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High School Summer Internship Program (HS-SIP) FAQs: 2023

General Info


Application Procedure

After Applying

Other Training Opportunities

General Info

What is the purpose of this program?
The Summer Internship Program is designed to provide young people an opportunity to spend a summer working side-by-side with some of the most talented scientists in the world in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research.

What do summer interns actually do? 
Summer interns conduct full-time biomedical research.  They are expected to work just as hard as the postbacs, graduate students, and postdocs in their research groups, and the group will depend on their results.  Although the particular techniques involved will depend on the research group that hosts the intern, it is our hope that each intern will have an independent project (possibly small) to work on during the summer.

What kinds of summer research projects do high school interns do?
Check out the COMPLETE Summer Poster Day Program for 2019 (the most recent year in which we had in-person summer internships) and the Summer Presentation Week program for 2021 (all internships were virtual; some presentations were 3-minute talks). Each entry includes the school of the presenter, so you can identify those in high school and then read their poster titles

Where are these training opportunities located?
These traineeships are available only in the intramural laboratories of the NIH. Most of the laboratories are located on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. Several Institutes or their laboratories that focus on particular research areas are found at other sites around the country. These include facilities of:

  • The National Cancer Institute in Frederick, MD
  • The National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, MD
  • The Perinatology Research Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Detroit, MI*
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore, MD
  • The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, NC (will not be hosting high school students during summer 2023)
  • The Rocky Mountain Laboratories of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Hamilton, MT
  • The Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Phoenix, AZ*
  • The Framingham Heart Study of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Framingham, MA*

Is this a paid internship?
Yes, students who are selected receive a monthly stipend that is based on education level and experience. Stipends are provided by the laboratory or Institute that offers an applicant a position. If a lab does not have the funds to cover the stipend, they may invite you to join the lab as an unpaid Special Volunteer.

Is summer housing provided by the NIH?
The NIH is unable to provide housing for summer interns. We can offer some information that may help you in finding a place to live. However, any information we provide is just that; it does not constitute advice, nor are we endorsing or approving any companies or services.

  • The Moving Guide prepared by the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education provides housing suggestions along with information on virtually everything you will need to know about moving to Bethesda, Baltimore, or Frederick, MD.
  • Rocky Mountain Laboratories has created A Guide to Help You Move to Hamilton, MT.
  • Club-PCR Google group External Link is for young scientists in the Bethesda area.  You can use this listserv to find housing, sell items, arrange carpooling, or gather information. This Listserv is not associated with the NIH, and you should use an email address other than your NIH email address to subscribe.  Please state your name and reason for joining the group when you request membership.

It might help you to know as well that the NIH is on the Red Line of the D.C. Metro External Link at the Medical Center stop External Link. Getting around via Metro is generally a good choice.

Please note that the NIH is also unable to provide after-hours supervision for summer interns.

What are the start and end dates for the program?
The NIH Institutes and Centers and the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE) sponsor a required summer orientation. All interns must complete an orientation before joining their research groups. HS-SIP internships generally cover a minimum of eight weeks.

Can this award be used for research training outside of the NIH?
No, this award is intended to provide support for training in the Intramural Research Program at the NIH. It cannot be used for any other purpose.

Can I get SSL (Maryland Student Service-Learning) credit for my summer internship?
The Maryland Student Service-Learning (SSL) Program should not consider training at the NIH as a qualifying activity.  The NIH is not an approved site for SSL credit. The Maryland requirement that service-learning activities “directly address human needs in areas such as health, education, environment, or public safety” does not appear to describe NIH programs, which provide full-time biomedical research training.

Is there a separate summer internship program for college and graduate/professional school students?
Yes. Individuals who are high school juniors or seniors at the time of application should apply to a high school summer internship program. Individuals who are enrolled in college (including community college) or in graduate or professional school should apply to the Summer Internship Program (SIP).

I'm looking for an administrative (or engineering or IT) position at the NIH. Should I apply to SIP?
SIP provides training in biomedical research.  If you are interested in coming to the NIH in some other capacity, please take a look at the NIH Pathways for Students and Recent Graduates Program operated by Human Resources. Generally, they reach capacity within a day or two of the opening date, so you should apply as soon as the positions are announced. Make certain your application materials, including transcripts are pre-loaded into your USAJobs profile prior to the opening date.

I am interested in HiSTEP or HiSTEP 2.0. How will this affect the application process?
HiSTEP and HiSTEP 2.0 have their own eligibility criteria, application deadlines, and deadlines for submission of reference letters. Please read the program webpages carefully and follow the directions for the program the interests you. The HiSTEP and HiSTEP 2.0 deadlines are all substantially earlier than the HS-SIP deadlines. We have posted a table that compares the HS-SIP, HiSTEP, and HiSTEP 2.0 programs.

Can I apply to HS-SIP and HiSTEP (or HiSTEP 2.0) simultaneously?
All high school applicants for summer internships complete the same application. You can indicate your interest in HiSTEP or HiSTEP 2.0 in Item 9 on the application. If you select one of the HiSTEP programs, your application will not be visible to the NIH Institute/Center (IC) selection committees. You will be considered only for the HiSTEP 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.  NOTE: residents of US territories/commonwealths are also eligible to apply.  This includes citizens of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Are there any eligibility criteria in addition to citizenship?

The 2023 High School Summer Internship Program is for students who

  • are seventeen (17) years of age or older by June 15, 2023 (No exceptions will be made.),
  • are high school juniors or seniors at the time of application,
  • are U.S. citizens or permanent residents (U.S. citizens may apply if they are enrolled at least half-time in high school. Permanent residents must be enrolled in a high school in the U.S. to be eligible.), and
  • if they will be 17 years of age on June 15, 2023, at the time of application live within 40 miles of the NIH campus on which they will intern. (This requirement does not apply to applicants who are 18 and older.)*

*NHLBI, NCATS, and NIEHS will not host high school summer interns during summer 2023

In order to be approved for logical and physical access to NIH facilities and systems, candidates must be able to pass a Federal background check, using Standard Form-85 (read SF-85). NOTE: Section 14 of the form asks “In the last year, have you used, possessed, supplied, or manufactured illegal drugs?” The question pertains to the illegal use of drugs or controlled substances in accordance with Federal laws, even though permissible under state laws. 

I am currently enrolled in high school AND college. Should I apply to HS-SIP or SIP (or can I apply to both)?
Because you have not yet received a high school diploma, you should apply to HS-SIP. (The online application system will not allow you to apply to both.)

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 a high school summer internship.

I will be 17 on June 15, 2023, and live 44 miles from the NIH campus on which I hope to intern. May I apply?
The goal if this eligibility criterion is to ensure that you live within commuting distance of your campus. If you live close enough that commuting will be feasible, please contact the OITE to explain your situation and request a waiver. Include your full name and email address (the ones you will use in the application), the address where you will live during the summer, and any additional information that will support your ability to commute. We understand that a strict 40-mile limit is inappropriate.

I will be 17 on June 15, 2023, and attend a boarding school that is not near any NIH campuses. However, my family home, where I live in the summer, is within 40 miles of an NIH campus. Am I eligible to apply to HS-SIP?
Please contact the OITE to explain your situation and request a waiver. Please include your full name and email address (the ones you will use in the application), the name of the school in which you are currently enrolled, and the address where you will live with your parent(s)/guardian(s) during the summer. 

I will be 17 on June 15, 2023, and my parents live apart. During the school year I live more than 40 miles from any NIH campus, but during the summer, I live within 40 miles of a campus. May I apply?
Please contact the OITE to explain your situation and request a waiver. Please include your full name and email address (the ones you will use in the application), the address where you will live during the summer, the name of the individual with whom you will live during the summer, and your relationship to that individual. 

I will be 17 on June 15, 2023, and I don’t live within 40 miles of a campus. However, my parents and I plan to find temporary housing during the summer within 40 miles of a campus (or I plan to live with a relative/family friends during the summer). May I apply?
The new HS-SIP eligibility criteria were designed to ensure the safety and success of high school interns who will be 17 during their time at the NIH. If you are in this group, we are not able to waive the requirement that you live within 40 miles of an NIH campus at the time of application. We will, however, welcome your application for summer 2024 and summers thereafter.

You may want to look for internship opportunities at colleges and universities near you for summer 2023. You can also check out our listing of Summer Programs Outside the NIH (

Is the summer program limited to individuals with specific interests?
No. However, most summer positions are in research laboratories or research groups with a biomedical focus. You might find it helpful to have successfully completed courses in biology and chemistry.  That said, research at the NIH runs the gamut from behavioral and social science through computational biology and biophysics.

Is there a minimum GPA to participate in this program?
No. However, high school summer internship selection committees will clearly prefer applicants who appear likely to make the greatest contributions to NIH research.  Few program participants have a GPA below 3.0.

Are students who are U.S. citizens attending foreign institutions eligible to apply?
If you are a U.S. citizen attending a foreign institution, you are eligible to apply.  If you are a permanent resident, you must be attending a high school in the U.S.

I will be graduating from high school in the spring but don't have plans for college in the fall. Am I eligible to participate in HS-SIP?
Yes, you are eligible to apply to HS-SIP. Individuals are eligible to participate in the NIH Summer Internship Program if they are enrolled either the semester before or the semester after the summer.  NOTE: it may be that NIEHS differs on this point.  If you are interested in NIEHS, contact them directly. NOTE #2: The specific summer program for which you are eligible to apply is determined by your enrollment at the time of application. If you are enrolled in high school when you apply, whether you plan to enroll in college in the fall or not, you are still only eligible to apply for a high school summer internship.

I read that HS-SIP interns cannot work in the same IC as their parents or guardians. I live near Rocky Mountain Laboratory (or one of the other NIH campuses that includes investigators from only one IC). Does that mean I cannot be a summer intern?
We understand that this is a problem. Please contact the High School Summer Coordinator in the IC to inquire about their procedure for requesting a waiver of this rule.

Application procedure

Is there a deadline for submission of applications?
Yes, the HS-SIP application deadline is February 1 for all participating NIH Institutes and Centers. Note: Partial applications that are not completed by the February 1 deadline will not receive further consideration. HiSTEP and HiSTEP 2.0 have earlier deadlines.

Can I update my application from last year?
No. You will need to reapply and request new letters from your references.

Can you provide any advice on how to write a good application?
You might wish to read "Writing a Successful Application for the NIH High School Summer Internship Program".  You should also watch our video External Link on applying successfully to HS-SIP.

Who should write my letters of recommendation?
You should select references who are able to explain why you would be a good addition to a research group. Anyone who could comment on your skills in the laboratory, creativity, problem solving abilities, motivation, ability to handle complex scientific literature and concepts, etc. would be a good choice. Recommendations from individuals with a science research background are likely to carry more weight than recommendations from those with less understanding of biomedical research. Recommendations from family members are never appropriate. You may wish to provide your references some information on the program, your resume or CV, and a description of what you hope to accomplish during the program, so that they can write a highly relevant letter.

Is there a deadline for receipt of my reference letters?
We ask references to submit their letters within two weeks of our request. All letters must be received by February 15. NOTE: HiSTEP and HiSTEP 2.0 have earlier deadlines.

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 may have been undeliverable due to other circumstances beyond our control (e.g., your reference's mailbox being full).

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

  • Log on to the 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 15, the deadline for receipt of letters of recommendation.
  • Ask your reference to check the folder to which their 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 email us at, and we will investigate.

To whom should my references mail their letters?
References do not mail letters.  When you have completed all your sections of the application, our system will automatically send an email request for a letter to each of your references.  The email contains login credentials and directions for submitting the letter online.

Who ensures that letters of reference 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 two weeks 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 HiSTEP and HiSTEP 2.0 have deadlines for receipt of reference letters that are earlier than the general HS-SIP deadline.  It is your responsibility to inform your references.

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

Can I change my reference(s) after I have submitted my application?
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.

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

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

To whom should I address my cover letter?
Since your application will be read by selection committees in the NIH Institutes and Centers, you may wish to use the greeting "To Whom It May Concern:". Another option is "Dear NIH 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.

Should I apply to a specific Institute or Center (IC)?
You may select up to three Institutes or Centers 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 or have a very specific, well-defined research interest.  We recommend that you search the IC Web site and the NIH Annual Reports to make certain that the kind of research you would like to do is actually happening in the IC you plan to select. 

You need not select a preferred IC. Note that you can use your cover letter to define your interests. Citing multiple specific interests will make your application pop up more often when IC intern selection committees do keyword searches.

Note: NHLBI, NCATS, and NIEHS will not host high school summer interns during summer 2023.

If I do not have access to the Internet, how can I apply?
Visit your local library to access the web.

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 updating/modifying your application and checking to see whether your letters of reference have been received. Be certain to save this email! NOTE: You must complete your application by February 1 (11:59 p.m., EST). Applications that are incomplete after the February 1 deadline will not receive further consideration.

After applying

After I apply, can I make changes to my application?
Yes. Prior to the February 1 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 HS-SIP application by February 1, after that date you can modify two sections (5. References and 9. Subprogram Selection); you will not be able to edit other sections. After March 15th, you will no longer be able to access your application.

How are HS-SIP applications reviewed?
High school summer interns for 2023 will be selected by central committees in the NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs). Care will be taken to ensure that no high school summer intern works in the same IC as their parent or guardian. Summer interns are paid by the IC or research group in which they work. The OITE is not involved in the selection process, nor does it provide funding for the program.

How will I be notified if I am selected?
The IC that has selected you will contact you by phone, email, or letter.

How soon can I expect to hear that I am selected?
There is no definite answer to this question. You will be selected only if/when the selection committee in an IC that has a position available visits the database and is impressed with your credentials. On or about May 1, those who have not been selected will be informed via email. Remember, the OITE plays no part in the selection process.

What are my chances of receiving a position in the Summer Internship Program?
Like many of the research training programs at the NIH, the High School Summer Internship Program is highly competitive. In 2019 we received 1436 completed applications; 213 high school applicants awarded offered positions. (HS-SIP was canceled in 2020 and entirely virtual in 2021.)

Do I need to submit an official transcript even though I entered my grades into the electronic application system?
Only those who are accepted into the program need to submit an official transcript. If you are accepted into the program, you will be informed where to send this documentation. Otherwise, it is not necessary for you to send a transcript.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Only individuals whose official documents demonstrate that they meet all High School SIP eligibility criteria will be appointed to the program. This applies to both paid interns and unpaid Special Volunteers.

Other training opportunities

Are there other research training opportunities at the NIH that I might find of interest?
If you are interested in coming to the NIH in a non-research capacity, please take a look at the NIH Pathways Student Trainee Program operated by Human Resources.

Where else might I find information on research opportunities?
Please check our Other Summer Programs at the NIH and Summer Programs Outside the NIH pages for opportunities that might suit your interests.