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.
- 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
- Grade of B or better in core STEM subjects
- 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
- 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.
ASPIRE CIRCUIT Cohort
This summer, ASPIRE applicants are also invited to apply for the high school cohort of the CIRCUIT program. CIRCUIT (Cohort-based Integrated Research Community for Undergraduate Innovation and Trailblazing) is excited to include trailblazing ASPIRE candidates who are interested in developing technical skills through hands-on, team-based research and supportive enrichment activities and training. Trailblazers are defined as high-achieving scholars who face barriers in achieving their dreams (e.g., those from underserved backgrounds, women and other minorities in STEM fields, and students without a previous chance to earn research experience). The CIRCUIT program runs concurrently with ASPIRE and has additional student requirements. As part of the CIRCUIT cohort, high school students intern 40 hours per week at the APL campus during the summer session, attending all relevant CIRCUIT workshops, seminars, presentations, and research meetings. CIRCUIT-ASPIRE students may also have the opportunity to continue their internship into the academic year session, interning 10 hours per week on site and meeting with cohorts at least once a week through the 2020–2021 school year. Although your internship will begin in June, your participation in the CIRCUIT-ASPIRE program begins with after-school classwork once per week, February 24–May 22, 2020, on site at APL as part of our STEM Academy. These classes are completely free of charge to the student and will help our trailblazers hit the ground running in the summer. These classes are not optional, and students who apply to the CIRCUIT-ASPIRE program must be able to attend.
You can find out more about this opportunity here. If you would like to apply to the ASPIRE CIRCUIT cohort, please indicate this on your ASPIRE application when prompted.
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 on March 1—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 11:59 p.m. on March 1. Please see our session timelines for additional information on all of our deadlines.
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.