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Stanford STaRS Internship Program - Is It Worth It?

College admissions are getting more competitive with each passing year. With some colleges going test-blind or test-optional, it’s crucial for you to make their academic profile stand out with experiences outside the classroom. One way of doing this is by attending research internships, which can help you develop skills in multiple domains. You not only gain valuable hands-on experience but you hone your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. And all while building a network of peers and professionals that will end up as a long-term benefit. 

Additionally, a research internship demonstrates that you are willing to go the extra mile and are passionate about your field. Always a plus sign for college admissions officers! 

Here’s our review of the Stanford STaRS internship program and whether it is the right fit for you.

Hosted by Stanford's Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the Stanford Science, Technology, and Reconstructive Surgery Program (STaRS) is a prestigious research internship designed for high school students interested in medicine and biomedical research. It provides participants with the chance to engage in cutting-edge laboratory research under the guidance of a professional clinician/scientist while also working alongside Stanford undergraduates. The program’s founding principle is that mentoring can have a profound impact on a student’s personal and academic growth.


Who is eligible?

Students taking part in the program must be:

  • At least 16 years old

  • High school or community college students

  • Previous lab experience is not required.

  • Students from low-income, under resourced environments and underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply.


How much does it cost?

The STaRS internship is free to participate but it does not offer a stipend. The program does offer to cover the costs of daily rail and bus services for students who need financial assistance.


Is it a prestigious program? What is the acceptance rate?

As a program offered by a department of Stanford University, the STaRS internship is indeed a prestigious opportunity. Each year’s cohort only invites about 20 students to participate as interns, which means the program is also highly selective.


What does it include?

The STaRS internship is structured as a seven-week program that takes place from mid-June to sometime in August. Each day, the schedule runs from 9 am to 4 pm. This is a commuter program and housing is not provided. Applications open in September and the deadline is in the first few days of November.

Overall, the program is geared towards students interested in fields like biomedical science, biological science, and healthcare. As an intern, you can expect to learn the fundamentals of lab work, develop research projects, and present your findings. You will learn various lab techniques, get familiar with different software, read scientific papers, prepare case studies, and more. Every week, you will spend 4 days engaged in lab work and 1 day in non-lab-based activities. This could include touring other labs, attending lectures, or taking part in scavenger hunts and other team building activities.


Pros and Cons


  1. You get access to cutting-edge research: As an intern, you will gain hands-on experience in research projects from start to finish. By working in Stanford labs, under the guidance of Stanford faculty, you will get invaluable exposure to high-quality research and lab work.

  2. You will be mentored by experts: The program offers mentorship from renowned experts in STEM disciplines. This kind of professional guidance and support may not be found in general school classrooms and could benefit your academic growth.

  3. Your college applications will be enhanced: Getting into a prestigious and highly selective program such as this one can give your college applications a significant boost as it demonstrates your high caliber and your eagerness to learn and explore.  

  4. You will get valuable networking opportunities: The internship offers the opportunity to network with peers and professionals in the field. You can build on these relationships which could then lead to collaborations, internships, and career opportunities in the future. Previous interns have generally described the program as having a supportive environment created by peers and professionals.



  1. It is highly competitive: The STaRS program is highly selective, with only about 20 spots available in each cohort. This intense competition can make it challenging for some students to secure admission to the program, especially considering the high caliber of applicants.

  2. It has an intensive schedule: Despite being a commuter program, this Stanford summer internship requires a continuous, daily time commitment for the entire seven weeks. Since there is no stipend provided, some students may not be able to afford the intense time commitment.

  3. There are geographical limitations: Since the STaRS internship is a commuter program, it is better suited to students who live close by. If you live further away from Stanford, the high travel or accommodation costs can cause a significant financial burden.


Is it worth it? Our Review

The Stanford STaRS internship program is indeed a highly valuable opportunity, particularly due to the value of the university’s name and the high quality of its education. Considering its focus on mentoring, growth, in-depth, and hands-on lab work, this summer internship is a great opportunity for students interested in medicine and biomedical research.

On the flip side, the financial costs are relatively slim but the time commitment and geographical limitations might overrule the program’s academic benefits. The application process is rigorous as well, with a low acceptance rate. Overall, the program’s merit ultimately depends on your individual goals, interests, and resources. Weigh the challenges against the benefits and make the decision that is best for your experience as a high school student. 

Bonus - Looking for an immersive internship experience in biomedicine and healthcare?

Check out Ladder Internships!

Ladder Internships is a selective, virtual internship program where students work with startups and nonprofits from around the world! The startups range across a variety of industries. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship. In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship. Apply now!

A research program you can consider - Veritas AI + Medicine

Veritas AI is an AI program for ambitious high school students, founded and run by Harvard graduate students. In the AI + Medicine program, students learn how AI is used in the healthcare and medical industry. Students get a chance to work on real-world projects using AI & ML models to diagnose diseases, sharpen medical scans, and explain their outcomes to aid doctors and patients. Here is the program brochure and the application form!

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re interested in pursuing research in medicine 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: Stanford logo



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