How to Apply to Summer Programs

Summer 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 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?

Example programs for undergraduate researchers

Programs at MU


Programs outside of MU


Programs through Government, Industries, or Corporations
  • A&S Undergraduate Research Mentorship
  • IMSD Express
  • McNair Scholars Program
  • Life Sciences Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (LS UROP)
  • Nutrition & Exercise Physiology (NEP) Undergraduate Research Internship
  • Program for Undergraduate Research Experiences (PURE)
  • Undergraduate Research in Consumer Networking Technologies
  • NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)
  • DOE Summer Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI)
  • Search for “Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship” programs facilitated by specific universities and institutions
  • Look up internship programs facilitated by museums, education centers, or governmental institutions
  • “Summer Research Opportunities at Other Institutions for MU Students” on the UGR website
  • Smithsonian summer research internships
  • EAG Laboratories
  • Missouri Botanical Garden
  • Dow AgroSciences
  • Boeing Corporation
  • ABC Laboratories
  • The US Department of Energy Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF)
  • The Center for Cancer Research Summer Internship Program
  • Mayo Clinic Summer Research Internship
  • Donald Danforth Plant Science Center’s Summer Internship Program

“How/When should I apply?”

  • Begin looking for opportunities early!
  • Deadlines and timelines vary.
  • Many summer applications open in Nov/Dec and have deadlines in Jan/Feb.
  • Application process will depend on type of experience.

Common application components:

  • Unofficial or official transcript
  • Resume
  • 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!

Project Proposal

  • 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

What are selection committees looking for in an application?

  • 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

Tips: Preparing for On-Campus Applications

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Note the timeline for review and selection decisions.