High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a group of medical school students walking through a hallway

High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)

The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) is your ticket to exploring the world of science! This guide is here to help you understand everything HiSTEP offers, showing how it can be a major step in your road to learning and scientific discovery. Let’s explore what HiSTEP is all about and see how it helps shape future scientists and innovators!

What is the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)?

The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) presents an invaluable chance for students entering their 12th grade to delve into the world of science, offering a focused exploration of various scientific careers. It’s a unique opportunity to gain deeper insights into biomedical research within the framework of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Intramural Research Program. Through this experience, rising seniors will have the chance to broaden their understanding of the scientific field and discover the diverse career paths available in biomedical science. Participants in HiSTEP gain valuable insights into both research and healthcare professions through a diverse array of activities.

These include educational lectures, visits to research groups, networking opportunities, focused small-group discussions, and collaborative group projects. Moreover, the program assists students with the college application process and helps them enhance their skills in areas such as career readiness, leadership, and resilience. Additionally, a well-being program is integrated to support the overall development of the participants.

Hosted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) main campus located in Bethesda, Maryland, the HiSTEP program runs from July 2 to August 1, 2024, convening every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Interns in this program are expected to dedicate at least 21 hours per week to their respective projects and training sessions. A key requirement for all participants is a commitment to fully engage in the entire duration of the program, ensuring a consistent and comprehensive learning experience.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

Our community is greatly enriched by diversity, and we are committed to fostering an inclusive environment. We invite applications from all who meet the HiSTEP program’s eligibility criteria, with a particular emphasis on encouraging individuals from groups historically underrepresented in the biomedical research and healthcare sectors. This includes:

  • Individuals from racial and ethnic backgrounds have traditionally had less representation in these fields.
  • Persons with disabilities, ensure they have equal opportunities to participate and contribute.
  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community, affirm our support for diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
  • Those who have faced adversities or life circumstances that have adversely affected their educational experiences, acknowledge the importance of providing equitable opportunities for all.

two chemists working inside the laboratory

Why Should You Join the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)?

Participating in the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) offers numerous benefits and opportunities for personal and professional growth. This program is an educational venture and a crucial step toward building a successful future in the field of science. By joining HiSTEP, you will:

1. Be exposed to the latest advancements and methodologies in scientific research, giving you firsthand experience at the forefront of scientific discovery.

2. Enhance your abilities in critical thinking and problem-solving, skills that are essential in scientific inquiry and beyond.

3. Connect and engage with renowned scientists and like-minded peers, building a network that can support and enrich your future career prospects.

4. Gain an early advantage in your journey towards a career in science, equipping you with the knowledge, skills, and connections that set the foundation for success.

How Do You Get Into the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)?

HiSTEP is actively seeking applications from current high school juniors who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents. To qualify, applicants must meet the following criteria:

School Participation in Federal Program: Your high school should have at least 30% of its student population enrolled in the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program. You can confirm your school’s eligibility by consulting with your principal or school counselor.

Academic Performance: A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 is required. However, students with GPAs between 2.75 and 3.0 are encouraged to apply, especially if their academic records demonstrate consistent improvement over time.

Residency Requirements: Residency within a 40-mile radius of the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland is a must. This includes living in Washington DC, Maryland, or Virginia. It’s important to note that eligibility is restricted to students living with their parents or legal guardians in these areas.

Family Employment at NIH: If you have a family member employed at NIH, be mindful of the institution’s strict nepotism rules. These rules might restrict opportunities to work in certain departments, centers, or research groups within NIH.

These criteria are in place to ensure a fair and inclusive selection process, aligning with HiSTEP’s commitment to diversity and educational equity.

Young woman using a laptop on a table.

How Do I Apply to the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)?

A. Preparing to Apply for HiSTEP

Consultation with School Officials

Before starting the application process, students must discuss their eligibility with their principal or guidance counselor. This step is crucial to confirm that you meet all the eligibility requirements for the program. School officials can provide insights into how your academic and extracurricular profile aligns with HiSTEP’s criteria, ensuring you are a suitable candidate. They might offer valuable advice and support in preparing your application, making this preliminary step a cornerstone of your application process.

Program Nature and Expectations

It’s important to note that HiSTEP offers a unique educational experience, different from a full-time research position. The program is designed to provide exposure to biomedical research and healthcare fields in a classroom and lab setting rather than placing you directly in an NIH research group for an internship.

This distinction is vital to understand so that you can align your expectations with what the program actually offers. HiSTEP is about providing a foundational understanding and inspiration in the field, rather than hands-on research experience.

B. Application Process for HiSTEP

Application Timeline

The HiSTEP application period is a critical timeframe for prospective applicants. The current opening of the application window signifies the start of an opportunity for you to successfully join the program.

Opening of Applications: The application window for HiSTEP is currently open!

Application Deadline: Applications must be submitted by noon Eastern Time on January 12, 2024.

Deadline for Reference Letters: Reference letters are an integral part of your application, providing an external perspective on your abilities and character. The deadline for these letters, January 19, 2024, is slightly after the application closing date.

This scheduling means you need to inform your referees well in advance, ensuring they have enough time to write a thoughtful and supportive letter. Remember, these letters can significantly impact the strength of your application, so choose your referees wisely and give them ample time to contribute positively to your application.

C. Completing Your Application

Using the NIH Application Center: The application process is multi-faceted and requires careful attention to detail. The application for HiSTEP is accessible through the NIH Application Center. Utilizing the NIH Application Center is the first step in this process. You need to create a detailed profile and then select the HiSTEP program specifically. Confirming your eligibility before proceeding is crucial to avoid any missteps.

The application requires several components, including your academic records, a resume, references, and a personal statement. This personal statement is particularly important as it’s your opportunity to express your passion for science, reflect on your journey, and demonstrate your leadership experiences. Each component of the application must be meticulously prepared and reviewed to ensure you present the most compelling case for your candidacy.

Selection of Program: Once your application is complete, it’s time to submit it and wait for the selection process to unfold. The review process is thorough, with the selection committee examining every aspect of your application. They assess academic achievements, personal motivations, and potential contributions to the program. Understanding that this process is comprehensive and competitive can help set realistic expectations. Final decisions are made by the end of March, so patience is key during this period.

D. Application Components

Coursework & Exams: List your coursework and grades.

CV/Resume: Provide details of your educational background, experiences, and other pertinent information.

References: Submit the names and contact details of two references.

Letter/Statement: Include a cover letter describing your research experiences, current interests, and career aspirations. Address the following questions:

  • Why are you interested in HiSTEP?
  • How have your unique experiences shaped your future goals, including any challenges you’ve overcome?
  • Describe your leadership experiences at school and in your community.

Review: Thoroughly review all parts of your application before submission.

Once you have all the required information, begin your application process. The HiSTEP selection committee will review all applications and communicate final decisions by the end of March.

E. Program Participation

As a HiSTEP intern, you will be engaged in a curriculum that includes both classroom learning and laboratory experiences. However, it’s important to understand that HiSTEP is not designed for full-time research work within an NIH research group. This means you should not reach out to NIH investigators or coordinators for research group placements. The program’s structure is specifically designed to provide a broad overview and foundational understanding of biomedical research and healthcare, which is different from a typical research internship. This approach allows for a more diverse and comprehensive educational experience, essential for those at the beginning of their scientific careers.

View of a woman sitting on the stairs of a school building.

Key Academic Subjects to Focus on for a Standout Application in the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)

To make your application for the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) stand out, prioritizing certain school subjects is key. Here’s an expanded view of the areas to focus on:

1. Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics)

Biology: This subject is the backbone of medical and biological research. Delving into areas like cellular biology and genetics provides a solid foundation for understanding the life sciences. Human biology, in particular, can give you insights into physiological processes and health-related topics.

Chemistry: A strong grasp of chemistry, especially organic chemistry, is critical for understanding the chemical basis of life and drug development. It also lays the groundwork for comprehending various lab techniques and experiments.

Physics: Understanding physics can be beneficial, especially in fields like biophysics or radiology. It helps in grasping the physical principles underlying many biomedical technologies and research equipment.

2. Mathematics

Advanced Mathematics: Math courses like algebra, calculus, and especially statistics are invaluable. They develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In research, statistics is particularly important for data analysis, experimental design, and result interpretation.

Practical Application: Applying mathematical concepts to real-world scientific problems can enhance your analytical skills, which is a key aspect of scientific research.

3. Computer Science

Programming and Data Analysis: With the growing importance of big data in research, basic programming skills in languages like Python or R and the ability to analyze data are increasingly sought after. This knowledge is crucial in fields like genomics and epidemiology.

Computational Biology: An understanding of computer science can open doors to computational biology, where computer programming and data analysis are used to solve biological problems.

4. English and Communication Skills

Writing and Communication: Effective communication is essential in science. Being able to write clearly and concisely helps in drafting research proposals, reports, and scientific papers. It also aids in presenting complex ideas in an understandable way.

Critical Reading and Analysis: English classes help develop skills in critical reading and analysis of texts, which are crucial for reviewing scientific literature and developing a well-reasoned research hypothesis.

5. Additional Relevant Electives

Advanced Science Courses: Taking AP or other advanced courses demonstrates a higher level of understanding and commitment to these subjects. It indicates your preparedness for college-level coursework and research.

Research Methodology: Courses that provide a foundation in research methods can give you a head start in understanding the basics of scientific inquiry, experimental design, and ethical considerations in research.

6. Extracurricular Activities

Science Clubs and Competitions: Active participation in these activities showcases your enthusiasm for science beyond academic requirements. It also helps in building teamwork and leadership skills.

Volunteer Work or Internships: These experiences demonstrate your commitment and provide practical exposure to scientific work environments, helping you gain valuable insights into the field of research.

7. Personal Projects

Independent Research or Projects: Initiating your own projects shows creativity, independence, and a proactive approach to learning. It could involve anything from a simple experiment to a more elaborate research project.

A strong application for HiSTEP goes beyond academic performance. It reflects a well-rounded profile with a deep interest in science, demonstrated through both coursework and extracurricular activities. Your application should showcase not just your knowledge and skills, but also your curiosity, passion, and commitment to the field of scientific research.

2 high school students talking about paid internships

How Hard is Getting Into the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)?

The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) stands as a prestigious and selective summer initiative, specifically tailored for rising high school seniors who have a keen interest in the fields of biomedicine and healthcare. This program is known for its rigorous selection process, with an acceptance rate that falls below 10%. This statistic underscores the competitive nature of HiSTEP, highlighting its reputation as an elite program for aspiring students in the biomedical and healthcare sectors.

A. How are applications reviewed?

Researchers within the NIH intramural research program look for candidates based on specific interests or other factors mentioned in the application, such as GPA, university attendance, and past research experiences, to identify suitable applicants. Your odds of being accepted can significantly improve if you proactively contact potential research groups, as detailed in our ‘Find NIH research groups’ resources.

Identifying Research Groups of Interest

In the absence of a specific database where NIH Principal Investigators (PIs) advertise positions for SIP or AIP interns, it’s essential for prospective interns to take a proactive approach. Many NIH research groups are eager to welcome new interns, but finding the right fit requires a focused search. Start by pinpointing your areas of interest and matching them with specific NIH campuses.

Scientific Focus Areas:

1. Biomedical Engineering and Biophysics

2. Cancer Biology

3. Cell Biology

4. Chemical Biology

5. Chromosome Biology

6. Clinical Research

7. Computational Biology

8. Developmental Biology

9. Epidemiology

10. Genetics and Genomics

11. Health Disparities

12. Immunology

13. Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

14. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

15. Molecular Pharmacology

16. Neuroscience

17. RNA Biology

18. Social and Behavioral Sciences

19. Stem Cell Biology

20. Structural Biology

21. Systems Biology

22. Virology

Questions to Consider:

Identifying Scientific Topics: Reflect on which areas of science you’re keen to learn more about. To get started, explore the NIH’s list of scientific focus areas. This can help in identifying fields that resonate with your interests and aspirations.

B. Exploring Biomedical Techniques

  • Familiarize yourself with the techniques used in biomedical research. The ‘Accelerating Science’ section on the NIH IRP website is a valuable resource for understanding these techniques and their applications.
  • Developing Advanced Animal Models: Essential for discovering cures through organisms mimicking human diseases.
  • Innovating Cell-Based Therapies: Testing new treatments at the cellular level.
  • Enhancing Computational and Structural Biology: Utilizing high computing power for scientific breakthroughs.
  • Addressing Drug Resistance: Finding new solutions against increasingly resistant microbes.
  • Advancing Imaging Techniques: Technological progress revealing biological secrets.
  • Exploring Inflammation Pathways: Investigating a key factor in numerous diseases for therapeutic potential.
  • Studying the Microbiome: Microorganisms in the human body as a key to health improvement.
  • Exploring Natural Products: The environment as a source of new treatments.
  • Accelerating Neuroscience Research: Delving into the complexities of the human brain.
  • Advancing Precision Medicine: Creating patient-specific treatments.
  • Exploring RNA Biology and Therapeutics: Harnessing DNA’s partner for disease treatment.
  • Developing New Vaccines: Innovating immunization to prevent widespread diseases.
  • Disease-Specific Interests: Consider which diseases you find intriguing and that motivate you to delve deeper into biomedical research. This can guide your path toward specialized areas of study.

After identifying three to five key topics, techniques, or diseases of interest, use these as a compass to navigate through helpful resources for finding NIH research groups.

C. Useful NIH Resources

The NIH Intramural Research Website: This platform enables you to search for PIs based on various criteria, including scientific focus area, research topic, specific institute, or even by the PI’s name. It’s a helpful tool for narrowing down potential mentors and groups that align with your interests.

The NIH Intramural Database: This database provides a more in-depth look at current research projects that may align with your interests. It offers the functionality to filter searches by specific NIH campuses, allowing you to find projects and groups in your preferred location.

By utilizing these steps and resources, you can effectively define and align your research interests with the right NIH research groups, thereby enhancing your prospects for securing a suitable and rewarding internship position.

Five medical students wearing scrubs as they walk inside the lobby of a medical school

Planning and Creating a List of Potential NIH Research Mentors

Your primary objective is to compile a comprehensive list of potential mentors for NIH research positions. This list should ideally begin with at least 20 Principal Investigators (PIs) whose research aligns with your interests. Depending on the specificity of your interests and objectives, the length of this list can be adjusted.

List Components: 

For each potential mentor, gather and include the following information:

  • Full Name
  • Contact Details (Email, phone number)
  • Institute or Center (IC) they are associated with
  • Campus Location
  • Their specific area of research

Contacting Potential NIH Mentors

Initial Research: Before reaching out to a potential mentor, it’s important to familiarize yourself with their work. This can be achieved by:

  • Reviewing their website to understand the scope and focus of their research.
  • For more experienced students, reading recent publications available on PubMed or the mentor’s webpage can provide deeper insight into their work.

Crafting the Email: When you’re ready to contact a PI, your email should be personalized and informative. It should include:

  • A brief introduction, outlining your educational background.
  • A description of any relevant work or research experience you have.
  • A concise explanation of why you find their research compelling and how it aligns with your interests.
  • Your current resume is attached as a PDF file.
  • If applicable, a reference to your completed online application for the SIP.

Personalization and Follow-up: Ensure that each email is tailored specifically to the individual mentor, avoiding generic templates. If you don’t receive a response, a polite follow-up email after two weeks is recommended. In the absence of a reply to this follow-up, it is safe to assume they are not interested or unavailable for mentorship.

A. Conducting Interviews with Potential NIH Mentors

Purpose of the Interview

It helps both you and the Principal Investigator (PI) determine if the position aligns well with your goals and skills. It’s also an opportunity for you to understand how joining the group can enhance your training. Interviews might be conducted in person or virtually and often involve interactions with other team members.

Interview Expectations

The nature of the interview varies depending on your educational background and whether this is your first foray into research internships. You should have a general understanding of the group’s objectives. Remember, the interview process is reciprocal – while the group assesses your abilities and fit, you should also evaluate whether the group’s environment and the PI’s mentorship style suit your needs.

Preparing for the Interview

Effective preparation involves anticipating questions you might be asked and formulating questions you want to ask:

Questions You May Face

  • Be prepared to discuss your past experiences in education and research. If you lack experience in certain areas, it’s okay to admit it. Honesty is crucial; avoid overstating your skills.
  • Expect queries about balancing school and work, handling team conflicts, learning independently, and managing feedback or challenging conversations.
  • Be ready to discuss your immediate goals and long-term aspirations, including further education or other internship opportunities.

Questions You Should Ask

  • Inquire about who you’ll be working closely with and who to approach for day-to-day queries.
  • Ask about what your typical day will look like and the tasks you’ll undertake.
  • Seek information about the specific projects, technologies, and approaches you’ll be exposed to, and whether you’ll have your own project or assist with ongoing ones.
  • Find out how often the PI holds one-on-one meetings with interns.
  • Ask if there are regular group meetings and what they entail.
  • Understand what qualities the PI values in interns and how they assess intern performance.
  • Inquire about the number of interns previously mentored by the PI and their subsequent career paths.

This comprehensive approach to interviewing potential NIH mentors will help you make an informed decision about the right fit for your research internship.

science student wearing laboratory gowns while looking through their microscope

B. Key Considerations When Selecting a Research Group

Selecting the right research group is crucial for your personal and professional development. Here are four important aspects to consider when making your decision:

Research Focus and Learning Opportunities

  • Ensure the group’s research aligns with your interests. Are you enthusiastic about the topics and techniques they explore?
  • Assess the opportunity to learn and enhance a variety of skills, including not just research techniques, but also communication, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities.

Group Dynamics and Work Culture

  • Evaluate whether the group fosters a supportive and inclusive environment, respecting diverse experiences and backgrounds.
  • Understand the group’s approach to work – whether they prioritize collaboration, prefer independent work, or have a competitive atmosphere.
  • Look into how group members interact socially and whether these interactions are professional and contribute positively to the work environment.

Leadership and Management Approach of the PI

  • Consider how the PI tracks the progress of projects and the development of team members. Do they hold regular meetings with individuals and the entire team?
  • Assess the nature of group meetings and how the group collectively addresses challenges and debates on research topics.
  • Observe how the PI provides feedback and responds to it from others.
  • Determine the PI’s role in facilitating difficult conversations and resolving conflicts.
  • If there are other leaders in the group, understand how the PI collaborates with them for effective management.

Mentorship Philosophy and Style of the PI

  • Check if the PI offers appropriate supervision and allows independence, tailored to your level of training and knowledge.
  • Evaluate whether the PI is supportive of diverse career paths and if they provide equal support to all group members, regardless of their long-term aspirations.
  • Ascertain if the PI routinely meets with trainees to set expectations, offer feedback, and encourage open communication.

By carefully considering these aspects, you can better understand which research group aligns with your goals and preferences, ensuring a more fulfilling and enriching research experience.

C. Engaging with Additional Members of the Research Group

Importance of Interacting with Group Members

It’s advisable to converse with other members of the research group before accepting any offer. While this might be less critical for a short, ten-week summer internship, it becomes particularly important for longer commitments, such as the AIP program. Request contact information for current staff and trainees from your interviewer. Ensure you also speak with anyone who will be directly supervising or collaborating with you during your internship.

Key Questions to Ask Group Members

  • Understand what the PI expects from interns.
  • Inquire about a typical day in the group.
  • Ask about the frequency and nature of meetings with the PI, and who to consult if the PI isn’t regularly available.
  • Find out if the PI and mentors are responsive to emails and other forms of communication.
  • Learn about the onboarding process and who will be assisting you.
  • Ask how the PI and the group handle frustration and mistakes, both from the PI and group members.
  • Discover what members enjoy and dislike about working in the group, and how respect and feedback are given.
  • Understand how the PI handles conflicts within the group.
  • Inquire about typical work hours, schedule flexibility, and vacation policies.

Be aware that not everyone may feel comfortable discussing issues about their PI or mentors openly. Pay attention to subtle cues in their language and body language.

C. Follow-Up After Interviews

Always send a thank-you email to those you spoke with, including any follow-up questions. Ask the PI about the next steps.

interviewer smiling at the camera

D. Assessing Your Options

After the interview, take time to reflect on what you’ve learned. Don’t rush your decision and try to explore options with multiple groups for a broader comparison. PIs should allow you time to make your decision without pressure.

Remember, no single mentor can fulfill all your needs. Determine your priorities with a mentor and find someone who can support you effectively in your internship. Be open to different research topics and prioritize finding mentors who offer significant guidance, especially at the early stages of your research training.

E. Communicating Your Decision and Onboarding

Once you’ve made your decision, inform all interviewed PIs and thank them. Follow all NIH onboarding steps promptly and thoroughly read all provided information for new trainees.

F. Addressing Personal Concerns

If you have unique personal needs or concerns (e.g., being a parent or caretaker, needing accommodations, or specific comfort requirements), consider when to discuss these during the interview process. This decision is personal and can be made early on or after receiving an offer. If you need guidance on these discussions, NIH’s OITE can provide support. Finding a supportive and comfortable research group is key, so don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance.

Selecting the Right Research Group in High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)

When searching for a research group that aligns with your personal and professional growth goals, consider the following key factors:

Research Focus and Learning Opportunities

  • Ensure the research topics resonate with your interests and excite you.
  • Assess the potential for learning new research techniques and developing a comprehensive skill set, including communication, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities.

Group Dynamics and Culture

  • Look for a group that values mutual support and inclusivity, welcoming diverse experiences and backgrounds.
  • Understand how the group functions – whether through collaboration, independent work, or competitive dynamics.
  • Evaluate the nature of social interactions within the group, ensuring they maintain professionalism and contribute positively to the group dynamic.

Leadership and Management Style of the PI

  • Consider how the PI monitors project progress and team performance, including regular individual and team meetings.
  • Assess the quality of group meetings, including discussions on research issues and healthy debates. Also, evaluate how the PI provides and responds to feedback.
  • Look at how the PI assists in resolving conflicts and whether they encourage open, difficult conversations.
  • If there are other managers, understand how the PI collaborates with them for effective group oversight.

Mentorship Approach of the PI

  • Check if the PI offers the right level of guidance and independence, suitable for your training stage and knowledge base.
  • Ensure the PI is supportive of various career outcomes and that all group members receive equal support, regardless of their long-term goals.
  • Confirm the PI’s willingness to regularly discuss expectations, provide feedback, and value your input.

Keeping these considerations in mind during interviews and interactions with potential research groups will help you gather the necessary information to make a well-informed decision that best suits your academic and professional aspirations.

Female professor taking in front of the class.

Maximizing the Mentorship Opportunity in Your HiSTEP Journey

The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) offers a unique platform for budding scientists, and the role of mentorship within this program cannot be overstated. Effective mentorship is key to enriching your HiSTEP experience, offering guidance, inspiration, and support as you navigate the world of scientific research and discovery. Here’s how mentorship can play a pivotal role in enhancing your HiSTEP experience:

Nurturing Scientific Curiosity and Knowledge

Mentors in HiSTEP serve as invaluable sources of knowledge and expertise. They can help demystify complex scientific concepts and nurture your curiosity, encouraging deeper understanding and exploration in your chosen field.

Offering Personalized Guidance

A mentor can provide personalized advice tailored to your specific interests and goals. This individualized approach can be particularly beneficial in helping you navigate the challenges and opportunities within the scientific community.

Expanding Professional Networks

Through mentorship, you gain access to a broader network of professionals and peers within the scientific community. This exposure can open doors to future opportunities, such as internships, research projects, and even career prospects.

Developing Essential Skills

Mentors in HiSTEP not only focus on scientific learning but also on the development of essential soft skills. These include critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration – all crucial for success in any scientific endeavor.

Providing Emotional and Academic Support

Mentorship goes beyond academic learning; it includes providing emotional support and encouragement. Mentors can guide you through the stresses and pressures associated with rigorous scientific training, helping you build resilience and confidence.

Inspiring Career Aspirations

Mentors often act as role models, showcasing the various paths and possibilities within the realm of science. Their experiences and insights can inspire and shape your career aspirations, helping you to envision a future in the field of science.

Facilitating Hands-on Experience

In HiSTEP, mentors can provide hands-on research experiences, allowing you to apply theoretical knowledge in practical settings. This real-world exposure is invaluable in understanding the nuances and dynamics of scientific research.

Encouraging Continuous Learning and Growth

A good mentor encourages a mindset of continuous learning and growth, essential in the ever-evolving field of science. They can help you stay updated with the latest research and trends, ensuring you remain at the forefront of scientific knowledge.

Mentorship is a cornerstone of the HiSTEP experience, offering a multifaceted approach to learning and personal development. By leveraging the guidance and support of mentors, you can significantly enhance your journey through the HiSTEP program, setting a strong foundation for your future in science.

Unidentified person using a laptop while checking a piece of document.

When is the Deadline to Apply to the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)?

The final date for submitting applications to the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) is set for noon Eastern Time on Friday, January 12, 2024. 

All reference letters for the application must be submitted by noon Eastern Time on the following Friday, January 19, 2024.

When Do I Find Out About My Application to the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)?

As stated on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) official website, those who apply for the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) can expect to receive information regarding the status of their applications by the end of March.

Where is the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) Held?

The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) is hosted at the primary campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is located in Bethesda, Maryland, just 10 miles from the center of Washington, DC. The campus is where administrative and program operations facilities are situated, and where NIH scientists conduct their research in laboratories.

The NIH has off-campus facilities in the surrounding area and several field units across the country and abroad where research is also conducted. The campus is accessible via public transportation, particularly the Metrorail service, with the Medical Center Station being the closest stop.

Due to security measures, visitors are processed at the NIH Gateway Center, which is located adjacent to the Medical Center Metro Station at the South Drive entrance to the campus from Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue (Route 355).

View of three medical students walking in the hallway.

When Does the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) Take Place?

This program is scheduled to run from July 2nd to August 1st, 2024, with sessions held every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during this period. This structure provides a concentrated and immersive educational experience in the world of biomedical research, right at the heart of one of the nation’s foremost research institutions.

How Long is the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)?

The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) offers a six-week summer internship opportunity specifically designed for students who are currently in high school. This program spans a substantial part of the summer, providing an intensive and immersive experience in scientific learning and research.

Harnessing STEM Education in Summer Initiatives: Spotlight on HiSTEP

Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning into summer programs, particularly in the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP), is pivotal in nurturing the next generation of innovators and researchers. This integration, with a special focus on science, technology, and medical research, is instrumental in offering high school students a comprehensive and immersive educational experience. Here’s how STEM learning can be effectively integrated into programs like HiSTEP:

Fostering Scientific Inquiry and Exploration

HiSTEP can emphasize hands-on scientific experiments and fieldwork, allowing students to actively engage in scientific inquiry. This practical approach helps demystify complex theories and concepts, making science more accessible and intriguing.

Utilizing Cutting-Edge Technology

Incorporating the latest technological tools and software in HiSTEP can provide students with real-world tech skills. This could include data analysis software, laboratory equipment, and computational tools, preparing students for future technological advancements in science and medicine.

Offering Interdisciplinary Medical Research Opportunities

HiSTEP can offer interdisciplinary projects that combine elements of biology, chemistry, and medicine. This approach can give students insight into the multifaceted nature of medical research, from laboratory-based studies to clinical applications.

Engineering Integration

Engineering principles can be integrated to give students an understanding of how they apply to biomedical devices, prosthetics, and pharmaceutical manufacturing processes. This provides a holistic view of how different STEM fields converge in practical applications.

Encouraging Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking

STEM education in HiSTEP should focus on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This can be achieved through project-based learning, where students tackle real-world problems, fostering an innovative and analytical mindset.

Collaborative Projects and Teamwork

Emphasizing collaborative projects can teach the importance of teamwork in STEM fields. Students can work in groups on research projects, learning to combine diverse ideas and approaches to arrive at effective solutions.

Exposure to Professional STEM Environments

Providing opportunities for students to interact with professionals in STEM fields, including scientists, engineers, and medical researchers, can give them invaluable insights into various career paths and the real-world applications of their studies.

Workshops and Seminars

Organizing workshops and seminars on current trends and developments in STEM fields can keep students informed and inspired. These sessions can also include discussions on ethical considerations in science and technology.

Continuous Learning Resources

Offering resources for continued learning beyond the program can help sustain students’ interest in STEM. This could include online courses, reading materials, and guidance for pursuing STEM subjects in higher education.

Integrating STEM in summer programs like HiSTEP is inspiring a new generation to explore, innovate, and contribute to the ever-evolving world of science, technology, and medicine. Through such programs, students can gain a robust foundation, setting the stage for future educational and career pursuits in STEM fields.

Group of students huddled together while talking.

Enhancing College Admissions Prospects Through the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP)

Participating in the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) can significantly bolster your college admissions prospects in several ways:

Demonstrating Commitment to Science and Research

Specialized Interest: Participation in HiSTEP is a clear testament to your deep-rooted interest in science and research. It sends a strong message to college admissions committees about your commitment and enthusiasm for scientific exploration, setting you apart as a candidate who is seriously invested in the field.

Advanced Understanding: HiSTEP goes beyond the standard high school science curriculum, offering you exposure to more sophisticated concepts and methodologies. This advanced learning experience demonstrates to colleges your ability to grasp complex scientific ideas and techniques, indicating that you’re well-prepared for higher-level academic challenges.

Enhancing Your Academic Profile

Rigorous Learning: The demanding curriculum of HiSTEP is designed to push your academic boundaries. Excelling in such a rigorous program can significantly elevate your academic profile, showing colleges that you are not only capable of handling challenging coursework but that you thrive in it.

Unique Coursework: Involvement in specialized projects or courses within HiSTEP adds a distinctive element to your academic record. This unique aspect of your education helps differentiate you from the pool of applicants, showcasing your diverse academic interests and achievements.

Providing Valuable Extracurricular Experience

Well-rounded Application: Colleges often seek students who demonstrate a balance between academics and extracurricular pursuits. Your involvement in HiSTEP, a program deeply rooted in scientific research and exploration, underscores your well-roundedness as an applicant, highlighting your active engagement in learning beyond the classroom.

Leadership and Teamwork Skills:  HiSTEP’s collaborative projects not only foster scientific learning but also cultivate essential skills such as leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving. These skills are critical in college and beyond, and your experience in applying them in real-world scenarios makes your application more compelling.

Offering Research and Project Experience

Hands-on Research:  Your direct participation in HiSTEP research projects offers practical experience in your area of scientific interest. This not only enhances your understanding of the subject matter but also demonstrates your initiative and capability in conducting scientific research — a valuable trait for prospective college students.

Project Management:  Successfully managing a research project from start to finish is a testament to your organizational and project management skills. This ability to oversee complex tasks and bring them to fruition is highly regarded in the academic world, showcasing your preparedness for the rigors of college-level research.

Building Relationships for Strong Recommendations

Mentor Endorsements:  Building connections with mentors and instructors in HiSTEP can lead to powerful letters of recommendation. These endorsements provide a professional perspective on your scientific abilities and personal qualities, adding significant weight to your college application.

Network of Support:  The relationships forged during HiSTEP can create a supportive network, offering guidance and advice throughout the college application process. This network can be a valuable resource, providing insights and support as you navigate the complexities of college admissions.

Enhancing College Essays

Unique Perspectives: The unique experiences and learnings gained through HiSTEP can enrich your college essays with distinctive perspectives and insights. These reflections can make your essays more engaging and memorable to admissions committees.

Personal Growth Stories: HiSTEP challenges you in various ways, offering opportunities for significant personal growth. Sharing these experiences in your essays can provide a compelling narrative of your journey and development, resonating strongly with admissions officers.

Preparing for College Interviews

Confident Discussions:  Armed with the knowledge and experiences from HiSTEP, you can confidently engage in discussions about scientific topics and personal experiences during college interviews. This confidence can leave a lasting impression on interviewers, highlighting your expertise and passion for science.

Aligning with College Specializations

Focused Interests:  For students aiming to pursue science or related fields in college, HiSTEP provides a solid foundation that aligns closely with these academic tracks. Demonstrating this alignment in your application can show your clear focus and determination to excel in these specialized areas.

HiSTEP doesn’t just prepare you for a future in science and research; it also equips you with a range of experiences and skills that make your college application more compelling, setting you apart in the competitive world of college admissions.

Final Thoughts

The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) transcends the traditional boundaries of education, serving as a pivotal launchpad for your journey into the realms of scientific innovation and discovery. Engaging in HiSTEP is not merely about acquiring knowledge; it’s a transformative process that shapes you into a trailblazer for the upcoming era of scientific exploration and leadership. Embrace this opportunity to elevate your enthusiasm for science into an enriching and fulfilling adventure, setting the stage for a future filled with groundbreaking achievements and contributions to the world of science.

Looking for assistance with pre-college program applications? Think about collaborating with experts in college admissions, such as AdmissionSight. Boasting years of experience, we have guided many students toward successful acceptance into prestigious universities worldwide. Begin your educational journey today – schedule a consultation with us!



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