How to Get into RSI

Farah Weheba
Farah Weheba

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Interested in gaining some technical research experience? Research opportunities for teens in lab settings are sparse, so consider RSI. This program is a prestigious, free summer program in partnership with MIT, with only 80 coveted seats. What’s more, students gain admission purely on potential and achievement, not according to who they know. Students take courses in STEM fields, engage in intensive research, and prepare a conference-style presentation on their findings. If you don’t gain admission, however, don’t be heartbroken. There are plenty of ways to independently gain similar experience this summer. So, let’s dig in!

RSI (Research Science Institute) is a free rigorous and prestigious science theory and research camp. One more time: this camp is free to 70-80 admitted rising seniors! They typically admit 30 international students. 

The 5-week program at RSI takes students through a research cycle. This includes learning to read peer-reviewed publications, writing a detailed research plan, and crafting an oral and written report: conference-style.

Lastly, check the program’s website for the most up-to-date deadlines for applications.

What to expect week by week

RSI hosts students at the MIT campus. While there, expect to explore on-campus scientific theory, combined with off-campus trips to relevant science and tech applications. 

  • Week 1: Students participate in week-long intensive STEM classes with top professors. You’ll be asked to read a humanities book to emphasize cross-industry collaboration and communication. 
  • Weeks 2-6: Research internship. Conduct individual projects under experienced MIT mentors: scientists, alumni, and researchers. Guest speakers include Nobel Prize winners, and industry professionals. 
  • Week 7: Students prepare written and oral presentations on their research projects- awesome preparation for presenting at future academic conferences!

Prestige, if you please

RSI offers super strong payoff in the college admissions process for STEM field college-bound applicants. This is because the program has quality name recognition among admissions officers, with the added bonus of merit-based admission into the program without any cost. In addition, the covered cost of the program rules out the question of privileged financial accessibility, highlighting just merit. Refreshing, eh? 

Who gets into RSI? 

On average, 1600 students apply to the camp, and the camp selects 80. Still, admission is solely based on academics and accomplishments. No one gains favor due to something called legacy. In other words, this means an applicant’s parent or sister or cousin attended (usually referred to as a legacy admissions privilege). Instead, it’s just you and your credentials: a high GPA, demonstrated leadership, rigorous coursework, and a promising PSAT or SAT or ACT score.

Some notable RSI alumni include Feng Zhang, inventor of CRISPR gene editing, the founder of Pinterest, the second female math tenured professor at Harvard, Dr. Lauren K. Williams, now teaching at Berkeley

How do I write an RSI essay? 

In your essays, explain the central mission that drives you and your goal-orientation. Further, demonstrate how you make the most of the resources available to you to drive a passionate purpose you’ve carved out for yourself. The admissions officers know that a student who lives in Hutchinson, Kansas has different constraints than a student in the heart of Silicon Valley. It’s not about who you know or where you’re located; rather, it’s about being resourceful and leveraging opportunity. 

Best of luck to all applying! 

I didn’t get into RSI. Plan B – contingency plan

If not admitted, you can try to simulate the experience and participate in similar programming on your own to parallel the RSI benefits; also, you’ll earn bonus points for independent initiative, resilience, and growth mindset!

Independent research conducted with a college professor or grad students is incredibly valuable for STEM-bound applicants. Beyond that, independent or group research that results in a published journal paper? Great! Anywhere the student is mentioned as a co-author or credited as a research assistant is a huge achievement. As RSI prepares students to speak at academic conferences, you can do so, too. 

Aim to pursue a research topic that will match up with the STEM field that you plan to pursue as a major. You may need to cold email several professors and/or lab directors at universities before you get a response. Nonetheless, your research assistance is needed. Cast a wide net, and stay strong!

Present at a conference 

You can bookmark the IEMS conference which is held annually in March in Clearwater, Florida, accepting presenting high school students in the fields of Industry, Engineering, Management Systems, and related STEM fields. IEMS hosts professors and scholars in Industrial Engineering, and branches out into related applied fields and industries.

The conference directors believe in preparing and empowering high school students to share their innovations and network with other academics– leading them to add a rare high school and undergraduate student presenting track! 

Track fields include but are not limited to: Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing and more!), Automation and Modeling, Business Analytics, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Corporate Governance, Data Analytics, Engineering Innovations, Healthcare Systems, Human Factors & Cognitive Engineering, Leadership & Diversity, Quality Planning & Process Improvement, Supply Chain Management, etc. See a full list of tracks in the Call for Papers

Compete with this!

Additionally, original research that a student begins with a professor or grad students can be later used to enter amazing science competitions such as:

Whether you started your research with RSI or independently, you can take your findings to compete in science fairs and other math or science-based competitions. Students have gone on to apply for:  Rhodes Scholars, Waterman Awards, and Simons Investigators

An Empowerly counselor can help you chart out a dynamic and rigorous summer. Click below to schedule a consult by phone to learn more. 

Questions? Let us know!