For any high schooler keen on pursuing a future in STEM, a summer internship is one of the most valuable opportunities to consider. Not only do such internships enhance college applications, but they also provide students with a chance to apply theoretical knowledge in practical scenarios. The time you’ll spend during an internship exploring your chosen field, developing a professional network, and gaining hands-on experiences, can set you apart in your future career and academic pursuits.
This article focuses on one such program, the SPARK Summer Internship Program.
What is SPARK SIP?
The SPARK Summer Internship Program (SPARK SIP) is an initiative designed to connect motivated high school students with industry experts, university professors, and mentors to work on cutting-edge STEM projects. Founded with a mission to foster in-depth learning and hands-on experience for students, SPARK SIP primarily serves students in the Greater Seattle area but is open to all eligible students in the USA. The internship program focuses on various STEM fields, offering students a chance to work on real-world projects and learn directly from professionals. As an intern, you will gain core skill knowledge along with valuable insights into the professional research environment, preparing you for future studies and a potential career in scientific research.
Who is eligible to apply?
To be able to apply for SPARK SIP, you must:
Be in grades 9-12 during the current school year. Each internship project may have slightly different requirements, so make sure you check before applying!
Be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. The program is not open to international students.
Be committed to full participation in a residential internship at the location specified by the sponsor. This may involve expenses above the program fees.
How does the application process work?
The application process typically begins in March. You will need to provide the following:
Basic applicant information.
An essay answering a set of provided questions. You will need to submit one essay for every project you apply for, and you can apply for 1-5 projects at a time.
Your most recent resume, ideally tailored to the project(s) you’re applying for.
Your high school transcript with school seal and student name.
A COVID vaccination certificate, which is mandatory for in-person internships.
The application fee of $25 (as per the 2023 application). This is a fixed amount regardless of how many projects you’re applying to.
The application details for 2024 are yet to be announced, so keep an eye on the SPARK website for details.
Applications will be reviewed in April by the project sponsors, and by May you can expect to be called for interviews. If selected, you will be working in an 8-10 week internship from June to August.
How is SPARK SIP structured?
SPARK itself is a non-profit that invites businesses and institutions to sponsor internships through their platform and matches them with students. These projects can span a diverse spectrum in terms of the fields and research topics. For example, some of the projects in the 2023 program included DNA sequence classification, 2D materials to create a new class of semiconductors, social media content generation, and engineering sales and marketing. You could be working with organizations as varied as the IEEE Nanotechnology Council at the University of Washington, West Virginia University’s Grid Operation Lab, or even an offshore internship in Chennai, India! Each internship will be unique in terms of the work you will do, though you can expect to be working anywhere between 20 and 40 hours per week, for 8-10 weeks. Regardless of the project type, you will be working directly with researchers, scientists, and professionals, making meaningful contributions to their work while learning the ropes of your chosen field.
While some internships will be unpaid, some offer a maximum stipend of up to $500.
7 tips to help land a SPARK SIP internship
Start early: Begin preparing your application well before the deadline, especially on tailoring your resume. Engaging in volunteer work and participating in competitions may help you with your application too.
Tailor your essays: Make sure you study the projects you’re applying for in-depth, and accordingly write specific essays for each, showcasing your fit and interest. This also means highlighting specific skills or experiences linked to that particular project.
Research the projects: Understand the projects available and choose those that align with your interests and goals. Not only will it help you direct your efforts towards the ones that truly suit your strengths and interests, you’ll also be able to stand out by demonstrating your interest and preparedness to the interviewer(s).
Highlight your strengths: In your application, focus on your unique skills and experiences. Through your essays, resume, and interview, try to tell a coherent story of your skills and how they will be a value add for this project.
Seek guidance: Don't hesitate to reach out to teachers or mentors for advice on your application. This will add a layer of professionalism and confidence to your profile!
Prepare for interviews: If selected, practice and prepare for interviews thoroughly. Remember that these are all real-world projects, often with high stakes. Interviewers will appreciate an applicant who has done their homework and has a plan for how they can contribute, apart from knowing their strengths and weaknesses and communicating effectively.
Be genuine: Show your genuine interest and enthusiasm for the field and the program. Especially show your willingness to work hard and learn. Nobody expects an intern to be a whiz-kid on day one, but they do expect them to not be dead weight.
Participating in SPARK SIP can be a transformative experience, offering a blend of learning, mentorship, and professional growth. By following the above tips and demonstrating your passion and commitment, you can enhance your chances of securing a project that resonates with your interests.
The SPARK SIP is not just about adding an experience to your resume, it's about growing as a learner and a professional.
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you’re keen on pursuing in-depth research in STEM fields, 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: SPARK SIP