ASPIRE High School Mentoring Program

ASPIRE is a program for high school juniors and seniors to explore the real-world applications of STEM at APL. Students are matched with APL staff members to work on technical projects in a subject area of interest to the student. APL partners with local schools to provide this extension of the student’s educational learning environment. Depending on the school district, students may receive academic credit toward graduation or a certificate of completion.

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 must not have graduated. 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

The program requires that students have good analytical skills, mature judgment, the ability to function independently, good written and oral communication skills, and the ability to learn new knowledge and skills. 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 aeronautical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, materials science, cybersecurity, and applied mathematics internships. There are limited placements in chemistry, biology, biomedical engineering, and neuroscience; students applying for these areas are significantly less likely to be placed at APL.

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. Only apply if you are willing to commit to fulfilling the time requirements.

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 (maximum of 8 weeks) with no more than a 1-week break within the 6 weeks.
  • Summer students must begin the program no later than July 1.
  • Students must commit to spending a minimum of 20 hours a week on site at APL during the program.
  • Students must complete an abstract before the session concludes.

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 1

Summer ASPIRE students start program.

ASPIRE Application Process
  • The academic-year application period begins on April 15, 2017. To be notified when applications are being accepted, join the ASPIRE mailing list.
  • The application includes a personal statement of 500 words or less that describes what areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics the student is most interested in; any experience they may have; and any other information they would like to share with potential mentors.
  • Two letters of recommendation are required. You must enter the recommenders’ e-mail addresses, and they will upload the letter directly. One recommendation letter must be from a teacher in a STEM subject. Applications that do not include two letters of recommendation will not be considered.
  • Upload your resume, transcripts (an unofficial transcript is fine), and counselor form (download from the APL application site).
  • You will receive a confirmation e-mail that your application is complete after you click the Submit button.
  • If you are selected for an interview, you will be contacted by the potential mentor directly. Being selected for an interview does not guarantee acceptance. Students who are not accepted after interviewing will be placed back on the list of available students.
  • If you are selected, you will receive an acceptance package. If you are not selected, you will return to the pool of applicants for other mentors to review.
  • All students will be notified of their status at the end of the review cycle before orientations start.
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 1.

  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 recommend that you look for other options as it is likely you would not be placed at APL.

  10. Where is APL located?
  11. APL is located at 11100 Johns Hopkins Road, Laurel, MD 20723. We are one exit south of Route 32 off of Route 29. For further information, including directions, please visit 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.

  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. On the online application main menu there is a tab to enter the names and e-mails of two individuals who you would like to request write you a letter of recommendation. Remember that one of them should be a STEM teacher. Those individuals will receive an e-mail with a link where they will upload their letters, and those will be automatically attached to your application. Anyone who has difficulty can contact the STEM Program Office at 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.