Building Your Timeline: When to Search for Research

When looking for research opportunities, it’s important to start your search early! Research applications, like any other programs or positions that you apply to, take time. You have to find positions that you’re interested in, ensure you meet the stated requirements (if any), build your application material, apply, and possibly prepare for an interview, depending on the position. All of this takes time, so it’s important to keep on top of the deadlines and build a timeline for yourself.

When Should You Start Looking?

My advice is for students to start looking a semester in advance for research. Some research opportunities start looking research assistances about a semester in advance because of the application process, interviews, and training process. If you’re looking for a research experience for the Fall semester, start looking in the Spring semester and over the Summer! Looking for a Spring opportunity? Start looking in the Fall semester!

Summer programs are an exception to this.  Many summer programs offer paid, residential research opportunities at your home institution or another university.  These have longer application cycles.  If you are interested in an intense, residential summer program, you will want to start looking for these in mid- to late-fall!  Many of these applications come due in January and February, so you will need time to collect letters of recommendation and prepare other application materials before your university’s winter break.    

Starting early can take away from those stressful last-minute applications and allow you time to prepare what may be required.

Top Tips for Your Timeline

  • Build Your Interests

When it comes time to find research, it is important to have an understanding of what you want. Do you want something specific or are you open to different experiences and research topics? Are you looking for course-credit? Paid opportunities? Volunteer research? Over the summer or during the regular semester? You will want to have some of these questions answered when you begin looking so you can narrow your search and don’t become overwhelmed when looking at all of the options available..

  • Know Your Resources

Starting early also allows you to look at different research avenues. There are many search tools and resources available, so it is important to become familiar with them:

Undergraduate Research and Inquiry Collaborative – Under “Find Research,” you can find a variety of research programs, research classes, and other tools to find research.

Student Engagement and Career Development – Similar to the Undergraduate Research & Inquiry Collaborative website, SECD’s website offers research program information as well as other resources, such as resume tips, cover letter building, and more that can be useful for building your application materials.

Handshake – Handshake is a great place to look for research opportunities as new positions can be posted daily! I recommend setting up a schedule to check Handshake regularly so you can review opportunities as they are added throughout the semester.  You can also set up your Handshake profile and notification preferences so that you receive an email any time a position is posted that meets your preferences.

Undergraduate Research Ambassadors – Get support finding research, going through the application process, and more! You can make a 1:1 appointment with an Undergraduate Research Ambassador or visit them during their drop-in hours.

  • Stay Organized!

It is important to keep everything organized because this will keep you from frantically writing or looking for something on the day an application is due. I recommend keeping your research application deadlines in one place, such as an excel sheet, so it is easy to see what you’ve applied to, what you still need to complete, and other key information.

We have a fillable research application tracker template available on our website!


PositionWildcat Lab ExampleSummer Lab Example
Start SemesterFall 2023Summer 2024
Application DeadlineMarch 15thFeb. 1, 2024
Resume Needed?YesYes
Cover Letter Needed?YesNo
Other Material Needed?Unofficial TranscriptsPurpose Statement
LinkLink to application hereLink to application here
Other NotesApplication opens October 1st
Interview DateTuesday 4/18 at 11am

Know your timeline and prepare yourself! Go into your research applications prepared before the deadline so you can confidently apply and ensure you’ve had time to review your material. Get ahead and start your search using the resources available to you.

Need help building your timeline or starting your search? Meet with an Undergraduate Research Ambassador in a 1:1 appointment to get support!

By Sarah Randolph
Sarah Randolph