Tips for the essay portion of your SSTP application:

If you’ve started your application to SSTP, then you know you’re asked to write two essays as part of the admission process. When writing any essay for admissions here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Write the essay in a Word document first.  Check for spelling and grammar errors.  Also, do a word count to make sure you have not exceeded the word max for the essay.
  2. Have someone else read the essay and ask for their honest feedback.  Its unlikely that the first draft of your essay will really be your best work.
  3. Make the essay personal.  Your essay should tell your story.  No one else has the experiences you have!  The essay should be personal enough that it only tells your story. . . no selection committee wants to read the same essay over and over from different applicants.
  4. Be honest.  Don’t overstate your experiences or your expectations.  The essays are a way for us to try to determine whether or not this program and the labs will be a good fit for you.  We can only do that if you write your essay honestly.

The two essay questions are used in two different ways.

Essay #1: Describe your academic areas of interest (500 word max.)

The first essay question is meant to help the selection committee.  We are interested in reading about the areas of research you are interested in pursuing.  We use this essay to try to narrow down which labs may be a good match for your interests and experience.  This essay should highlight any work you’ve already done in your area of interest.  It should also highlight any previous experience you have in the area of research, research design, computer programming, or upper level academic coursework.  For example, if you’re interested in Physics and you’ve already taken AP Calculus, we know we can try to place you in labs using advanced levels of mathematics.  Or, if you’re interested in Environmental Science and you’ve already had experience with GIS this is something we would want to know!  When highlighting your interests and experiences in this first essay question, its also important not to over-state your abilities and experiences.  The best way for us to find you a lab you’ll fit well with, is if we truly know your strengths and areas that will need a little more guidance.  If you don’t have any research experience in the area you’re interested in, just say so!  Tell us why you’re interested in this area and what life events have lead you to your academic interests in this area.

Essay #2: Why are you applying to the Secondary Student Training Program?  If you are accepted into the program what do you hope to get out of the experience?


The second essay question is the essay many, many lab mentors will request to see when determining whether or not you will be a good fit in their lab.  First and foremost lab work is detailed and the mentors will be interested to know whether or not you pay attention to detail.  Keeping this is mind it is very important you answer both questions posed as part of this essay!  Also, it is important to remember that lab mentors are interested in mentoring students who want to be mentored.  It’s important that you honestly answer the questions in this essay.  If you want to come to the Secondary Student Training Program to learn research design to help you with projects you’re working on at home . . . tell them.  If you just want to know what it’s like to do research at a Research I institution be sure to tell them.  Mentors are interested in knowing what you hope to get out of this experience because it helps them determine whether or not you will be a good match in their lab group, and it will also help them determine which research projects they are currently working on that may best fit your expectations.


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