10 Research Opportunities for High School Students
Updated: Apr 21
1. School curriculum
Some high schools will offer research opportunities as part of fulfilling academic requirements for graduation. For example, the IB programme requires students to produce an extended essay, which is an independent piece of research. Additionally, Cambridge International AS & A Level Global Perspectives and Research is a skills-based course where students write a research report. If you are not sure if your school offers these programs, talk to your academic advisor to discuss your options.
2. University summer research programs
Many universities offer hands-on research opportunities for high school students in the form of summer research programmes, where students can take part in undergraduate research. These programmes cater to both science and humanities students. Some examples include: Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program, Rockefeller University Summer Science Research Program, High School Youth Researcher Summer (HYRS) Program
3. Research-based Internships
Through research-based internships, high school students can gain first-hand immersive research experience whilst working with a professional in their industry of interest. These internships aim to sharpen students’ research skills whilst providing a platform for students to discover if research is a career path that interests them. Example of research-based internships include: Research in Science & Engineering (RISE) Internship, Stanford Institutes of Medicine Research Bioengineering Internship, A*STAR Research Internship Award, Research Assistant Program (Singapore).
4. Academic-based essay competitions
Essay competitions ask students to write an essay based on a subject matter of their choice, and typically encourage students to read and research beyond the school curriculum. Some examples include: John Locke Institute Essay Competition, Robert Walker Prize for Essays in Law.
5. Non-academic competitions
Non-academic competitions can also promote research, but in a more applied and practical manner. For example, the Community Problem Solving Competition (CMPS) requires students to identify and address a local or national social problem. In the process, students gather data and research on these problems then present them to a panel. Projects may focus on categories such as Civic and Cultural Issues, Education, Environment, Health Concerns, and Human Services.
6. Extracurricular activities/clubs
Certain student clubs such as Model United Nations, Debate and/or Moot Parliament Programmes can also provide research opportunities in the form of weekly training events, helping students hone their persuasive and oratorical skills. For more science-inclined students, these same opportunities exist in Robotics and/or Math & Sciences Clubs.
7. Established research institutes
Aside from research programmes provided by universities, there are also research programmes provided by established institutions designed specifically for high school students. Students in New York for example could consider working with the NYC Science Research Mentoring Consortium, which is organized by the American Museum of Natural History and is composed of more than a dozen programs throughout the city. Another example is the Summer Science Intensive, which is organised by the US Department of Energy and the Joint BioEnergy Institute.
8. Non-formal school projects
If you decide not to embark on formal research programmes, you can consider pursuing a research project via a non-formal arrangement within your school. Such an independent research project provides more flexibility as you can plan your own research topic and timeline. To undertake this kind of project, you will have to find a mentor/teacher within your school and negotiate arrangements around the fulfilment of the project. Again, try talking to your academic advisor about this option.
9. Non-formal outside of school projects
Alternatively, if your school is unable to provide you with the manpower and resources to embark on a non-formal school project, you can consider searching for resources outside of school. To do so, identify researchers and/or labs that can support your proposed research project and start cold emailing as many relevant people as you can. Be sure to attach a cover letter explaining the project and a resume to these emails!
10. Crimson Research Institute
Crimson Research Institute (CRI) offers qualified students the opportunity to complete an in-depth, independent research paper or project with guidance from PhDs and top university faculty. Research mentors help students complete their small, independent research project in a specific discipline, allowing students to work through the entire research process under the guidance of experts.