Summer Research Programs

1. About Summer Research Programs

What is a summer research program?

Summer research experiences at an institution that pair accepted students with faculty members doing research. The purpose is to increase the number of “strong” students entering into research-oriented academic positions by preparing them for graduate training and independent research. Some summer research programs are limited to minority, first generation, or other traditionally underrepresented groups, so read program details carefully before applying.

Who, or what, funds these programs?

  • NSF
  • NIH
  • Foundations

What can I expect from participating in this type of program?

  •  Length: minimum of 6 weeks, maximum of 12 weeks
  • Dates: range from May/June until August (note that sometimes the programs begin before our spring quarter is over! Depending on the amount of overlap, it may be possible to delay going to the program or to finish your K coursework early in order to attend).
  • Location: at a college/university or a research institution
  • Activities       
    • Research-related: data collection, data analysis, writing, manuscript and poster preparation, etc.
    • “Extra-curricular”: Grad school prep, stats and research design coursework, ethics training, social activities, etc.
  • Exposure to grad school and faculty
    • This can be a “leg up” if/when you apply for a graduate program at the associated institution or when you need a letter of recommendation from someone working in your chosen field
  • Funding: Programs typically provide housing and a small stipend to cover living expenses for the summer.

2. Finding Summer Research Program Opportunities

The locations of summer programs change year to year, depending on which institutions have received funding. There are a few websites out there that list many known programs (see below). In addition, it can be worthwhile to do web searches on your own. Try keywords like “research”, “Undergraduate”, “opportunity”, “psychology”, “REU” in various combinations. You might also check the websites of individual institutions that are near where you will be this summer, as some schools operate their own programs. 

Clearinghouses for Existing Programs

Other programs

3. Applying to a Program

Application Due Dates: typically range from beginning of January until the end of March. Typically, notifications are made in April and May.

Application materials (may vary by program)

  • Application form
  • Statement of interest
  • Transcripts
  • Recommendation Letter(s)- typically at least 2 are required
    • NOTE: Many schools have now made their application and recommendation letter submission process electronic.  As such, you should pay close attention to the submission guidelines of the program, and be sure to provide your recommender with explicit instructions for the letter submission.

Common “Pitfalls” in Research Program Applications

  • Thinking about research opportunities as a way to “pad” your resume.  This will be apparent in your application, and will not be appreciated by the program administrators and faculty who have worked very hard to make the program or opportunity enriching and to identify committed applicants.
  • Omitting (or downplaying) your interest in conducting research in your application materials.  If there is a sense that research is not your primary intent or interest, the selection committee will be far less likely to accept you. 
  • Not reading the application instructions carefully.  As with any application, failure to follow directions regarding the content, submission, and/or format guidelines of your application will likely make it easier for the selection committee to reject you.