Why is Research so Important?
Many of the most competitive universities in the United States are also conducting high levels of research. All of the Ivy League universities as well as selective schools like Duke University, Cal Tech, MIT, and Johns Hopkins University, and Georgetown University fall into this category. Some large public universities such as Rutgers University, Stony Brook University, and Penn State are all conducting research at a high level.
For students, this means that there will be ample opportunities to conduct research once they are in college, both within STEM fields and in the humanities. Many students have the opportunity to work in a laboratory under the guidance of professors and graduate students or they may complete self-directed research during a summer project or for a senior thesis. Given the greater emphasis on completing research as part of the college experience, it is only natural that colleges are looking for students who have already cultivated their skills in this area.
Universities occasionally indicate that they value students who have completed research in the past. For instance, in the University of Pennsylvania’s Admissions Blog post on March 31, 2022, Dean Whitney Soule wrote of the newly admitted undergraduate class that “nearly one-third of the admitted students engaged in academic research during their time in high school, earning national and international accolades for research that is already pushing the boundaries of academic discovery. Admitted students worked alongside leading faculty and researchers in their fields of interest, co-authored publications included in leading journals, and displayed their ingenuity in making connections across complex and varied disciplines.”
Other colleges, while not as direct in their language about appreciating academic research, will allow students to submit their research as a supplement to their applications. The University of Chicago will allow for the submission of "research projects, business plans, or other work of note” and Yale will accept a STEM research supplement for students who have been “engaged in advanced science or engineering research”.
How to Conduct Research?
Most students will not be able to take part in a research project in high school unless they actively search for ways to do so. Academic curriculum in the vast majority of high schools do not allow for the flexibility to fit in a research project and high schools lack a support structure to help students in completing this type of work.
There are a number of summer programs that would allow a student to participate in lab-based research, admissions to which tends to be highly competitive. For instance, the BU RISE program allows rising high school seniors to practice their STEM research skills in a laboratory. At Princeton University, the Laboratory Learning Program matches high school students with Princeton staff to take part in ongoing research projects. While the Summer Science Program is a nonprofit research program in 3 areas: astrophysics, biochemistry, and genomics. These are a few examples of research programs that Oriel Admissions helps its students to apply to, which are primarily open to rising high school juniors and seniors.
While not a stated requirement, one key factor in gaining admission into a summer research program is prior experience with research. If a student is able to carve out time in the first half of their high school career to perform research, they will gain value experience to add to their resumes. With such an addition, they would be taking the right steps to improve their overall attractiveness to summer research programs as well as to colleges, when the time comes to apply.
How can We Help?
Oriel Admissions offers a Research Mentorship Program where high school students are matched with a PhD student from top tier universities including Princeton University. The high school student will work closely with their research mentor over the course of 3-4 months, communicating on a weekly basis.
The mentor will provide an overview about how to conduct research at the college level and will assist the high school student in selecting a research topic and in developing a plan for conducting their research. The student’s research topic will include a review of academic literature as well as data analysis using publicly available data sets. The student will also prepare their research paper and complete the editing of their paper during the program.
The goal is for a student to have a completed research paper by the end of the program. Afterward, Oriel Admissions will provide guidance to the student on how to submit their research paper to academic journals for publication. Authoring an academic paper that has been published can give students a leg up as they continue on their academic journeys and Oriel Admissions would be available to support the student at every step of this process.
About Oriel Admissions
Rona Aydin has vast expertise advising students and families to prepare for college, starting from 8th grade. She works with students through the processes of building academic and extracurricular interests, deciding on a major, and career exploration. Rona also helps students to apply to college by building a college list, brainstorming essay topics, essay writing, and preparing their applications.
Rona is a graduate of the University of Oxford, New York University, and Brandeis University. She has lived in the UK, Turkey, and the US.