Do Your Research on the Benefits of Undergraduate Research

Posted by: Paul Winterhoff, Meredith Professor

Faculty member in tie-dye lab coat reviews research with three students in white lab coats

As you’re going through your college search process, you’re probably hearing some schools talk about opportunities for undergraduate research – and for good reason. Did you know that doing research under the supervision of a full-time faculty member at any college or university will greatly advance your career and graduate school prospects?

The Council for Undergraduate Research reports that students who participate in these programs develop important skills that are highly valued by employers:

  • critical thinking
  • creativity
  • problem solving skills
  • intellectual independence

They also develop mentoring relationships with faculty and gain an understanding of research methodology.

Questions to Ask During Your College Search

Meredith College has a well-established Undergraduate Research Program to help strong women like you advance academically and professionally. Our college-wide program was established almost 20 years ago. Over time we have built a healthy culture of research in all academic areas. To reap the benefits described, you’ll want to ask some questions about the nature and scope of the programs at the colleges you’re considering.

For instance, ask how many students participate in undergraduate research. This can help you gauge the strength and quality of the program. For comparison purposes, at Meredith at least 51% of our students engage in a serious research project. This level of research participation is significant. A 2016 national survey of thousands of campuses finds that only 24% of undergraduate students report doing research. You may also want to ask which majors are represented among student research. At Meredith, students conduct research in all majors, which gives every student the opportunity to participate

Students who conduct undergraduate research also develop skills in presentation, especially when they get the opportunity to participate in research conferences. So ask about opportunities to present your research. At Meredith, we have our own research symposium, called Celebrating Student Achievement Day. Our students also frequently present at state, regional, or national conferences.

Another question to ask when you’re exploring undergraduate research programs is whether the college supports student research financially. At Meredith, we’ve provided students with approximately $35,000 in grants over the past four years to support both their research on campus and student travel for presenting their research all over the U.S. We have also awarded over $400,000 in grants over the past seven years in support of students’ summer research.

Many of our students find that undergraduate research — and the support of our amazing faculty — gave them a distinct advantage in applications to graduate school and their initial career placements. For example, Lindsay Parlberg, a 2016 graduate in Public Health, said:

“Engaging in research at Meredith was likely the best decision I made as an undergrad. It gave me the opportunity to improve my communication skills, and I was able to build meaningful relationships with my research advisor and other faculty. My research also gave me strong, science-based talking points to reference during the job interview process, which I believe allowed me to stand out as an applicant.”

I encourage you to ask questions about undergraduate research when you’re visiting colleges and speaking with faculty. Their answers may help you determine your own interest in such programs, and will definitely provide important information about the value each college or university places on its undergraduate students.

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