Conducting research in high school may just be the key to students’ success in college and beyond. If that sounds like a big claim to make, it is! While grades, extracurriculars, and test scores may tell one part of your student’s story, those academic pillars are not the end-all, be-all they seem. Let’s discuss the key role research projects play, why they are unique in the way they engage students’ minds, and why so many recruiters love to see research on resumes.
What do you mean by research?
The phrase “academic research” might bring to mind images of classic library shelves, chemistry beakers, or even high-tech medical labs. For most, however, none of this involves teenagers at the helm. Yet increasingly, counselors are seeing students designing, developing, and even executing their own scholarship at the collegiate level while still in high school.
High school students conducting research? While it does take some savvy and initiative in order to start, it’s not impossible! Research labs often need willing volunteers to assist in administering the experiments, entering data, or more. Not to mention, as a high schooler you can still design your own project from start to finish, as long as you have access to the materials and guidance for how to write up your results.
We’ll also take a moment to say: academic research is not only for STEM students! There are research fields under almost every discipline that students may want to investigate. This includes Humanities and Social Sciences as well. The only limit is your imagination.
For those of you who aren’t yet convinced of how valuable research is for high school applicants, let’s get into it!
The magic touch
First of all, intellectual pursuits outside the classroom or club meeting room show college admissions officers that you genuinely love learning. The elusive quality of “intellectual vitality” may even be touted as the “magic touch” in a college applicant’s profile. Finding opportunities to develop your own knowledge is a great quality to demonstrate.
Not to mention, research might actually boost your grades. According to Pennsylvania State University in 2001, “Research experience has been credited with improving students’ motivation for learning.” This happens in part because students pursue more individualized interests. As a result, “intellectual curiosity is sparked,” and students can “take greater ownership of their own learning process.”
Gain new wisdom
There’s no better way to learn about a subject than to roll up your sleeves and engage. One scientific journal from 2019 explained that performing research “gives students the opportunity to witness the practical applications of concepts they have been taught in school,” as well as the chance to see “how the experimental and analytical work done in research settings builds upon what they have learned in the classroom.” In other words, seeing is believing.
Not to mention, it might inspire you to think more insightfully! The journal continued to state that students conducting research can “experience the excitement and challenges of investigating open-ended questions without predetermined answers.” This is a life skill that will elevate your work no matter the discipline.
Think outside the box
College admissions offices look for students that have big, ambitious goals. Students who can back up their claims with firsthand experience stand head and shoulders above the rest. In fact, one neuroscience journal stated: “Involving high school students in research has been shown to be beneficial for the student. These programs not only contribute to student understanding and confidence in scientific material but also foster an interest in pursuing careers in science in both the short and long term.” Each of these qualities helps you succeed as a college student.
What’s more, the neuroscientists went so far as to say research helps educate students in a “way not be the easiest for students to learn in the classroom.”
Stand out to college admissions….
The US News and World Report claimed that “[c]ollege admissions experts say that the quality of a college hopeful’s extracurricular activities matters more than [quantity].” One of the surefire recommendations to ensure that desired quality? Try “producing compelling research.”
The article explains, “High school students who have an impressive personal project they are working on independently often impress colleges because their commitment to a successful solo endeavor conveys initiative, self-discipline, and originality.” All of that sounds like music to our ears.
… And stand out to potential employers
Even experts agree that research is beneficial, and the National Association of Colleges and Employers is among them. Beyond possessing a strong academic record, NACE reports that “problem-solving skills and the ability to work as part of a team are the most important resume attributes to employers.” These are qualities you can train and perfect in a research environment quite naturally.
Other top attributes mentioned include “strong work ethic,” as well as “analytical/quantitative skills.” Need we even say it? Research projects are excellent ways for high schoolers to develop themselves as whole humans. This intellectual growth will serve you in so many ways throughout your life.
How to Find Your Research Start
So now we know that conducting academic research in high school is a really good idea. But given how busy most high school students are, the difficulty of landing a good research position is nothing to sneeze at. If you’re stalling out at the prospect of emailing lab after lab for the slim chance of a benevolent administrator’s reply… Empowerly can help.
After all, you don’t need to do this alone! You can always sign up for mentorship through a program like Empowerly’s Research Scholar Program. The RSP offers a host of perks and tools to level up your very own research project. Not only that, participants get to work with a Ph.D. candidate who specializes in their area of study… resulting in more nuanced, sophisticated, and publication-worthy work that can even impress colleges.
Still have questions about college admissions, or how to help your high schooler shoot for the stars? Reach out today. It’s what we do.