Resume Webinar
28 February 2017

Dr. Manda Adams, Program Director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington, D.C. and a PROGRESS team member, led a webinar on Tuesday, 28 February 2017 about building and optimizing your resume. In this webinar she discussed how to identify and market your skill set, appropriate language and content, how to leverage part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities, and classes taken to build a resume that stands out, how to tailor your resume or CV to the job/opportunity you are applying for, how to format your resume or CV, tips on what to include in a resume versus a cover letter, and we had time to answer some student questions!  Click here to watch Dr. Adams’s presentation that is approximately 54 minutes long in a new tab.


REU Webinar
20 January 2017

Dr. Melissa Burt, director of an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program at Colorado State University and a PROGRESS team member, led a webinar on Friday 20 January 2017 about how to apply for REU programs. In this webinar we discussed the types of research opportunities available to students, what to expect during a summer research experience, and how to put together a strong and convincing application package. We shared information about a range of different programs across the country and had time to answer any questions.  Click here to watch Dr. Burt’s presentation that is approximately 30 minutes long in a new tab, or watch below.


REU Presentation Title Slide Screenshot

REU & Internship Application Tips

REU participant slots can be highly desirable and sometimes extremely competitive; each hosting organization or school has only a limited number of available positions. These applications should be taken very seriously. Jonathan Hodge at Grand Valley State University in Michigan has created a list of excellent tips for attaining an REU:

Tips for Submitting a Competitive REU Application

If you’ve decided to apply to an REU or other summer program, there are a few practical steps you can take in order to make your application as competitive as possible:

  1. Read and follow the directions.  The application form will ask for specific information from you. Make sure to provide exactly what is requested. If you have questions about any part of the application, contact the program director and ask for clarification.
  2. Demonstrate specific knowledge and interest in the program to which you are applying. Don’t just say that you’re interested in doing an REU. Tell the reader exactly why you are interested in the specific REU to which you are applying. Do your research before you complete your application. Browse the program’s web site, and use this knowledge to highlight specific aspects of the program that are particularly appealing to you. Don’t use the same application essay for every program you apply to. Show the reader that you spent some time researching and applying specifically to their REU.
  3. Carefully proofread your application. An application with spelling  or  grammatical  errors leaves a bad first impression. Read your application carefully before you submit it, and  ask someone else to give you some feedback as well. You want to submit an application that is well-­written, polished, and professional.
  4. Choose good references. What your references write about you can make a big difference in distinguishing your application from others. Choose references who know you well and who will take the time to write a thorough and detailed letter of recommendation. It’s okay to ask a reference, “Do you think that you will be able to write a strong and detailed letter for me?” Also, make sure your references understand what is expected of them. Some REUs provide detailed instructions for references; if such instructions are  available,  make  sure  that  your  references have a copy of them. Also give your references a copy of your application essay and any other information that would help them to write a strong letter for you.
  5. Say what makes you different from other applicants. Summer programs such as REUs are highly competitive. It is not unusual for a program with 8-10 participants to receive 100-200 applications. If you have unique experiences  that  set  you  apart  from  other  applicants,  make sure to mention these. What you write needs to convince the reader that you have unique traits and abilities that will contribute to your success in an REU. Of course, your academic preparation is important, but it is also important to demonstrate that you have the social and emotional maturity to function well in an intense research environment, working with people from all different backgrounds. Extracurricular and co-curricular activities often speak well to these  characteristics.
  6. Be genuine. Don’t oversell yourself. Provide an honest account of your background and experiences, but don’t be boastful or arrogant. Don’t name-drop or use obscure mathematical terms to try to impress the readers.
  7. Apply to multiple programs. It’s important to  remember  that  REUs  are  extremely competitive, and even the very best students do not get accepted by every program to which they apply. Do some research, and choose a variety of programs (perhaps 3-10) that suit your interests and abilities.
Haley, UNC-Charlotte student, assessing stream health

Insider tip: When applying to graduate school, for a job, for an REU, or to an internship: Be persistent and enthusiastic.  Many programs will ask you to send in your application and then wait for them to contact you.  You should certainly follow their guidelines, and always be polite and patient when communicating with personnel.  But now is the time to stand up and be noticed.  Taking the initiative to directly contact the advisor/professor who you are interested in working with (a simple email telling him/her of your interests and background will do) can make all the difference in who gets selected and for what projects.  You can even request to talk over the phone with specific researchers or request a visit if you are located nearby.  If you do converse over the phone or in person, be sure to do your homework first. Be prepared to make dialogue and ask questions.

Additional Advice

Next, check out our list of “REU and Internship Opportunities” web page which has links to numerous programs.