ASPIRE Summer Session Update

Thank you all so much for your patience. We have some exciting updates regarding the ASPIRE program this summer!

In light of COVID-19 restrictions, here at APL we’ve been working very hard to ensure that students have the best possible experience this summer. After some uncertainty, we’ve determined that we will need to make some necessary alterations to the ASPIRE program this summer—but ASPIRE internships will happen! As such, these are the changes we’ll be implementing this summer:

  • To accommodate social distancing restrictions, all ASPIRE internships this summer will be conducted virtually. We will reevaluate periodically throughout the summer and if an in-person option becomes viable, we will inform our mentors and students.
  • ASPIRE students will be onboarded in-person at APL in small groups the week of July 6th, after which students will be sent home with APL-issued laptops.
  • To accommodate the earlier fall start dates of Maryland public schools this fall, all ASPIRE internships for the summer must begin no later than July 13th and will have a hard end date of August 21st.
  • Because our student selection process has been impacted by COVID-19, we are extending student selection to 5:00pm on June 8th. Mentors will now have until that time to make you a formal offer.

We understand that these changes may impact your internship experience or, unfortunately, change your eligibility. If you are no longer able or willing to participate in ASPIRE given the above changes, please email and include your full name as soon as possible.

Thank you all for your time, attention, interest, and patience. The APL STEM Office looks forward to working with you this summer.


The ASPIRE program at APL is a unique opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to experience and explore STEM careers before committing to an area of study in college. During the intensive summer session and the longer academic year session, ASPIRE interns are paired with APL staff mentors to complete projects, solve problems, and learn and apply crucial technical and interpersonal skills in a hands-on, professional environment. During their internship, students also have access to many of APL’s considerable technical and professional resources.

The ideal ASPIRE intern is a student who is successful in science, mathematics, and programming, in either grade-level or Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The ideal student is also curious, dedicated, ambitious, and ready to explore every facet of a STEM career. ASPIRE students must be able to work independently, communicate with APL staff members and mentors, persist when faced with challenges, and continually think outside of the box. ASPIRE students must also meet certain eligibility requirements, including maintaining a 2.8 GPA and holding U.S. citizenship. A complete list of requirements is provided below.

If you’re ready to explore this unique APL experience and you meet our minimum requirements, please read the application instructions below and get ready to join us for the STEM experience of a lifetime.

The ASPIRE program is competitive. Applying does not guarantee acceptance.

Eligibility Requirements

  • High school junior or senior during program participation. Students applying to the summer program should be going into their junior or senior year. Students must be at least 15 years old.
  • U.S. citizenship (green card holders are not eligible)
  • Minimum unweighted GPA of 2.8
  • Reliable transportation to APL throughout the program
  • No criminal record

Students must be committed to the program and its time requirements.

ASPIRE Areas of Placement

The ASPIRE program invites students to apply for consideration in one of the following main categories:

  • Aerospace Engineering & Planetary Science
  • Applied Physics
  • Biology & Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Information Technology & Cybersecurity
  • Mathematics & Data Analysis

The vast majority of our students are placed in Aerospace Engineering & Planetary Science, Applied Physics, Computer Science, Engineering, Information Technology, and/or Mathematics & Data Analysis. We have very, very limited placements in Biology & Chemistry.

Only one application per student will be considered, so choose your primary area of interest wisely. On your application, you will also be able to indicate a secondary area of interest. This is to help us match you with the best mentor.

When you are ready to apply, please only complete the application under your preferred area of interest. We will only consider one application per student.

Selection Process

The ASPIRE program’s selection process is different from that of many other internship programs in that it is driven by mentor availability. The ASPIRE Program Specialist (the person who oversees the ASPIRE program) does not make final selections for who is admitted into the program. However, they do determine who is eligible.

After you submit your application and recommendation forms, the ASPIRE STEM Specialist approves each application. It is your responsibility to make sure your application is complete upon submission. We will not contact you to let you know that your transcript, resume, or school form are missing. Unfortunately, if you are missing parts of your application after the submission deadline, you will be ineligible for an ASPIRE internship. The only exceptions to this rule are your recommendation forms, which are due two weeks after the official application deadline. This gives your recommenders some extra time to get things submitted. All recommendation forms must be submitted by 11:59pm EST on May 31st.

Once all of the applications are approved, they are stored in our application database. It is at this point that you are eligible to be contacted by our mentors.

Similar to the process of applying to participate in the program, APL mentors apply to mentor you. Mentors change every session, as do their projects and areas of interest. The number of mentors varies as well. Because of this, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to accept a certain number of students or that we will have openings in all subject areas. Student selection is primarily dictated by mentor availability.

Once mentors and their projects are approved, we help match them with the best student(s) for their project. Mentors can contact students at any time during the selection window (check our session timelines for more information), including to conduct interviews. You may even be interviewed by more than one mentor. If a mentor selects you for the internship, you will be notified immediately by e-mail.

If you are selected for an internship, congratulations! Acceptance notifications are sent out on a rolling basis via e-mail and will include additional information on your mentor, orientation times, and paperwork (including a nondisclosure agreement and intellectual property agreement) that you (and your legal guardian(s), if you are under 18) will need to sign before starting at APL. If you are not selected for an internship, we encourage you to apply again in the future, if you still meet the eligibility requirements.

The ASPIRE program is very competitive. Most applicants have about a one-in-five chance of being selected. In summer 2019, approximately 800 students applied to the ASPIRE program and were deemed eligible, but only 149 were placed.