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Writing a Successful Application for the NIH High School Summer Internship Program (HS-SIP)

Basic Principles:

  1. Before you begin working on your application:
  1. Start early. Never submit your application at the last minute. Here’s why:
  • Editing and polishing your application is important, and it takes time.
  • Selection committees might start searching for summer interns well before the application deadline. The sooner your application is in the database, the better your chances of being selected for a position.
  • Sometimes online systems crash when they experience too much (last-minute) traffic.
  1. Ensure that everything you submit is grammatically correct, clearly expressed, and neatly organized. This is absolutely essential!
  • Write a draft, edit it repeatedly, and ask someone whose judgment you trust to read it and make suggestions for improvement.
  • For security reasons, our application system accept only plain text. The only tools you will have for formatting will be capital letters, spaces, hard returns, and characters on the keyboard such as - or *. Bold, italics, tabs, Greek letters, and other fancy formatting will be stripped away or, worse still, they may be replaced by other, meaningless characters.
  • Compose and polish sections for an electronic application in a word processor, then paste them into the application.
  1. Make certain that all of the information you submit is accurate. Supplying fraudulent information will eliminate you from consideration for a program.

Components of an NIH HS-SIP Application:

Creating an account for the SIP Application Center

When you first create an account, you will be asked to verify your email address. This is the email address that will be used when you modify, submit, and receive updates regarding your application. Be sure to use an email account that you will have access to.

  1. Personal information

Part 1. Complete ALL required fields.

  • Enter your full name, email address, permanent home phone number, and permanent address. Please check for accuracy when entering your information, especially your email address. We will communicate with you primarily by email. For 'Permanent Address', enter the address where you live during the school year. NOTE: If you will be 17 years of age on June 15 of the internship year, at the time of application you must live within 40 miles of the NIH campus on which you will intern.
  • Enrollment: Select "Yes" if you are currently enrolled as a high school junior or senior.
  • Minimum age requirement: You must be at least 17 years of age by June 15 of the internship year. No exceptions will be made.
  • Citizenship status: Select your current status (US citizen or permanent resident). You must submit proof if selected for the program.

Personal Information - Continued. Complete ALL required fields.

  • Preferred Address: Check the box if your preferred address is the same as your permanent address. This is the address at which we would most likely reach you by mail.
  • Preferred Phone Number: Please enter the phone number (home phone or cell phone) at which we would be most likely to reach you.
  • Previous experience at NIH: Indicate any completed research program/internship at the NIH.
  • Relative at NIH: Please tell us if you have any family members currently working at the NIH. Use the "Help" link on the application to find the definition of "relative".
  • NIH Campus Selection: Please select all NIH campuses where you would like to work. Please note that if you will be 17 years of age on June 15 of the internship year, at the time of application you must live within 40 miles of the NIH campus on which you will intern.
  1. Academic Information:

Please complete ALL required fields.

  • School Name: Enter the complete name of your high school. Do not use abbreviations.
  • Current Education Level: Select 'High School'.
  • Year at current level: Choose ‘3rd year’ if you are a junior and '4th year' if you are a senior. Freshmen and sophomores are not eligible to apply.
  • Please ask your guidance counselor to help you determine your cumulative, unweighted GPA.
  • School Grading Scale: Please select your school's grading scale - in most cases, this is 4.0. If your school does not use one of the options provided, please select "Other". Then describe your school's system in question 3 (Coursework and Grades).
  1. Coursework and Grades:
  • You will not be asked for a transcript when you apply for this internship. However, if you are selected for a position you will be required to provide an official transcript to the Institute in which you will work.
  • List all courses taken since your freshman year, AND the courses in which you are currently enrolled. Please be clear and specific about the name of the courses.
  • For each course that has been completed indicate the grade after a dash. For example, 'AP Biology 101 - A.'
  • For courses that you are currently taking this semester and for which you have not yet received a final grade, please write 'in progress.' For example, 'AP Biology 101- in progress.' Do not report your mid-semester grade for the current academic year.
  1. CV/Resume

This section should be concise; use no more than two pages. Summarize your educational, professional, work, and volunteer experience. You should highlight:

  • Your education (school name, school year)
  • Any volunteer, extra-curricular and other work-related experience. Tell us what skills you acquired as a result. For example, list skills like public speaking acquired during participation in the debate club or organizing activities and events as part of your school's student government.
  • Any awards or honors you have received. For example, you could list the Honor Roll, National Merit Scholar selection, science fair participation, or sports awards.
  • Community service or leadership experience. For example, taking part in community clean-up events, or holding the position of vice-president of your class.
  • Use formatting or spacing on the page to make your resume/CV easy to read. The reader should be able to find important information quickly. Try putting an extra hard return between sections.
  • Read a summary of our advice on resumes/CVs. Your resume should reflect your unique experiences. Don’t worry if your resume is short.
  1. References:

Please complete ALL required fields.

  • Enter the name, office phone number, and email address of your reference. Double check this information to make sure that it is correct.
  • Once you have submitted a complete application, the application system will send an email request for a letter of recommendation to the two individuals you listed in this section. The email will direct those individuals to submit their letters using our online system - all letters MUST be submitted online.
  • Ask science, math, or other academic teachers or leaders to write these letters.
  • The letters should highlight your potential for success and your ability to thrive in both the NIH Summer Internship Program and a STEM career. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)
  • NEVER ask a family member, minister, or coach to write you a letter.
  • When you ask an individual to serve as a reference, also ask him/her if the letter will be supportive or positive. This is somewhat embarrassing, but it is far better than having a negative letter submitted.
  • Provide your references with a current copy of your resume/CV; a description of the program(s) you are applying to; and perhaps suggestions of areas you would like them to address in their letters.
  • When the application system receives your letters, both you and your references will receive an email confirmation.

It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to ensure that we receive your letters of recommendation. If your references have not submitted their letters, remind them about the deadline (11:59pm on February 15th)*. You can change a reference IF the original reference has not yet submitted a letter on your behalf.  After a letter has been submitted, you cannot make such a change.  If you replace an existing reference, please notify that individual that you will no longer require a letter. * IMPORTANT NOTE: deadlines for receipt of reference letters for HS-SIP subprograms are earlier than the general HS-SIP deadline.

  1. Cover Letter:

Your cover letter is your opportunity to “speak” persuasively to those who read your application.

  • Scientists are busy people. Keep your cover letter brief, focused, and succinct; it should be no longer than two pages. Say what is important, but nothing more.
  • Tailor your cover letter to the particular application you are completing. Why do you want to participate in this specific program? How do your skills and experiences make you the perfect match for the program? Show that you have done your homework.
  • Tell us how this program will help you prepare for a science- or health-related career. How has your unique life experience shaped your goals for the future? Write about hardships that you have had to overcome and challenges you see yourself facing in the future.
  • Pay particular attention to the way in which you describe your research interests. Institute and Center Selection Committees will review applications. It is likely that many of them will search the application database for individuals with whom they share an interest. If you are willing to work on several areas, it might be useful to mention them all specifically to increase your chances of a “match.”
  • How have you been a leader at your school and in your community? Write about how these and other experiences show your leadership potential. Help us understand your commitment to continued self-improvement and learning.
  • Do not present material that is included in your resume except perhaps to highlight your major accomplishments.
  • Be specific. Remember that examples, stories, and details are likely to stick with the reader. It is better to provide an example that illustrates your ability to work in a team than to state that you are a team player.
  1. Research Interests Keywords:

Please highlight your research interests. This could include a scientific discipline (for example, microbiology, genomics, bioinformatics) or a disease (ALS, cancer, HIV), or a research method (e.g., scanning electron microscopy, electrophysiology, genome sequencing).

  1. Preferred Institute/Center (IC):

You may select up to three ICs from the "Preferred IC" drop-down list.  Specifying the IC in which you would like to work makes sense in some circumstances, for example, if you are returning to a lab for a second summer. NIEHS will not host high school summer interns during summer 2023.

  1. SIP Subprogram Selection:

All high school summer internship applications are automatically submitted to HS-SIP. IF you are applying for one of HS-SIP subprograms (HiSTEP or HiSTEP 2.0) organized by the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE), please select HiSTEP or HiSTEP 2.0 accordingly. Be certain to take a look and see if either of them interests you. 

*Additional Instructions

You can submit your information in stages if you want to complete the application later. To do this, click on the "Save Partial Application & Quit" button. Once you are ready to submit a complete application, you can select "Preview Completed Application". You will be taken to a page displaying the information you have provided. This will allow you to review the information you have submitted. Check to see that it is accurate AND that the formatting is neat. To submit your completed application, you must select the "Save" button on the Preview page.

When you submit an application, you should receive a confirmation email. Be certain to save this email! It contains directions for updating or modifying your application. It also includes instructions on how to check and see if the application system has received your recommendation letters.

Starting and finishing your application early, well ahead of the deadline, is a good way to ensure that your application is in order on time. Working ahead of time will also give you the chance to edit your application to make certain that the spelling and grammar are correct. We know that submitting this application may be stressful. We are here to answer questions and provide advice. If you have any questions, please contact us.

**A word of caution: Your public profiles on the Internet (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) can and will be used by potential employers. This includes investigators in the Intramural Research Program of the NIH. Be judicious about what you display. Once something is on the Internet, it never really goes away. It is a good idea to Google yourself and change or delete any material that makes you look unprofessional. You will want to do this BEFORE you submit your applications!

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