Monday, January 20, 2014

Explaining Research and Internships on Your College Application

I have spent this month reading applications for a highly selective college, and many students have done research at a university or internships with a company. That’s terrific and impressive!

Unfortunately, these great experiences are often poorly explained in the application.

 I want to know what you did and what your role was. For example, I might see an entry that says “Intern, Dr. Ko’s neuroscience lab at UCLA”. I am interested, but I don’t know how to consider this without more information. Is Dr Ko your uncle? Does he have 20 high school interns or are you the only one amidst seven undergrads and three grad students? Did you find this internship on your own or was it an advertised opportunity and you competed for a spot through an application and interview process? What is Dr. Ko’s lab researching? (Sure, I can look that up on the internet, but if I only have 20-30 minutes to spend on your application do you want me to use some of my time on internet research?) What was your specific task? Did you review hundreds of journal articles and decide which ones his research group actually needs to read? Did you code recorded life narratives that were compared with MRI brain activity? Did you learn to use some specialized equipment or software?

I realize that there are limited characters allowed in the activities list. Use the “additional information” space to give me a few sentences that help me understand how you spent your research/internship time. Leaving the reader confused or wondering doesn’t work in your favor.