reputation warrants the large volume of applications it receives, with an acceptance rate of just 5%. The program itself is a comprehensive research experience, allowing participants to delve into a STEM project from inception to completion under the mentorship of an expert. Following an intensive week of classes, you will receive an assignment and then spend five weeks to guided research and laboratory work, culminating in a presentation. Apart from the hands-on experience you will receive, having a completed independent project on your resume will also display your dedication in the eyes of college administrators. Go through our ultimate guide to the RSI to learn more about the program.


Application deadline: February 16, 2024

Eligibility: Open to high school juniors and a few sophomores, who are at least 15 years old and have completed the required courses

Program dates: Mid-June to July (tentative, based on previous years)

Location: Five campus options including Purdue University, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Colorado, New Mexico State, and Indiana University

Fee: $8,800

Financial assistance: Need-based financial aid is available, offering partially discounted fees as well as complete fee waivers


The SSP also belongs to the top programs for high school programs. Participants, organized into teams of three, can choose from three tracks with a specific research focus: Astrophysics (focused on near-Earth asteroid orbit determination), Biochemistry (centered on research in fungal crop pathogens), and Genomics (exploring the evolution of antibiotic resistance). The curriculum includes classroom lectures, lab sessions, and guest lectures. Despite being a paid program, the SSP is well regarded due to the college-level research and networking opportunities. The acceptance rate of this program is about 10%.


Application deadline: February 24, 2024  

Eligibility: Current juniors or seniors who are at least 16 years of age  

Program dates: June 10, 2024 – August 1, 2024

Location: Stanford University

Stipend: $500 - $1,500


This eight-week internship program at Stanford University School of Medicine is designed for high school students interested in medicine and research. SIMR provides participants with hands-on research experience through one-on-one mentoring by experienced scientists. You can choose from one of eight research areas such as neurobiology, cancer biology, genetics, and more. The program is structured through a combination of lectures and lab work, ending in a poster session. About 50 students are selected for each cohort, making this is a selective program that has previously boasted a less than 3% acceptance rate.  


Application deadline: February 1, 2024

Eligibility: Current high school juniors who are at least 16 years of age

Program dates: July 1, 2024 – August 9, 2024

Location: Stony Brook University, featuring commuter and residential options.

Fee: Free, although students are responsible for their own transportation and residential costs. At the program’s closing symposium, students receive a stipend award


The Simons Summer Research Program gives high school students the opportunity to be a part of cutting-edge research in the fields of science, math, and engineering. As a participant, you will be matched with a mentor, join a research group, and work on a specific research project, ultimately producing a written abstract or poster. There is a wide variety of research areas to choose from, including biochemistry, computer science, geoscience, pharmacological sciences, astronomy, and more. Through the program, you will learn about laboratory equipment and methodologies and fully experience life at a research university. Do keep in mind that the program is very selective (8% acceptance rate) and requires a nomination from your school as well as two recommendation letters. However, the intensive application process only emphasizes the program’s good reputation.


Application deadline: January 29, 2024

Eligibility: Seniors who have completed 12th grade and are at least 18 years old

Program dates: June 1, 2024 – August 10, 2024

Location: The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine

Stipend: $6,500


This programs offers fellowships to high-achieving students who want to work on an independent, mentored research project in the field of genetics and genomics. A total of 40 high school and undergraduate students are selected and each of you will develop a project, conduct experiments, analyze data and present your findings at the end of the program. Specific areas of research include bioinformatics, cancer, genomics, immunology, metabolic diseases and more. Considering this program is also geared towards undergraduate students, you can expect the experience to be of a higher academic level and the application progress to be quite rigorous. This, in addition to the generous stipend, is also why the SSP is a well-regarded program and could boost your college applications.


Application deadline: March 18, 2024

Eligibility: Open to 10th and 11th grade students who have a minimum GPA of 3.8

Program dates: June 17, 2024 – August 2, 2024

Location: UC Santa Barbara, featuring commuter and residential options  

Fee: $4,975 for the commuter track, $11,874 for the residential track

Financial assistance: Limited scholarships available based on need and qualifications 


The RMP is another program you can consider if your aim is to have a completed research project. You will be paired with a mentor and can choose from a number of STEM and humanities disciplines including computer science, anthropology, marine biology, psychology, ecology and more. Your research will involve field work and data collection, culminating in a research paper that you will present at a symposium. The program even offers the opportunity to earn up to 8 college credits. Due to the university-level research, the 4-6% acceptance rate, and the promising trajectory of past students, the RMP is considered a prestigious program in spite of its high cost. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, click here to know more about the program.  


Application deadline: February 1, 2024

Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors who are below the age of 18

Program dates: Session I from June 23, 2024 - July 12, 2024, Session II from July 14, 2024 - August 2, 2024

Location: Stanford University

Fee: $8,250

Financial assistance: Need-based financial aid is available


Another option for students interested in non-STEM subjects, the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute is an intensive program that delves into the humanities. A number of courses are available to choose from, spanning the fields of history, philosophy, culture and literature. Through lectures, readings and group work, you will explore the subject and develop your academic writing and critical thinking skills. Apart from regular assignments you will also produce an original research project. While this program is moderately prestigious, it is still well regarded as it is hosted by Stanford. You can learn more about the program here!  


Application deadline: Applications open in May 2024 for the 2025 cohort   

Eligibility: High-school sophomores, juniors, and seniors (international students can apply as well)

Program dates: Begins in September and runs until the end of the following May

Location: Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

Stipend: Stipend provided (amount unspecified)


If you are not limited to looking at summer programs, you can consider this research internship which takes place over the course of a year. Ideal for students interested in astrophysics, the program will have you working on a specific research project in groups of 2-3 people. You will conduct hands-on research under the guidance of a Harvard or MIT scientist. At the end of the year, you will present your research at a symposium at Harvard. The SRMP is highly regarded due to renowned institutions that organize it — the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Harvard College Observatory, and MIT. It’s a highly competitive program with a less than 5% acceptance rate and cohorts of not more than 10-15 students.


Application deadline: January 1 of each year

Eligibility:  All high school students can apply as individuals or in teams of two

Program dates: Finalists are announced in February and projects are completed by June

Location: Virtual, the visit to MIT’s campus is the only in-person element

Fee: Free

Prize: A $1,000 budget, weekly mentoring and a paid trip to MIT’s campus. 


If you already have a research proposal but need guidance in completing it, then this program is an ideal choice. Unlike the other options on this list, the MIT THINK Scholars program is a competition where you submit a project proposal in the field of science, technology or engineering. Six finalists will receive the prize — weekly mentoring meetings, technical guidance, up to $1,000 in funding, and a four-day trip to MIT’s campus. The program will overlap with your school year but it also offers a unique experience of conducting research from start to finish. This is a highly prestigious program that will demonstrate your capabilities in college applications. 



If you’re looking for the opportunity to work on an in-depth research project across various subject areas, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.


Image Source: SSP logo


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