When I was a freshman in high school, I used to meet with my guidance counselor. Each meeting would be for about 30 minutes during lunch, after school, or whenever there was some free time for the both of us. Looking back, I'm not really sure why I sought out the meetings. On the one hand, I think it was something expected of me. After all, you have to figure out your whole life plan in high school, right? At the time I had some high ambitions to become a doctor and I needed all the help I could get. On the other hand, my counselor gave me practical step-by-step advice to achieving my goals. Interestingly, he told me the same thing over and over again: get an internship.
During the spring of my sophomore year, I decided to follow my counselor's internship mantra and do some searching. Not really knowing where to look, I turned to Google. I typed in searches for “medical high school internships” and “high school internships in the Bay Area.” I wouldn't say I was obsessive, as it was something I would just spend a few hours doing every day. Eventually, I stumbled upon a few pages showcasing some amazing opportunities. Stem cell research at UCSF? Cancer research at Stanford? Can high schoolers really do something that cool? The simple answer: yes.
In summer 2010, I participated in the Stanford Institute for Medical Research (SIMR) summer internship held at the Stanford School of Medicine. My hope was to see if I would one day want to pursue a MD/Ph.D as a physician and lab researcher. Of the various fields, I was able to work in my first choice within cancer biology research. Each day I spent about eight hours working with a Stanford graduate student on my own project that supplemented the research lab. Over the course of ten weeks, I learned various lab techniques and important safety measures. Weekly I attended mini-lecturers and discussed with peer interns during “research paper club.” My experience culminated with a final research presentation, which I had to give in front of prominent Stanford medical research faculty. Throughout my summer, I made some friends - some of which I still am close with to this day. The most valuable lesson I learned from my internship, however, was this: medical research was not my life's calling.
Despite my finding, I am so glad for my summer internship experience. Firstly, I gained some valuable insight into the medical research profession including lab skills. Secondly, I learned a bit more about myself - what I enjoy doing, what I did not enjoy, etc. Thirdly, the experience connected me to a network with some impressively talented people (and friends). Lastly, I was able to use the internship, as a prestigious opportunity at Stanford, to build my resumé and college application. Without it, I sometimes wonder if I would be where I am today - an Ivy League university graduate.
So my advice to you is to take the risk! Go ahead and pursue as many internship opportunities as you can before you graduate high school. Colleges also like seeing internships as extracurriculars supplementing your education in which you pursue your passions. When you're ready, the Hillview Prep staff are ready to help you search for these experiences in helping you become an ideal college candidate. Together let's get searching! Many opportunities are waiting for you!