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The Impact of Research on Admissions

JUL 30, 2020 • 11 min read

Throughout high school, students are constantly searching for and discovering new ways to showcase their passions and stand out to university admissions officers. One incredible way to demonstrate your interest in your intended area of study is to participate in or conduct college-level academic research. While the ultimate goal of research is getting it published, this is rare for high school students. Curious about how you can get involved in academic research? Read on to find out how to incorporate research into your applications and how it can make a real impact on your admission results.

1) Why Do High School Research?

When you apply to college, you will need to illustrate your intellectual curiosity, your capacity to think innovatively and originally, and your ability to commit to and execute a college-level project. In fact, all of the above can be achieved simultaneously by completing an original, independent research project.

By participating in and conducting research while in high school, you are exhibiting an interest in a subject and entrepreneurial personality which is highly attractive to university admissions officers.

2) Types of High School Research

While in high school, there are many different ways to participate in research! Some options include a literature review, a research prospectus, and a research paper (with or without data collection and publishing). Here are more details on each of these types of research:

  • Literature Review
    • A literature review is a “descriptive, analytic summary of the existing material relating to a particular topic or area of study.” It represents a review of all current knowledge around a subject and does not​ ​report new, original, or experimental findings. Literature reviews are found at the beginning of theses and research papers for almost every academic field. Although they are not often published on their own, they make up an essential foundation of a research paper.
  • Research Prospectus
    • A research prospectus is a formal proposal or plan for conducting a research project. It is critical to complete a prospectus before embarking upon a larger research paper. It typically includes a title for the project, a research question or issue, a brief overview of the existing scholarship on the issue (a shorter version of a literature review), and a summary of the research methods and approach to answering the research question that the one intends to take.
  • Research Paper
    • A research paper begins with a research question. There are almost limitless new questions to ask in every academic discipline. Once the researcher has chosen their question, they’ll compile an outline and research prospectus, described above. It will include a hypothesis and a brief literature review, which the student will then develop into a full literature review, using sources from online libraries, journals, and more. By this time, the researcher will almost have the first section of their research paper completed! A quick review of the methodology will allow the researcher to move on to the body paragraphs of their paper.
    • Based on the outline, the researcher will complete the body paragraphs of the paper, to include tests of the hypothesis and/or analyses and syntheses of various sources of evidence. Following a discussion including a review of the methodology used, and any limitations of the study, the researcher will complete a conclusion, clarifying the findings and explaining the remaining room for scholarship in pursuit of answers to the original research question.

3) What Skills Do You Build from Research?

Through experiences with research, you will build an immense amount of knowledge and skills that not only help you stand out to university admissions officers but to employers after graduation. Some of these skills include communication, organization, thoughtfulness, creativity, and more. Conducting a full research paper is no small feat and students who are able to complete it successfully also have incredible persistence and dedication to their mission.

4) How High School Research Helps Land Undergrad Research

High school research demonstrates to admissions officers that you are responsible, driven, and can commit yourself to spend time on one subject matter for an extended period of time. It shows a clear commitment to your intended area of study that many other students at this stage have not experienced.

Undergraduate research is a coveted opportunity that is highly sought after by many students. By showing you have participated in research on your own in high school, professors, Ph.D. students, and/or advisors will be more confident in your abilities at an undergraduate level. While undergraduate research is an extremely valuable opportunity for you, it’s important to remember that it is integral to your advisors’ success. Your advisor or mentor needs to be confident that you are a solid, reliable choice in order to welcome you into their work. The best way to ensure this is with experience and references from your past high school research.

5) Why A Mentor is Useful in How You Navigate a Research Paper

Mentors, whether they be Ph.D. students or university professors, are essential when conducting research. Mentors often have double or triple the amount of experience as any given student - especially high school students!

Crimson Co-Founder and CEO of Crimson Education, Jamie Beaton credits his mentor, Steve Walker, the Dean of English faculty at King’s College London for 25 years, with giving him the “English skills to succeed in a wide variety of subjects including geography, media studies, physical education, thinking skills, general paper, and English language.” Steve Walker played an integral role in Jamie’s foundation as both a student and a researcher.

Mentors not only help guide students through the fundamentals of research and mechanics of writing, but they often expose students to more niche areas of study and possible career paths. Mentors open doors and possibilities for students that may not otherwise have the exposure.

6) Jamie Beaton’s Experience with Research

Jamie Beaton is currently conducting research and pursuing a Doctorate of Philosophy in Public Policy at Oxford University. It was Jamie’s past experience working in undergrad research that built up his resume and ability to take on research at a doctoral level.

“Many high performing undergraduate students embark on research so naturally if a student already has developed these skills at the high school level it shows great academic acceleration. Many programs, such as top STEM schools, like Stanford, Caltech, and MIT put great focus on high school research achievements. From my strong high school fundamentals, I was able to do research at Harvard during my freshman year, first with economist Jeffrey Miron and then independent research projects with awesome Harvard Business School faculty Mihir Desai and David Ager, followed by my senior thesis under the guidance of Larry Summers. I looked at topics ranging from pricing on the supply-side of marketplaces like Uber, to the liquidity of closed-end funds, to the urban heating effect in large cities, to the reach-for-yield behavioral transmission mechanism affecting risky assets during low-interest rate periods.” Jamie shared.

7) Getting Published

Getting published is one of the fantastic possible outcomes of research. Publication is an incredible achievement and snapshot of what a student would be able to contribute at the university level and beyond. Completing research and achieving publication demonstrates a student’s ability to meet deadlines, organize, collaborate, as well as showcase their work. Publishing is an opportunity to develop a professional, academic relationship with faculty members at top universities and connect to other researchers in the field, which may offer potential opportunities down the road.

One avenue for publishing historical papers is through The Concord Review. The Concord Review was founded in 1987 to “recognize exemplary history essays by high school students”. Over the last 30+ years, 1,362 papers have been published from 46 states and remains to this day the only quarterly journal in the world to publish academic papers from high school students.

8) Crimson Research Institute and the Faculty You Can Work With

Crimson Research Institute offers students the opportunity to work under Ph.D. students and current university professors with the goal of conducting research, and in many cases, publishing their findings. CRI has professors from the University of Chicago, NYU, Columbia, Cornell, Georgia Tech, and more! These professors have focused on areas such as literature, history, economics, mechanical engineering, physics, bioengineering, psychology, neuroscience, molecular engineering, and chemistry, just to name a few! CRI is designed for high academic achievers who are intellectually curious, motivated, and

ready to take their knowledge of a particular subject to the next level. Students should be self-driven and strive to complete work at the level of current undergraduates.

No past experience in research is necessary.​ Professors will provide all relevant instruction and guidance necessary for the student to complete their desired research project, conditional upon the student completing assigned work. Students will typically spend an hour with their professor each session, and are expected to spend 3-6 hours on homework – including reading and research – between sessions.

You can learn more about the Crimson Research Institute here!

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Our team members hail from many different backgrounds, making us a diverse and knowledgeable group with skill sets in countless areas. Our varied expertise allows us to create a custom dream-team for each student we have the opportunity to work with. While we all have our distinct roles, we all wear different hats, which is what truly makes us such a special family armed and eager to provide results!

Learn more about the Crimson Research Institute and get ahead on your college applications!