Do Undergraduate Research Opportunities Matter?

At college information sessions and campus tours, prospective students routinely hear about the research opportunities available to undergraduates, sometimes as early as the first semester of their first year of college. High school students may wonder why colleges emphasize research so much. Here are a few reasons why and what a high school student should ask about research opportunities at a college. 

Research can be a valuable part of the college experience because it offers several benefits, including:

      1. Development of critical thinking skills: Engaging in research requires students to critically analyze information, solve problems, and think creatively, all of which are essential skills for success in both academic and professional settings.
      2. Advancement of knowledge: College research contributes to advancing knowledge in a particular field, allowing students to make a meaningful impact on the world.
      3. Improved writing and communication skills: Conducting research often requires students to write research papers, proposals, and presentations, which can help improve their writing and communication skills.
      4. Career opportunities: Participating in research as an undergraduate student can lead to internships, co-op programs, and job opportunities in various fields, giving students a competitive edge in the job market.
      5. Preparation for graduate studies: Research experience is highly valued by graduate programs, particularly in science, engineering, and medical fields.
      6. Real-world application of theoretical concepts: College research allows students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world problems, making their education more meaningful and relevant.


A high school student interested in research should ask the following questions when considering a college:

      1. What opportunities are available for undergraduate students to get involved in research projects? 
      2. Are research opportunities available to students across the curriculum?
      3. What resources and support are provided for students to pursue research interests, such as funding, lab space, and mentorship?
      4. What is the college’s track record of supporting and publishing student research, and how often do students present their research at conferences or other venues?
      5. What is the ratio of faculty to students in research, and how accessible are faculty members to students interested in research?
      6. How does the college encourage interdisciplinary research, and what opportunities are available for students to work with researchers in different fields?
      7. Are there opportunities for students to research overseas or collaborate with external organizations and institutions?
      8. How does the college support students in pursuing and applying for research grants and scholarships, both within the institution and from external sources?


One week every April is designated as “National Undergraduate Research Week,” an initiative started by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and pushed forward by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. During this week, many colleges and universities hold events exhibiting research studies conducted by their undergraduate students.