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HiSTEP Frequently Asked Questions



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?
The HiSTEP program is a seven-week, full-time internship.  Participants 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 health topics in science.  Activities will include workshops, case studies, group projects, hands-on experiences, and visits to research groups.  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 will run from June 25th through August 8th, 2019, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Students are required to be on campus during the entire duration of the program. The only exception is the July 4th holiday.

Where are these training opportunities located?
These traineeships are available only on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. They will are not offered on any other campus.

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

Can I take classes during the internship?
All participants are required and expected to be at the campus from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday for the entire duration of the program. Because of the time commitment, we do strongly suggest that interns do 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.

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. 

Where is the NIH campus in Bethesda, and how can I get there?
The NIH is on the Red Line of the D.C. Metro  at the Medical Center stop. We strongly recommend that students use the Metro or other public transportation to get to NIH for the program.

If I have car, would I be able to park on the campus?
No. Summer interns are not allowed to park on campus. You can request a summer student parking permit to park at the satellite lot in Montrose Park and Ride lot in Rockville, MD and take the NIH shuttle to get to the campus. If choosing this option, you will not receive Transhare benefits. More information

Will I get any help covering the cost of public transportation?
Yes. HiSTEP program participants are eligible to apply for Transhare. This program provides a subsidy to help cover the cost of commuting via public transportation.

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 six-week 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, 2019.
  • 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 17th, 2019 to August 8th, 2019.
  • Table comparing HiSTEP and other 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 January 25th, 2019, at 11:59 pm.  Please note that partial applications that are not completed by the January 25th deadline will not receive further consideration.  Recommendation letters must be received by February 1st, 2019.  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 1st, 2019. 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 January 25th, 2019.

How do references submit their letters?
Once you have submitted a completed application, which is due January 25th, 2019, they will received 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.
  • The message was 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:

  • Log on to the HS-SIP Application Center and then click the "Update/Complete My Application" link in the Application Manager. Check the email address that you provided for your reference and correct it if necessary, then resend the request for a letter. You will be able to modify/update your completed application until February 1, 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 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 1st, 2018, earlier than the general SIP deadline. 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."

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. You should select "HiSTEP" from the drop-down menu as your preferred subprogram. If you do not select HiSTEP, you will not be considered for this specific subprogram.

Can I apply to more than one subprogram?
No. Application for HiSTEP is exclusive, which means you can only choose one subprogram. Please make sure you read each subprogram'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 e-mail message containing instructions for completing the application. Once you have done so, you will receive an e-mail 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 January 25th, 2019 application deadline, whether you have submitted a partial or a complete application, you can use the login credentials sent to you in your confirmation e-mail to make any changes/updates you wish. IF you have submitted a COMPLETE application by January 25th, you can modify only two sections (5. References and 9. SIP Subprogram Selection) until the deadline for receipt of reference letters (11:59 pm, February 1st, 2019). After February 1st, 2019, you will no longer be able to edit any part of your application.

How are applications reviewed?
Applications will be reviewed by a HiSTEP review committee. Potential program participants will be interviewed by phone.

How will I be notified if I am selected?
The Directors of HiSTEP will send out notifications by the end of March 2019.

If I am not selected for HiSTEP, am I still eligible for the NIH High School Summer Internship Program (HS-SIP)? Yes. You should then go to the HS-SIP page, and follow the directions for seeking a position in that program.

If accepted to HiSTEP 2019, does that mean I will have a guaranteed position to participate in the second part of the program, HiSTEP 2.0 in 2020?
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.