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HiSTEP 2.0 Frequently Asked Questions

General Information
Application Process

COVID_19 UPDATE: Due to continued uncertainties about travel and operations across the US, final decisions about the NIH Summer Internship Program are delayed. It is possible that all 2021 internships will be virtual/remote. Our priority is the safety of our staff, trainees, and communities. We will post updates regarding the NIH Summer Internship Program 2021 as soon as we have additional information. We would welcome your application, given this information. In the meantime, questions may be directed to

General Information

What is the purpose of this program?
The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program 2.0 (HiSTEP 2.0) provides high school seniors who have little or no research experience an opportunity to spend eight weeks performing biomedical research. Students will work virtually with some of the world's leading scientists.  In addition, students will participate in weekly workshops and seminars that aim to develop their scientific, professional and personal skills and discuss strategies for success in college.

What does participation in the program look like?
NOTE: Due to the continued uncertainties, HiSTEP 2.0 2021 will not be a typical summer research experience. In addition to completing a virtual summer project, HiSTEP 2.0 students will still take participate in virtual summer programming including science seminars, journal clubs, building resilience workshops and small group discussions. We will continue monitoring the situation and will make adjustments to the program as needed, always prioritizing the safety of our students and staff.

In summer 2021, students in HiSTEP 2.0 will most probably participate in the following activities**:

  • Virtual Summer Research Project: Students will be paired in teams and work on a virtual summer project under the guidance of an NIH research mentor. The research projects will be completed entirely remotely.
  • Orientation Program: Students will attend a short orientation program prior to beginning their virtual summer projects. This includes several workshops and activities aimed at developing the students' scientific and professional skills and building community as a cohort.
  • Weekly HiSTEP 2.0 Sessions: Students participate in discussions on career readiness and workshops focused on their transition to college.
  • Virtual Summer Poster Day: Students will present a poster about their research project to the NH Community at the end of the summer.

When is the program? 
The HiSTEP 2.0 2021 program will run from June 21st through August 6th, 2021 (with the exception of July 5th, the official observance of the July 4th holiday). Applicants must commit to complete the entire seven-week internship experience. 

Where are these training opportunities located?
For summer 2021, all internship experiences will be completed remotely.

Is this a paid internship?
Yes, students who are selected will receive a stipend according to the education completed prior to starting the seven-week internship program. Students in HiSTEP 2.0 are considered high school level, after graduation.

Can I take classes during the internship?
All participants are expected to devote 40 hours per week to their projects and training. Because of the time commitment, we strongly suggest that interns not take courses during the internship.

Can I have a job during the internship?
You can work part time during the weekend or hours that don't interfere with the program curriculum. Keep in mind that the internship is the equivalent of a full-time job, therefore, we strongly recommend you not make other job commitments.

Are the working hours fixed or flexible?
Students are expected to devote ~ 40 hours a week, but hours are determined by the research mentors. Each student should discuss the work schedule with the research mentor and HiSTEP 2.0 program director before starting their internship.

Will I need to find housing near the NIH to participate in this program or will the NIH provide housing?
Housing will not be provided. This program is open only to high school seniors who live and attend school in Maryland, Virginia, or DC within 40 miles of the main NIH campus in Bethesda, MD.

If I live outside the Maryland/Virginia/DC area but have relatives that live in the area, am I eligible to participate in the program? 
No.  Only students whose permanent residence is in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC and who live with their parents or legal guardians are eligible to apply to this program.


Can I apply if I am not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States?
No. Only citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. are eligible to apply to this program.

Are there any eligibility criteria in addition to citizenship? 
Yes. Students must: 

  • Be seventeen (17) years of age or older by June 15th, 2021. No exceptions will be made.
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher (on a 4.0 scale). Students with a GPA between 2.75 and 3.0 should apply if their grades have shown steady improvement.
  • Be a graduating high school senior from a school where 30% or more of the student body participates in the Federal Free/Reduced Lunch Program. Please talk to your principal or school counselor to find out if your school is eligible.
  • Must live with a parent or legal guardian in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington DC within 40 miles of the NIH main campus in Bethesda, MD.

I am currently a high school junior (or senior) who is enrolled in an early college program. This program has allowed me to work towards my Associate's degree in science through a local community college. Would I be eligible to apply to both SIP and HS-SIP?
Since you are currently enrolled in high school, you are eligible only for high school summer internships.

How can I find out the percentage of students at my high school that participate in the Federal Free/Reduced Lunch Program?
Contact your principal or school guidance counselor.

Will the internship cover health insurance?
No. Students are required to show proof of health insurance before starting the program.

Is there a minimum GPA to participate in this program?
Yes, the minimum GPA is 3.0. But, if you have a GPA between 2.75 and 3.0 and your GPA has been improving, you are also welcome to apply. You might want to discuss this too with your principal or school guidance counselor. Also, you can ask for assistance calculating your cumulative unweighted GPA.

Is research experience required for this internship?
No. Participants are not required to have research experience. The goal of this program is to expose students who have little or no research experience to the breadth of biomedical, translational and basic science research.

Application Procedure

Is there a deadline for submission of applications?
Yes, the application deadline is January 25th, 2021 at 11:59 PM. Note: Partial applications that are not completed by the January 25th deadline will not receive further consideration. Recommendation letters must be received by February 1st, 2021. Ensuring that recommendation letters are submitted is the responsibility of the applicant.

When should I apply?
We recommend that you apply as soon as possible after the program is announced.

Can you provide any advice on how to write a good application?
You should read the "Instructions for Completing the HiSTEP 2.0 Application" before you begin work on your application. This document explains in detail how to complete the various sections of the application. We would also be happy to answer your questions - please e-mail us.

Who should write my letters of recommendation?
The letters should talk about your potential for success and your ability to thrive in both the HiSTEP 2.0 program and a STEM-M career (STEM-M stands for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medically related). For this reason, we suggest you ask science or math teachers or academic leaders to write your letters. Letters from family members, friends, ministers, or coaches are not appropriate.

It is a good idea to provide your references information about the program, your resume, and a description of why you are interested in participating in HiSTEP 2.0. We suggest you also ask individuals whether they will write you a STRONG letter of recommendation BEFORE you submit their names.

Is there a deadline for recommendation letters?
Yes. All letters for HiSTEP 2.0 applicants must be received by February 1st, 2021. Please note that your references WILL NOT receive the request to submit their letters of recommendation until you have submitted your complete application, which is due January 25th, 2021.

How do references submit their letters?
Once you have submitted a completed application (due January 25th, 2021), they will receive an automatic email request to submit your letter and instructions on how to do so.

What should I do if my references have not received a request for a letter of recommendation on my behalf?
The system-generated email request for a letter of recommendation may have failed to reach your reference for any one of several reasons:

  • You may have provided an incorrect email address.
  • The message may have been blocked from reaching your reference by a Spam filter.
  • Our email server or your reference's may have malfunctioned at the time the message was being sent.
  • Your reference may have enabled auto-forwarding on the email address.
  • The message might have been undeliverable due to other circumstances beyond our control (e.g., your reference's mailbox is full).

If your reference did not receive the original message, you should:

  • Check the email address that you provided for your reference and correct it if necessary, then resend the request for a letter via the Modify Application tool. This tool will remain open until January 25th, the deadline for receipt of letters of recommendation.
  • Ask your reference to check the folder to which his/her Spam filter diverts suspicious messages. This folder might be called "Junk mail," "Bulk mail," or "Spam."

If your reference still cannot find the message and you suspect there is a technical problem on our end, please contact us, and we will investigate.

Who ensures that letters of recommendation are received?
You are responsible for making certain that we receive your letters of reference. You should check to make sure your references have received our email requesting a letter. After a few days you should login to our system and check your application using the Modify Application tool to make certain that the letters have arrived. If not, you can either resend the request or contact your reference directly to encourage her/him to submit the letter.

Can I submit more than the required two letters of recommendation?
No, the online application system will only accept two recommendation letters.

Can I change my reference(s) after I have submitted my application?
You can change a reference ONLY 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 his/her assistance.

If I change a reference, will my original reference be notified?
No. It is your responsibility to let your original reference know that his/her assistance will no longer be required.

To whom should I address my cover letter?

Since your cover letter will be reviewed by a committee, you may wish to use the salutation "Dear Sir/Madam" or "Dear HiSTEP 2.0 Selection Committee."

Do you have any advice on writing my resume/CV?
Here is a summary of our advice on resumes/CVs.

Should I list all the courses and grades that I have completed or only my science courses?
Please list ALL of your completed courses with grades, as well as the courses that you plan to complete by the end of the academic year. Be certain to include an informative course title rather than just providing the course number or abbreviation (for example, AP Biology, B+).

Should I apply to a specific Institute or Center?
Yes. You should select "Office of the Director (OD)" from the "Preferred IC" drop-down list.

Should I choose a specific high school program?
Yes. You should select "HiSTEP 2.0" from the drop-down menu as your preferred program. If you don't select HiSTEP 2.0, you will not be considered for this specific program.

Can I apply to more than one high school program?
No. An application for HiSTEP 2.0 is exclusive, which means you can only choose one high school program. Please make sure you read each program's description to find the one that interests you.

If I do not have access to the Internet, how can I apply?
Visit your school or local library to access the Web. If you encounter difficulties accessing the Web, contact your school guidance counselor.

How will I know if my application is complete?
You may, if you choose, submit a partial application initially and complete the application at a later time. If you submit a partial application, you will receive an email message containing instructions for completing the application. Once you have done so, you will receive an email confirming that your application is complete. This message will contain instructions for checking to see whether your letters of reference have been received and for updating your application. Keep these messages!

After I apply, can I make changes to my application?
Yes. Prior to the application deadline, whether you have submitted a partial or a complete application, you can use the login credentials sent to you in your confirmation email to make any changes/updates you wish. IF you have submitted a COMPLETE application by January 25th, after that date you can modify only two sections (5. References and 9. High School Program Selection); you will not be able to edit other sections. After February 1st, you will no longer be able to access your application.

How are applications reviewed?
Applications will be reviewed by a HiSTEP 2.0 review committee.

How will I be notified if I am selected?
The Program Director will send out notifications by early March 2021.

Should I contact investigators with whom I would like to work?
No. For summer 2021, HiSTEP 2.0 participants will be paired in teams and matched with an NIH research mentor.  Participants will not be able to select the project on which they will work.

If I am not selected for HiSTEP 2.0 am I still eligible for the general NIH High School Summer Internship Program (HS-SIP)?
Yes. Your application will be released to the general HS-SIP pool by February 26, 2021, and considered under HS-SIP. For more information about HS-SIP, please visit the main HS-SIP page.