Internships are a fantastic way of setting yourself apart from your peers, but that’s not all they’re good for. They can also give you a head start on your college and career readiness.
The project-oriented structure of internships and apprenticeships simulates actual work experience. You learn how to work under mentors, meet deadlines, and reach the expected quality standard. You even get paid for your effort! Such exposure is hard to come across in textbook-focused high school curriculums.
Moreover, unlike traditional pre-college or summer programs, apprenticeships provide first-hand immersion in the industry of your choice and help you develop practically useful skills. To summarize, not only do internships make your college application stand out, but also prepare you to take on undergraduate-level curriculum and laboratory work.
In this article, we will discuss the AEOP high school apprenticeships, a unique opportunity for STEM-focused students looking for hands-on work. To help you decide whether it is a good fit we will cover all you need to know—dates, locations, eligibility, costs—and also give our unbiased review on whether the experience is worth it.
What is the AEOP Apprenticeship Program?
The AEOP Apprenticeship Program is the high school chapter of a series of STEM enrichment experiences organized by the Army Educational Outreach Program.
Launched in 2006 with the mission of training and “inspiring the next generation of STEM talent,” AEOP has partnered with university and military research centers all over the country to create engaging work opportunities for young STEM lovers.
Today, with over 100 active sites, this program has transformed into a selective and sought-after STEM experience. As an AEOP Apprentice, you will be connected to an expert mentor, usually a professional scientist with a background in academia or the military. Under their tutelage, you are then assigned a relevant on-site project, which you work on using state-of-the-art facilities and high-tech equipment. As stated on their website, the sensory experience of working in a lab helps students absorb “STEM culture”.
The topics offered are as varied as the locations that offer them—from Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine to Nanotechnology and Chemical Defense. For a comprehensive list, click here.
You will also attend online webinars organized by the Rochester Institute of Technology, where individuals from Army and DoD backgrounds will have open discussions about college application strategies.
At the end of your internship, you will submit a research abstract for publication in the AEOP Research Journal. The program’s strong mentorship and alumni network will be available to help throughout your journey. Based on your university, the apprenticeship can also fulfill internship or co-op requirements.
With hundreds of military, governmental, university, and non-profit partners, AEOP has galvanized STEM resources from all over the country to curate an intensive program that instills scientific thinking.
According to their annual evaluation report, 345 students were part of the 2021-2022 cohort. The report indicated a significant improvement in the participants' STEM skills, as well as increased interest in STEM careers, including Army/Department of Defense research.
Below are some must-know facts about AEOP internships:
When do I apply?
The application portal opens on January 12, 2023, and closes on March 5, 2023. Application dates for 2024 are yet to be released, but will presumably be within this same window.
Who is eligible?
US Citizens or US Permanent Legal Citizens in high school, or recently graduated from high school, minimum 14 years of age. Some programs are specifically designed for underserved groups and military-connected families.
How long is the program?
Anywhere between 6-10 weeks in the months of May and August.
Where will the internship take place?
In university research labs or at a U.S. Army Research Centre across several states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands. For specific locations, click here. Students can apply to as many lab sites as they wish, as long as they fulfill all requirements and can physically attend.
How many positions are open?
This number varies from site to site and depends on the amount of funding for active projects received by each lab.
What materials do I need? Your school transcript, a resume, a short statement of interest, a list of STEM classes you’ve taken in high school, and a consent form signed by the parent/guardian of minor applicants.
Is there a program fee? No, AEOP is a fully-funded program and internships are free for students. Transport and lodging are not covered. Each intern receives an educational stipend for their work, which is calculated based on a centralized stipend policy.
What will my working hours be as an AEOP intern?
Though the nature of work differs vastly from lab to lab, each student will be assigned a mentor and put in 40 hours a week, working from 9am to 5pm
Your AEOP experience will be as varied as the number of STEM topics they offer. Sohini Banerjee—a 2020 AEOP Apprentice—was recently recognized as a Regeneron Top 300 Scholar for her research on PTSD biomarker identification. Muhammad and Kai, part of the 2022 cohort, were the first high school interns at the Physics Lab of Miami University.
Working with advanced technology under field experts, interns are free to define their unique journey.
You can read more Program FAQs here.
AEOP Apprenticeship Program: Pros & Cons of Participating Now that we’ve covered the history, mission, and details of the program, let’s compare its pros and cons before giving our final verdict.
You can pick from a lot of options: The is a massive and efficiently run operation, and due to its scale, offers a great diversity of STEM topics across several locations that you can pick from.
You will receive extensive mentorship: AEOP focuses extensively on securing the best mentors for their interns. Additionally, their Near Peer Mentors offer guidance and support throughout the program’s duration, including for professional, career, and research questions.
You will participate in a program with a proven track-record of providing an immersive learning experience: Their latest evaluation report indicates that the program is guaranteed to enhance your STEM skills, and help you hone research focus for higher studies.
You will get an opportunity to leverage AEOP’s network: AEOP’s pan-American partner and collaborator network is immense, and will be a useful resource throughout your academic and professional life.
You will learn from a holistic curriculum: In addition to technical lessons, they also offer compulsory modules on essential 21st-century skills like critical thinking and communication.
You may or may not get selected: The program has an 8-10% acceptance rate, which means that you will have to look for other options in case you are rejected.
You may have to travel far from home:: If selected, it is possible that you will be selected for a project outside your primary area of interest. Their topics are unique, but still restricted by available mentors and site facilities.
You will have to think through a lot of logistics apart from travel: Your attendance at the program is contingent on arranging your own commute and housing. AEOP does not offer either.
You might not find a suitable program if your interest is non-STEM: No opportunities are offered within non-STEM fields. Unless you have a true commitment to the sciences and math, you might be overwhelmed by the intensity of this program.
Is the AEOP Apprentice Program prestigious?
Yes, with the low acceptance rate of 8-10%, a rich web of partner organizations, and a concrete end goal that adds value to your STEM portfolio, the AEOP Apprenticeship Program is among the more prestigious STEM programs out there. It also features a unique selling point—exposure to current military research. This program opens the door to not only observing but also participating in ongoing, high-stakes research projects for the U.S. Department of Defense.
The best part is that, unlike some opportunities, this one doesn’t dent your pockets! Instead, you are selected based on the strength of your application alone (including grades, essays, and recommendations) and receive a minimum $10 per hour stipend.
With all the facts laid out before us, our decision about the AEOP Apprenticeship Program is easy to make. A no-cost, high-return opportunity, AEOP has a history of instilling rigorous STEM knowledge in its cohort. If selected, you will develop a practical foundation in the laboratory work, engage with advanced technology and perspectives, and have a respectable research proposal to your name by the end. We recommend this program to all US-based STEM enthusiasts.
One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you are passionate about research in STEM fields, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program 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: AEOP logo