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HiSTEP Frequently Asked Questions: 2023



What is the purpose of this program?
The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) is designed to provide high school students with an interest in science, technology, engineering, math, and medically-related careers (STEM-M) a chance to learn about science, biomedical research, and science careers at the National Institutes of Health. In addition, it aims to develop students as leaders and help them identify their strengths. To solidify a foundation for continued success, the program also provides resources to help participants prepare for college, apply for scholarships, and learn about future internships.

What does participation in the program look like?
Participants in the HiSTEP program will (1) learn scientific, professional, and personal skills; (2) explore science and what scientists do; (3) participate in leadership training; and (4) receive college and career advising.  They will also explore current hot topics in science and health.  Activities will include workshops, case studies, and group projects.  Participants will present a poster about their summer experience at Summer Poster Day. Please refer to the HiSTEP experience video to learn more. 

Will I have the opportunity to do full-time biomedical research during this internship? 
No. The goal of this program is for high school students to learn about different scientific disciplines, the variety of STEM-M careers, and the importance of biomedical research.  Students will also receive advice on preparing for future internships, including research-intensive internships.  If you want to do full-time research during the summer, you should apply to the High School Summer Internship Program (HS-SIP)

Should I contact principal investigators to conduct research for my internship?
No. Students will not be placed in a research group. Therefore, you should not contact investigators about laboratory placements. 

When is the program? 
The HiSTEP program dates are from July 5th  to August 3rd , 2023 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Tuesday to Thursday. Participants are expected to be present for all mandatory program dates, with the only exception being the the July 4th holiday, where no attendance is required.

Is this a paid internship?
Yes. Students will receive a stipend determined by their education level completed prior to starting at the NIH.

Can I take classes or have another job during the internship?
We do not recommend participants take classes or have another job.  This is a full-time summer commitment.  Please discuss any outside commitments with program director before you accept this position.

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 juniors who live and attend school in Maryland, Virginia, or DC within 40 miles of the NIH campus in Bethesda.

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 living with their parents or legal guardians with primary residence in the DMV area within 40 miles of the NIH main campus 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?
Applicants must commit to complete the entire internship experience. HiSTEP applicants must also:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the U.S.
  • Be 17 years or older on June 15th, 2023.  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.
  • Attend 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.
  • Live in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington DC within 40 miles of the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Only students living with their parents or legal guardians with primary residence in the DMV area are eligible. 

    Students should talk with their principal or guidance counselor to make certain they fulfill all eligibility criteria.

Special NOTES:

  • High school seniors are not eligible for this program. However, high school seniors who qualify are eligible to apply to HiSTEP 2.0, a research internship program for high school seniors and HiSTEP alumni. Please refer to the HiSTEP 2.0 website for additional information and important deadlines pertaining to the program, which will take place from June 13th, 2021 to August 4th, 2022.
  • Table comparing HiSTEP and other high school summer programs at the NIH.

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.

Would 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. 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 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 to the world of science and to STEM-M careers.


Is there a deadline for submission of applications?

Yes. The application deadline is February 1st, 2023, at 11:59 pm.  Please note that partial applications that are not completed by the February 1st deadline will not receive further consideration.  Recommendation letters must be received by February 8th, 2023.  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 Application" before you begin work on your application. This page explains in detail how to complete the various sections of the application. We would also be happy to answer your questions - please email 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 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 with information about the program, your resume, and a description of why you are interested in participating in HiSTEP. 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 reference letters?
Yes.  All letters for HiSTEP applicants must be received by February 8th. Please note that your references WILL NOT receive a request from the application system to submit their letters of recommendation until you have submitted your complete application, which is due February 1st, 2023.

How do references submit their letters?
Once you have submitted a completed application, which is due February 1st, 2023, 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.
  • 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 log in to our system and check your application to make certain that the letters have arrived. If not, you can either resend the request for a letter electronically or contact your reference directly. IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember that the HiSTEP deadline for receipt of reference letters is February 8th, 2023. It is your responsibility to inform your references.

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?
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 Selection Committee."

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 subprogram?
Yes. In item 9, you must select "HiSTEP" from the options available to be considered for this program. You must first deselect 'HS-SIP' so that you can select 'HiSTEP.'

  • Your application will not be reviewed by the HiSTEP Selection Committee unless you select 'HiSTEP' here. Students who do not select this 'HiSTEP' option will not be added to the pool of HiSTEP applicants.
  • If you want to be considered for HiSTEP, please click the default “remove” button next to HS-SIP. Once you remove HS-SIP, you will see the “ADD” button active next to the HiSTEP subprogram.
  • Click the "ADD" button to add "HiSTEP" as your preferred sub-program.
  • If HiSTEP was added, you will see the “remove” button appear next to HiSTEP. This indicates that your application will be included in the HiSTEP pool of applicants.
  • Your application will not be reviewed unless you select 'HiSTEP'. Students who do not add the 'HiSTEP' option will not be included into the pool of HiSTEP applicants.

Can I apply to more than one subprogram?
No. Application for HiSTEP is exclusive, which means you can only choose one subprogram. Also, you will be eligible only for HiSTEP or HiSTEP 2.0, depending on your class in high school. Please make sure you read the subprogram's description to make certain HiSTEP 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. Be certain to 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 February 1st, 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 review committee. 

How will I be notified if I am selected?
The Director of HiSTEP will send out notifications by the end of March 2023.

If I am not selected for HiSTEP, am I still eligible for the NIH High School Summer Internship Program (HS-SIP)?
Yes. If you are not selected, your application will be released to the general HS-SIP application pool no later than April 1. For more information about HS-SIP, visit the main HS-SIP page.

If I am accepted to HiSTEP 2023, does that mean I will have a guaranteed position to participate in the second part of the program, HiSTEP 2.0 in 2024?
No. Even though all HiSTEP participants are encouraged to apply for HiSTEP 2.0, acceptance to the program is contingent to meeting all eligibility criteria and a student's performance during the internship.