Do I need a research experience for admission

There is no formula that will ensure your admission to any college. But many companies have sprung up designed to help students form a not-for-profit or conduct research to strengthen their applications to highly selective schools. Conducting research in high school can be a helpful way to show your intellectual curiosity. But like any experience, if it is authentic and you can reflect on what you learned and gained, it will help you. If you do it to check off a box, that will be clear to admission offices.

Companies like Polygence, Crimson Education and Lumiere Education all help connect students to Ph.D students for mentored research projects. These are expensive. Students who can afford these types of programs have an advantage in the admissions process, which is unfortunate for those who don’t. But students willing to put in the leg work, can reach out to faculty at colleges in their area to see if they would allow them to help on a research project. If that college allows high school students to take a college class, that is a great way to get in the door and meet a faculty member.

Some high schools also support research. Schools with IB curriculums or the AP Capstone course provide students the opportunity to conduct research. However, these projects are usually senior year making it challenging to reflect on the experience in essays. Check with your high school teachers to see if they might allow you access to labs or classroom space to conduct research.

Some students utilize platforms like blogs, youtube, tedtalk-like programs to showcase their interests, research or passion projects. Students also present their research at academic conferences with their faculty/Ph.D. mentors or try to have the articles published.

But no matter how you attempt to conduct research, make sure you are doing it because you are truly excited about the research, the topic or the experience. You will be expected to reflect on these experiences in essays and in interviews. If you can not speak or write meaningfully and connect it to your major area of interest (even if it resulted in changing your future major), it will come across as inauthentic.

If you would like to discuss how to identify research opportunities or if research might be right for you, please schedule a meeting here.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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