How to Find Research Opportunities with College Professors
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Alexandra Johnson in a CollegeVine Livestream. You can watch the full Livestream for more info.
Research experiences can set you up for success during college and beyond. If you can secure an opportunity with a professor, not only will you develop a relationship with a potential mentor, but you’ll also have hands-on exposure to real-world work.
So, how do you find research opportunities with college professors? And how and when can you reach out? Is high school too early to start?
It’s certainly possible — you just have to find the right professor who has the availability to take you on. It helps if you have some experience, even just in the classroom. For example, if you’ve completed AP Biology and AP Environmental Science, then you might have a case for demonstrating your readiness for real research.
That said, a professor isn’t going to want to have to hold your hand and take you through every step of the research process. You need to think of it not as a guided project, but as a job— you’ll essentially be doing independent research with them as the mentor. You may even be in charge of coming up with the idea and concept.
Networking will come in handy here. You may not end up doing research with a professor at all, but they can direct you to someone with more time and willingness, such as a graduate student. In fact, graduate students tend to have more availability to mentor you.
For instance, they might be able to give you small tasks here and there where you can contribute and learn the ins and outs.
Bear in mind that you’ll need to send a lot of emails. Keep at it. Some people might tell you to reach out at a later date, so make sure you mark your calendar to contact them again.
When you do reach out, be ready to demonstrate your qualifications. Perhaps you’ve taken a certain class that’s relevant to their work and the field that interests you. Include plenty of details — that will make it more likely for them to see it as a real proposal and take you seriously.
Even though you’re in high school, be professional — you want to show them why you have potential and why they should want to work with you. It’s a mutual relationship, and it’s one that will serve you well now into the future, as you gain more and more experience with research.