Doing real academic research is not easy—but it’s worth it, especially if you’re a highschool student looking to distinguish yourself as an applicant in the Great Admissions Race.
By doing research, what we mean is not just “looking things up on Google.” Doing research is a matter of exploring a particular established area of academic study critically, creatively, and to a deep extent, independently. Research is a matter not just of inheriting knowledge but moving it forward—a matter, as Newton famously put it, of standing on top of the shoulders of giants. This means that research takes time, effort, intellectual ingenuity, and above all, a genuine passion for learning and knowledge.
This means that a student capable of pursuing and completing a research project must not only be an intelligent student. She must also be a mature, independent, and passionate student. These are all qualities that admissions officers are looking for—and doing research provides an opportunity for students to showcase these qualities to admissions officers in a concrete and powerful manner.
That’s, however, just one of the more utilitarian reasons for doing research. These reasons are important, but we shouldn’t mistake them for being the most important reasons. While research takes effort, at the end of the day, it should still be something exciting and fun. By plunging yourself into a field of study that you love, you will discover all kinds of things about yourself and the world that you didn’t know before.
And this is the most important point. Because, above all, pursuing an academic research project is just this: an intrinsically valuable opportunity for genuine intellectual and personal growth—something rewarding, in and of itself.