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 ASPIRE program is an unpaid learning experience and is not a job.
ASPIRE students must be able to work independently, communicate with APL staff members and mentors, persist when faced with challenges, and continually think outside the box. ASPIRE students must also meet certain eligibility requirements, including maintaining a 2.8 unweighted 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. You can apply here.
- 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 of age by the start date of the session to which they are applying.
- U.S. citizenship (green card holders are not eligible)
- Minimum unweighted GPA of 2.8
Reliable transportation to APL throughout the program
- Note: Students choosing our hybrid or virtual options do not need constant access to reliable transportation. However, they will need to provide their own transportation when they do come to the Lab because APL is not accessible by public transit.
- No criminal record
Students must be committed to the program and its time requirements. If students cannot meet the time requirement, they may be dismissed from the program.
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 & Cybersecurity, 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 carefully. 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.
Types of ASPIRE Internships
Three types of ASPIRE internships are offered. On your application, you will be able to choose which type(s) of internships you are interested in pursuing:
- In-person internships. These are our traditional, on-campus internship opportunities. Students complete 90% or more of their internship work in person. In-person internships are open to students living with or staying with a family member or legal guardian at a residential address within a 30-mile radius of APL. We may not be able to offer in-person internships in the 2021-2022 academic year session.
- Hybrid internships. These internship opportunities have students doing a mix of in-person internship work and virtual internship work from home. Hybrid internships are open to students living with or staying with a family member or legal guardian at a residential address within a 30-mile radius of APL. We may not be able to offer hybrid internships in the 2021-2022 academic year session.
- Virtual internships. These internship opportunities are for students who are interested in doing their internship work from home. Students complete 100% of their internship work remotely, with the exception of picking up equipment and/or extreme IT troubleshooting. Virtual internships are open to students living with or staying with a family member at a residential address anywhere in Maryland, or within a 50-mile radius of APL if outside of Maryland.
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 if your transcript, résumé, or school acknowledgment form are missing. Unfortunately, if parts of your application are missing after the submission deadline, you will be ineligible for an ASPIRE internship. The only exception to this rule is your recommendation form, which is due two weeks after the official application deadline. This gives your recommender some extra time to get things submitted.
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.
If you are interested in applying for an ASPIRE internship, you can do so here.