We’ve all heard the spiel, “the summer of your junior year is the most important one in high school! It’s your one chance to show colleges you do something other than sleep 14 hours a day and binge watch How I Met Your Mother during those days in July and August.” Doing something productive in the summer (and no, getting through a season of House in a day does not count as productive) is also a great way to separate yourself from the pack when it comes to college and applications.
I am a firm believer in applying to selective summer programs to try and get a leg up over most of your peers, and more than just that, to give yourself an opportunity to experience things beyond the regular high schooler. Whether that be through high school summer research, shadowing, or interning, every opportunity allows you to grow as a student and applicant.
As for me, I thankfully have ultra Indian parents who just read CTY blogs for fun, and they were the first ones to come upon these summer opportunities for high school students. I then spent countless hours dredging up as many summer programs to apply to as I could, in my sophomore year of high school for that following summer.
But I realize not everyone has the means to access or research these programs, and so many kids who I know deserve a chance don’t even know to apply. For that reason, here’s a short breakdown of all the programs I applied to during sophomore and junior year, why I applied to them, and whether or not I got in. I also made a condensed version of all this information at the bottom, so you can check that out if you want the bare bones.
Final note: I would start looking into these programs fairly early in the year, because some of them have early application deadlines (like January), while others are open until March or later.
Another final note: As someone who wants to go into medicine/medical research/science in general, these are the programs that I was interested in. If you aren’t into this stuff, a lot of these programs also have opportunities for people interested in math/engineering/compsci, you just might need to dig around the websites a little.
**A quick note about prices/stipends**
These programs generally fall into one of three categories:
If you get into a bunch of programs and have to decide which ones they go to, this can be helpful in choosing, but keep in mind that it doesn’t apply to all the programs out there.
I was much less experienced and a lot less researched in my sophomore year, and so I only applied to a few programs. I was also pretty arrogant, thinking I would get into at least one of them, and so I didn’t apply to more (if I had, there’s a good chance I would be in a much better place right now, so I encourage you to apply to as many as possible!) I was also limited in what I could apply to because for almost all the programs, you had to be 16 years old (because of something about minors in labs), and I only turned 16 before a few of the programs started.
1. Rockefeller University Summer Science Research Program
This program (SSRP) is based in Rockefeller Uni in New York City. It’s a pretty standard summer research opportunity, where students that are selected are matched up with a professor/researcher at the respective university, and can then work in that PI’s (principal investigator’s) lab for that summer. This particular program is for 7 weeks, from the end of June to the beginning of August, and applications are due relatively early (around the beginning of January). This program does not have a stipend. You have to be 16 years by the start of the program.
I applied to this program because it was one of the few summer research ones where I met the age requirement, and a research program was definitely my first choice for a summer experience.
For this program, I got through to the second stage of application review, but was ultimately waitlisted. About 20% of applications reach the second stage, and then 5% of the total applications are successfully matched with a mentor. The entire review process is based solely on a written application which includes a few essays, letters of recommendation, and a transcript. No one that I know of has gotten into this program, and after talking with some of my teachers, some of them think that they have a preference for students in the NYC area, which makes sense, but is just speculation. I encourage you to apply regardless, you never know what will happen. For this program, just make sure that you are okay with traveling to the city pretty much every weekday for the entire summer, something you will have to do if you enroll in this program.
For more information: https://www.rockefeller.edu/outreach/summer-science/
*Note* Rockefeller University also has a Summer Neuroscience Program, which I’m pretty sure you have to pay for (which is why I didn’t apply), but check that one out too.
2. Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program (HOPP) at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
This program also focuses on research with a PI in a lab in the center in New York City, and also offers other events, training, and tours during your time in the Center. This program, because it is based around cancer, focuses on translational research, or applying observations of patients to procedures in the lab. There is no age restriction for this one, as long as you are a high schooler, but they have some other eligibility requirements like GPA minimums. This an 8 week program, from the end of June through the end of August. I vaguely remember this program offering a stipend when I applied, but when I went back to look at it, I couldn’t find it anywhere, so either it doesn’t offer it anymore or I was mixing it up with a different program.
I applied to this program mainly because it was one of the few that I had researched, and seemed like a good opportunity especially if you want to go into medicine. I didn’t like it as much as Rockefeller or the other one I applied to, but I would pretty much take anything I could get.
For this program, which is also based solely on a written application, I got straight-up rejected. But after speaking with a few others, I was sort of expecting it, because I heard that they also favor NYC area kids and kids of the employees of MSKCC. The same concept of traveling to NYC applies to this one as well, so make sure you are okay with that.
For more information: https://www.mskcc.org/education-training/high-school-college/hopp-summer-student
3. Liberty Science Center Partners in Science Program
This is actually a program I applied to again in junior year, and the one I’m participating in my summer after junior year, so I’m going to put most of the information for this one under my junior year. (I’ll also have a whole other post just about this program.) As a sophomore, I was waitlisted in the program (because I really failed at that interview) but was pretty confident in my ability to get in as a junior.
**How I Ended Up Spending My Summer After Sophomore Year**
Although I didn’t get to spend it the way I wanted, I ended up starting to teach piano to the kids in my neighborhood, I went to India (after like 5 years of not visiting), and started volunteering at a nearby hospital. And I tried to start studying for the ever-so-important SAT. Oh, and I started driving, if that counts.
Because this entire post ended up being longer than I thought, I divided it into two parts, and will post the other half sometime this week.
4/19/2018 04:08:22 pm
Hey - I applied to Liberty Science Center this year (current soph) and got ultimately rejected. Do you have any advice for finding something STEM-related to do in the summer, or any advice on emailing professors for research mentorship?
Aww, I'm sorry to hear that :(
11/25/2018 10:04:27 pm
8/17/2021 11:20:23 pm
This might be weird commenting three years later but by any chance was the "cheesy computer game" that got you into medical science an edheads virtual surgery game because if so that's the game that got me into medsci in like third grade and I'm going to be a junior this year-
2/14/2019 09:40:30 pm
Hi - I am currently a sophomore and I'm in the process of completing my application for LSC. I was wondering if you could tell me what my chances are of actually getting in. Also, if you have any advice on how to strengthen my essays, I would really appreciate it! Thanks so much.
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