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Is Doing Research for Everyone? Who is it for?

I’ve been sharing information about research programs for high school students for the past two years. In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Yale, Columbia, and Brown were cited as specifically recommending academic or scholarly research–shorthand for meaning that all very top tier colleges look for it. Why?

Research shows sharp critical reasoning skills and love for knowledge. Many students have high rigor, GPA’s, and test scores, but don’t express the intellectual curiousity highly selective colleges seek in interviews, essays, and extracurricular activities. The most selective colleges want students who are eager to broaden their knowledge and perspective by asking questions and seeking answers in the areas that interest them most–areas they have already explored before they get to college.

Last week I attended a webinar hosted by Dr. Robert Malkin, PhD, who runs a remote research laboratory program called IRI-NC ( ) at UNC Chapel Hill. He stressed how difficult it is for high school students to find in-person research opportunities, which is no surprise. Remote research is fine for students at this point because the exercise is really about learning to do research. The research can be in any discipline, not just the sciences (although Malkin’s program is). Here’s what he shared:

  • It uses primary sources.

  • It has a specific method that would allow reproduction from reading it.

  • It must have a formal, specific and traceable write-up, not a general one.

  • Mentors should be full professors, not associate or assistant professors, or PhDs

Dr. Malkin went on to discuss how students must state their interest through literature review and seek publication in one or two years, generally with a second or third author. I can obtain a video of the webinar for anyone interested.

Who should choose this? I believe students should be authentic and honest. While being academically curious and achieving high grades certainly go together, one is often true without the other–in both directions. That’s why college “fit” is the most important consideration. Next week, I’ll share the flip side of this topic.


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