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  • Ishaan Chawdhary

15 Research Competitions for High School Students

Students benefit from participating in research competitions in a variety of ways, including learning how to present their findings and gaining experience in an important field of their interest. Competitions are not only a strong extracurricular activity, but reaching the finals can also help students earn college scholarships. Being a significant achievement, it may even open opportunities, such as laying the groundwork for a career in research and helping one land an internship.


It also aids them in becoming competitive candidates for college admissions by demonstrating students' intellectual prowess and capacity to work on a rigorous project, either individually or as part of a team. Even if they don't win or place in the competition, students can use their participation to demonstrate what they have learned about their chosen academic field and how they have explored their passion for the discipline.


In this post, we have compiled a list of 15 well-respected research competitions that are sure to boost your high school profile.


Here are 15 Research Competitions for High School Students:

1. Regeneron Science Talent Search

This talent hunt, which began in 1942 as a program of the Society for Science & the Public (the Society), is widely regarded as the nation's most renowned high school science research competition. Young scientists present their original findings to a panel of nationally recognized professional scientists as part of the competition. 300 Regeneron STS scholars are chosen from 1,800 applicants, and they and their schools are each granted $2,000. From the group of scholars, forty finalists are chosen, who get an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., and compete for another $1.8 million in prizes, including a top prize of $250,000.



2. MIT THINK Scholars Program

Most research competitions require participants to have already completed the project, but the THINK program is different in that students only need to have completed background research for a project in the science, technology, or engineering fields before applying. Those whose projects are selected receive $1,000 funding and mentorship from MIT students. They also get a paid trip to MIT's campus to meet professors in their field of research, tour labs, and attend MIT's xFair. Students in grades 9th to 12th are eligible.

3. Google Science Fair

Students aged 13 to 18 submit science research ideas to be judged by a panel of scientists and experts in this competition. At various levels, victors are rewarded generous scholarships, cool gear, and unique opportunities such as internships. Past projects include battery-free lighting and wearable sensors to improve the safety of Alzheimer's patients.

4. AAN Neuroscience Research Prize

The nervous system/brain is the center of this competition, with students investigating and solving problems linked to it. Students do their own neuroscience research, which is evaluated based on its relevance to neuroscience, originality, data interpretation, and research reports. The competition is open to students in grades 9 through 12, and only individual entries are accepted.

5. Odyssey of the Mind


This challenge encourages high school students to think outside the box by identifying problems and developing innovative solutions. After a school or community group purchases membership, they qualify for the competition, which takes place at the regional, state, and national levels. The competition is open to students from grades 9th to 12th. 6. International BioGENEius Challenge


Recognizing outstanding research in biotechnology, this challenge gives students the opportunity to win cash awards for their work. Finalists present their research before a panel of expert biotech judges. Students receive the unique opportunity of being able to meet top industry professionals and gain valuable advice and insight on their projects.



7. Davidson Fellows

Students 18 and under who have completed a project in one of several subjects, including STEM, are eligible for the Davidson Fellows Scholarship, which awards $50,000, $25,000, and $10,000 scholarships. It's a prestigious and competitive scholarship to obtain, and the projects the recipients generate are frequently on par with those produced by college graduates. Research projects should "contribute a work that is acknowledged as an extraordinary accomplishment by experts in the field and has the potential to benefit society."

8. ExploraVision

The Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision initiative is a competition for students to improve their STEM skills. Participants research a current technology and then envision what it will look like in 20 years, including development processes, benefits and drawbacks, and challenges. Students work in groups of 2-4 with the help of a teacher who serves as a mentor.

9. Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (Regeneron ISEF)

As the premier science fair in the United States, Regeneron ISEF is one of the best-known high school science competitions. Even ranking within the top 100 is enough to help one's university application stand out.


Unlike Regeneron STS, students can't apply directly to the ISEF. Instead, they have to first participate in a regional science fair. Doing well there helps the student qualify for the next ISEF rounds. Key factors for winning include innovation and originality. To show originality for the ISEF, students need to tackle a problem that's interesting to the scientific community. It is important to have a good overview of academic science literature in the field that one's project is in, and it helps to have a professional academic scientist or engineer as a mentor.


10. Stemanities Research Competition


A national competition, this event invites students in their freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior year to conduct research in STEM and the humanities to develop a more sophisticated understanding of a topic. Stemanities is sponsored by the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, and finalists are invited to La Jolla, California to present their work and compete for monetary awards.

11. Destination ImagiNation


For students who have a penchant for problem solving, Destination ImagiNation helps one refine their critical thinking skills. An international competition for students in kindergarten through college, Destination ImagiNation teaches life skills while encouraging imagination, through problem solving, creativity, and research. In this competition, students work in groups of five to seven to develop solutions to Team Challenges.

12. Stockholm Junior Water Prize


Students compete in this competition to provide solutions to the world's present and future water problems. State winners receive a medal and an all-expenses-paid travel to the national competition at The Ohio State University. Previous winning themes at the state level include "Protecting the Aquatic Environment from Household Microfibers" and "Optimizing Straw Mulch Use in Agriculture." A $10,000 scholarship and a free ticket to the international competition in Stockholm, Sweden are awarded to the national winner. The international winner receives a prize of $15,000 for themselves and $5,000 for their school.

13. TOPPS Competition for High School Psychology Students


Students write a 3,000-word essay on a specific topic, using peer-reviewed psychological research. "Non-human animals in psychology" was the research theme for 2019. Four winners are selected for a prize of $250. Students from grades 9th to 12th are eligible to compete.

14. Clean Tech Competition

Students must identify a problem with our natural world and resource consumption that they wish to address, develop a sustainable solution, and submit a research paper to the judges as part of the Clean Tech Competition research and design challenge. There are no topic restrictions; entrants must just have one goal: to develop a long-term solution to an environmental problem.

Each team should consist of one to three students who must be between the ages of 15 and 18 at the time of submission. Following the submission of papers, the top 10 teams from the worldwide pool will be chosen to compete in the virtual global finals. They'll submit their research and prototypes to the judges and win cash awards, with the winning team receiving continued mentorship from an expert in their field.



15. Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

This scholarship competition encourages students to pursue research in the fields of science, engineering, technology, or mathematics. Students can submit their original research findings in front of a judging panel and their peers at the symposia. Furthermore, attending regional or national symposia provides students with a variety of opportunities, such as seminars, panel discussions, career exploration, research lab visits, and networking events.


How to select which research competition to participate in:


While the above list includes a number of prestigious competitions, it is definitely not exhaustive in nature. If you don't find one that fits what you're looking for, it is encouraged to find one that does, with careful research! Be sure to use your judgment when considering unknown competitions, and only select those that have ample information about them transparently available. Be sure to also look out for competitions that charge unnecessarily high fees to participate.

Typically, older and national competitions are better known and have a larger chance of standing out on college applications. It is also important to remember that a cash prize may not be the only criteria to decide on what competition is worth participating in. Several competitions also give out other benefits to winners, such as mentorships and invitations to conferences, each of which are equally important as a stepping stone in a student's research career aspirations.


One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program


If you are interested in a selective, structured research program, consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by Harvard and Oxford researchers. The program pairs you with a full-time researcher to develop your own independent research project, in any discipline of your choice. Last year over 1500 students applied to 500 slots in the research program! You can find the application form here.

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