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NASA's High School Aerospace Scholars - 7 Reasons Why You Should Apply

As a high school student eyeing a future in STEM, engaging in programs like NASA's High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS) can provide a tremendous boost to both your academic portfolio and college applications. If you’re looking for a way to push your STEM knowledge beyond the high school academic standard while also gaining valuable exposure to aeronautics and space exploration at the highest levels, it’s hard to find a better opportunity than one offered by NASA. In today’s blog, we’ll take you through the NASA's High School Aerospace Scholars program’s structure, prestige, and what makes it a worthy pursuit for your summer.


What is HAS?

NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholars program is a year-long STEM learning experience specifically for Texas high school juniors. Its primary aim is to cultivate the next generation of engineers and scientists through a unique, immersive learning experience. This program starts with an online course that spans four months, covering topics from space exploration to aeronautics, aligned with NASA’s ongoing missions and projects. By participating, you will gain first hand exposure to the challenges and advancements in the field of aerospace, supported by NASA's extensive resources and expertise in STEM education. The highest achievers from the online program are selected for a five-day gamified virtual experience mentored by NASA scientists and engineers, of which the top teams selected are invited to a four-day residential experience. Overall, HAS is one of NASA’s most engaged and hands-on experiences for high school students.


How is HAS structured?

The HAS program is divided into three successive modules, as follows:


  1. Online Experience (October 30 - March 28): The longest phase of the program, and the one that’s open to all selected applicants. This phase consists of five modules based on the stages of a Moon and Mars’ mission: Each of these modules has a series of STEM activities integrated into it, with interactive lessons on aeronautics, the International Space Station, space technology, charting a Moon to Mars mission, etc. Each module ends with a rubric-based activity that simulates one aspect of researching and planning a mission to Mars, Titan, Europa or the Asteroid Belt.

  • Establishing the Foundation

  • Looking In

  • Looking Out

  • Extending Life

  • Sustaining Life 2. Moonshot Summer Experience (June 3-7 OR June 10-14): Following the online course, high achievers who scored 70% or higher in the previous module are selected for an intense, gamified "Moonshot" virtual simulation, where you'll work in teams to plan and design a mission to the Moon. This phase includes webinars, video lessons, and digital assignments that simulate real-world NASA projects. In this phase, you’ll be working directly with mentors, engineers and scientists from NASA to take part in a gamified virtual challenge. Aside from the activity itself, you’ll also get a lot of guidance on possible STEM careers, and upon completion you’ll receive a participation certificate as well as supporting documentation to submit for Science elective credit. 3. Two-day Onsite (July 28 - August 1): Exceptional performances in the Moonshot experience might also land you a spot in a fully-funded two-day onsite visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Here, you get to meet NASA professionals, use simulation facilities, and see real spacecrafts.


Is it prestigious?

Since it is only open to Texas students and does not have strict academic prerequisites, the exclusivity of HAS is somewhat limited, however being organized by NASA and fully funded brings its own prestige. The program facilitates networking with some of the top engineers and scientists at NASA, providing exposure and mentorship opportunities that are nearly impossible to find elsewhere. The program itself has been designed keeping the latest advances in aeronautics and space exploration in mind, with plenty of simulations and hands-on activities to provide you working knowledge of STEM and not just theoretical learning.


Who is eligible for HAS?

To be able to apply for HAS, you must be:


  • A US citizen.

  • A Texas resident.

  • A high school junior.

  • Passionate about STEM.


How does the application process work?

Currently, the specific application requirements are unavailable on the program website. However, the 2023-2024 version of the program had the following key dates, and similar can be expected for the 2024-2025 version:

  • August 28 - applications open, with a full list of requirements.

  • October 19 - applications close.

  • Virtual Moonshot selections - April 2024

  • Top Team selections for on-site - June 2024


There is no fee to apply or participate in HAS! The program is fully funded, ensuring it is accessible to all eligible students without financial strain.


7 reasons why you should apply

  1. You will be directly working with NASA: You’ll get to work on projects that have direct applications to NASA’s missions, giving you a rare glimpse into the workings of a world-leading space agency and insight into what a career in aeronautics may look like.

  2. You will learn real-world skills: The pedagogy is designed to teach you hands-on skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and project management, which are crucial across all professional fields.

  3. You will engage in advanced STEM learning: Through interactive lessons and projects, you’ll get to understand advanced topics in physics, engineering, and mathematics, tailored to real aerospace applications.

  4. You will receive mentorship by NASA professionals: Especially in the Moonshot experience and the on-site, you’ll get the opportunity to receive guidance and advice from experts actively involved in space exploration and research.

  5. The program can help strengthen your college applications: Participation in this prestigious program makes your college application stand out, showcasing your commitment to STEM.

  6. You will have access to exclusive resources: Working with NASA, you’ll have the opportunity to use tools, data, and facilities typically available only to professionals in the field. This is a big contributor to the phenomenal learning you can attain from the program.

  7. There is a stipend + no cost to participate: Finally, a program with this level of exposure, skill-building and mentorship being offered for absolutely no charge should be a deal-maker. There’s no reason for you not to apply.


Wrapping Up

If you're a high school junior in Texas and fascinated by space and science, applying to NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholars program is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. The knowledge and exposure you can get working with NASA’s brightest minds, while also contributing in a small way to NASA’s own missions, makes it a prestigious opportunity that will boost your profile by leaps and bounds.


One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re interested in pursuing research in aeronautics and STEM, 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: NASA logo

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