How to Apply to Summer Programs

Summer research/internship programs are available just about anywhere (MU, other Universities, state and national government, industries and corporations, international programs, etc.) Ask your faculty mentor, advisor, or fellow students/graduate students about opportunities and connections. If you are thinking about applying to a summer research program, consider the following questions before applying:
  • What are your current goals?
  • What are areas of interest, faculty, or types of institutions that you would like to pursue?
  • What will you contribute to a program? What unique experience do you possess?
  • What are your personal priorities, preferences, and/or limitations?
  • Where do you want to live, work, or study after graduation?

The Office of Undergraduate Research offers several workshops on Summer Research Programs offered at other universities and institutions. Topics include finding programs, applying for programs, writing personal statements, and preparing for a productive summer. For more on dates, times, and Zoom links for upcoming workshops, check on MU Engage.

  • Unofficial or official transcript
  • Resumé
  • Personal statement and/or career goals
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Interview
  • List of potential mentors/project interests
  • Abstract from prior work
  • Project proposal


  • Relevant research and/or internship experience, and any publications or presentations given
  • Service or volunteer experience, especially if relevant to career goals/interests
  • Demonstrated attributes, skills, and accomplishments that you gained through classes, labs, training, etc.
  • Campus or professional organizational involvement and leadership roles, in particular
  • Honors, awards, scholarships, other accolades

Personal Statement

  • Aim to convey a clear and thoughtful picture of yourself
  • Information about prior research, internships, and jobs
  • Career interests and future plans
  • Why this area of research/interest is important to you.
  • What draws you to this internship? What unique features, experiences, or faculty are you most excited about?
  • Relevant and significant academic or personal information

TIP: This is not a descriptive narrative. Clear, concise. Avoid clichés. Frame mistakes as a learning experience.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Oftentimes, an application will specify who should provide your letter(s) of recommendation
  • Typically, a faculty mentor, a department faculty member who knows you well, etc.
  • Depending on the program/experience, not a graduate student, TA, or high school counselor/teacher

TIP: Build relationships and ask early!

  • Get experience with a faculty-led project or research.
  • Identify a faculty mentor for your application well in advance.
  • Meet regularly with your mentor to begin discussing potential project proposal.
  • Identify potential recommendation letter writers and build/enhance relationships.
  • Go to class! Academic grades matter.
  • Include prior research/internship experiences in your personal statement.
  • Make sure to request letters from research/project supervisors and/or mentors. Give them at least 2 weeks to write your letter. Last minute requests for letters are not always successful.
  • Think about how this opportunity impacts your career goals and why it is valuable. Include this in your personal statement!
  • Use your limited space wisely – highlight/include meaningful involvement, experiences, and work.
  • Share your application with your faculty mentor prior to the submission deadline.
  • Check in with letter writers 1-2 weeks prior to application deadline to confirm timely submission.
  • Apply to multiple programs and opportunities – some applications will have similar components that can be re-packaged
  • Your potential as an intern, and if you will be an asset to the team
  • Attitudes, behaviors, and maturity that will make you an asset to a team
  • Knowledge, skills, ability, and qualifications necessary to work effectively in the designated role
  • Work ethic and maturity
  • Academic/experiential knowledge
  • Knowledge of required skills, techniques
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Critical-thinking skills
  • Written (and verbal) communication skills
  • Ability to work alone and in a group
  • Ability to learn from feedback
  • Persistence and grit: learning from failure
  • Attention to detail
  • Enthusiasm
  • Curiosity
  • Aligned, broader career interests
  • Understanding of program and its requirements

For a list of research/internships on the Mizzou campus available to MU undergraduates please click here.

For a list of some research/internships through other universities, organizations, and the U.S. Government click here.

Some programs will require you to write a proposal for a research/creative scholarship project. Here is some information for you to consider as you begin this process:
  • Vary in length, 1-3 pages. Be mindful of word counts.
  • Should demonstrate understanding of the context and rationale for the planned project/research.
  • Should be well-informed – citations are valuable (3-6)
  • Clear, concise, and compelling communication of an idea. Should be your own writing, though mentor likely will help to develop and frame idea.
  • Visuals, if appropriate and as necessary
  • Follow recommended outline or guidelines.
  • Typical outline:
    • Title
    • Introduction: topic/background, statement of problem, big picture/context
    • Purpose: questions to be answered, hypothesis to be tested
    • Methods: research approaches (and why!), type of data collected, analyses, activities
    • Expected Results/Significance: what results may tell us, how it may help our understanding of a question/problem
    • Involvement: what you will do, specifically
    • Reference List: citations, references

The University of California-Berkely Office of Undergraduate Research has created a video on “How to Write a Research Proposal” and covers ALL disciplines, not just STEM related fields.