ASPIRE High School Mentoring Program

The ASPIRE program at APL is the opportunity for juniors and seniors in high school to get hands-on experience in STEM and to explore career opportunities before committing to an area of study in college. The ASPIRE program is a learning experience that exposes students to the real-world applications of what they are learning in school as well as to what it is like to work in a professional environment.

The ideal ASPIRE student is successful in their science and math classes—either AP courses or on-grade-level classes. The ideal student for the program is curious, committed, and ready to explore the many possibilities STEM provides. ASPIRE students need to be able to work independently, to persist when faced with challenges, and to communicate well with mentors and other staff as necessary.

If you are ready to explore STEM at APL and you meet the minimum requirements, please read the application instructions below and join us for a STEM adventure.

ASPIRE is a competitive program. Applying does not guarantee acceptance.

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Minimum Requirements
  • 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 3.0
  • 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

APL places the majority of students in computer science and engineering areas, including electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, cybersecurity, and applied mathematics internships. There are very limited placements in chemistry, biology, biomedical engineering, and neuroscience.

Academic-Year Session (September–May)
  • Students must begin the program no later than October 1.
  • Students must commit to spending a minimum of 5 hours a week on site at APL.
  • Students must complete an abstract and presentation before the session concludes.
  • Students must receive credit or formal recognition from their school for the program.

Students applying to the academic session are strongly encouraged to review their extracurricular schedule and determine whether they have the appropriate time available to participate in the ASPIRE program. Students should remember to consider travel times to APL and back. We ask that the ASPIRE program be a priority.

Session Timeline:

April 15

Applications open.

June 1

Applications close.

June 1 – September 1

Mentors review applications, interview students, and extend an invitation to the program.

September 1–30

Orientations are held for accepted students. Matching and placements continue through September.

September 15 – October 1

ASPIRE students start program.

Summer Session (June–August)
  • Students must commit to attending the program for a minimum of 6 weeks with no more than a 1-week break within the 6 weeks.
  • Summer students must begin the program no later than July 6.
  • Students must commit to spending a minimum of 25 hours a week on site at APL during the program.

Session Timeline:

January 1

Summer applications open.

February 15

Summer applications close.

March 1 – June 1

Mentors review applications, interview students, and extend an invitation to the program.

June 1 – July 1

Orientations are held for accepted students.

June 15 – July 6

Summer ASPIRE students start program.

ASPIRE Application Process

PLEASE NOTE – you cannot save your application once you have started.

How to apply for the ASPIRE program:

  1. Please gather the following items BEFORE you begin your application:
    1. Download this school form and get it signed by your counselor or teacher before you begin your application:  ASPIRE Counselor Form
    2. Prepare a brief resume the details your academic pursuits, extracurricular activities and especially any STEM experiences that you have had
    3. Get an unofficial copy of your transcripts to upload to your application, a recent report card is acceptable if it shows your GPA
  2. Complete and submit the online application including uploading the signed counselor form, your resume and your unofficial transcripts by midnight on February 15, 2019 EST.  The application will ask you to supply 500 words or less on two topics – explain why you chose your two areas of interest and explain how you approach solving a problem. Areas of interest are: Aerospace Engineering, Applied Mathematics, Applied Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Cyber Security, Data Analysis/Statistics, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Planetary Science/Astronomy, Software/App Development, and Systems Engineering
  3. After submitting your application, you will receive an email containing a link.  Please share the link with two people you would like to recommend you for the program.  One of them should be a STEM teacher.  Once they complete and submit the recommendation form, the form will automatically be attached to your application.  Your application will be complete when we have received two recommendation forms.
  4. Please do not call to check to see if we have received your recommendation forms, we will contact you if they are missing.  Recommendation forms are due by March 1.

Applications will be reviewed, interviews conducted and students will be accepted between March 1 and May 15.  Due to the number of applications received, please do not call to check on your application unless you have a specific issue.  All students will be notified of their status by May 15th.

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. My family is going on vacation this summer. Can I still participate in the ASPIRE summer program?

    ASPIRE students may take a 1-week break during the summer session provided they start the program by July 6.

  2. I am a green card holder. Can I participate in the ASPIRE program?
  3. Green card holders are not eligible for the ASPIRE program.

  4. I am on the soccer (tennis/lacrosse/drama, etc.) team, and I have to go to practice every day but I still want to be in the ASPIRE academic year program. How can I make that work?
  5. It is very challenging to participate in an extracurricular activity and participate in the ASPIRE program. Please meet with your school counselor and find out how your school deals with internship programs and whether you will be given early release to come to APL. Remember to consider travel times when deciding whether you have enough time to participate. You must be at APL for a minimum of 5 hours per week during the school year. These hours must be completed between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may not come to APL on the weekends, and you may not stay at APL past 6:00 p.m. You also may not do a portion of core hours from home, although additional hours may be completed at home. If you have an unusual schedule (for example, are only available on one day of the week), please discuss that with any potential mentors during the interview phase.

    Seniors should also take into account the college application process when planning their schedules.

    It is expected that students who are accepted into the ASPIRE program will make the program a priority.

  6. I really want to come to APL and work on your prosthetic arm program. How can I make that happen?
  7. A large number of students are interested in the prosthetics program. One or two high school students are placed in that group occasionally (not every session or year). If that is your only interest, please make sure you have other options as it is likely you will not be placed at APL.

  8. I want a placement in neuroscience or biomedical engineering. Is that possible?
  9. Every session of the ASPIRE program is different. We do work to find placements in areas such as biology and chemistry, but historically we have only placed a few students each session in these areas. Because of the limited placements, if your interest is in biomedical engineering or neuroscience, we would encourage you to have other options if you are not selected.

  10. Where is APL located?
  11. APL is located at 11100 Johns Hopkins Road, Laurel, Maryland 20723. We are one exit south of Route 32 off of Route 29. For further information, including directions, please visit http://www.jhuapl.edu/About/MapandDirections. Please note we are not located on the Johns Hopkins University campus.

  12. Is APL accessible by public transportation?
  13. APL is not accessible by public transportation.

  14. Is there housing available for the summer program?
  15. APL does not offer any housing or housing information for ASPIRE students. Although out-of-state students are currently eligible, they must provide proof of housing before their application will be considered.

  16. Will I get to choose the project I work on?
  17. Mentors will review applications and select students whose interests match their area of expertise. Mentors will contact students to conduct a phone or in-person interview. During the interview the mentor will share their project or will discuss how you will develop a project together. Some ASPIRE students do get to choose (develop) their own projects and some do not; it depends on the mentor.

  18. My GPA is below the minimum 3.0 requirement. Can I still participate?
  19. The ASPIRE program is intended to be a supplement to academic work, and we ask that students who do not meet the minimum requirement spend their time building up their academic record first and then apply to the ASPIRE program once they have reached the minimum requirement.

  20. When will I be notified whether I have been accepted or not?
  21. Summer applicants will be notified by June 1 if they have not been accepted, although most accepted students will be selected and notified in April and May.

    Academic year applicants will be notified by September 1 if they have not been accepted, although most accepted students will be selected and notified by August 15.

  22. Can I include additional materials with my application?
  23. Yes, links to online portfolios may be included in the personal statement, and other pertinent materials may be uploaded to the application.

  24. How do I submit letters of recommendation?
  25. Once you submit your application, you will receive an e-mail containing a link. Please send that link to a STEM teacher and one other person (another teacher or coach) and ask them to complete the recommendation form for you. If they include your e-mail address on the form, you will receive an e-mail when they submit their form. Your application is only complete once we have received two forms for you. Anyone who has difficulty can contact the STEM Program Office at aspire@jhuapl.edu or 443-778-7836.

  26. Is this program paid or unpaid?
  27. This is an unpaid learning experience. The ASPIRE program works with schools to provide an extension of your learning environment. The program is intended to benefit the student by increasing their knowledge base and experience in STEM subjects.