Your Comprehensive Guide to Pioneer’s Online Research Opportunities for High School Students

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online research opportunities for high school students

Online research opportunities are a popular choice among extraordinary high school students. They may believe that research experience adds additional competitive advantage when applying to universities. 

The truth is, there is no secret recipe for college applications. Research, projects, or publications are not a magic bullet that will guarantee admittance into the college of your choice. Especially if you consider the fact that not all research programs are created equal. 

Research programs for high school students vary based on their academic reputation, the type of actual hands-on research experience you’ll gain, the barrier to participating, and if you can attend completely online, in-person, or a hybrid of both.  

So if you’re considering online research, it’s better to view it as an opportunity to grow your research skills and dive deeper into your interests and passions! And just as important, find a research program that meets your needs and in the end, helps you transform into a better researcher. 

Pioneer Academics is a standalone in the field of online research programs because of our longstanding reputation. Established in 2012, we handpick high school students to work with faculty mentors on individual research projects. And at the conclusion of the research project, the student has a full-length academic paper to showcase, as well as two hours of college credit.

In this guide, we’ll provide an all-inclusive overview of the online opportunities offered by Pioneer Academics, explain what makes our research program unique among all others, and everything you need to know to apply.

Comprehensive Overview of Pioneer Academics’ Online Research Program

Before investing time and money into a program, it’s important to find one that provides a rigorous and scientific research experience that will help prepare you for university-level research and is also well known and respected among accredited universities and colleges.

We’ll go more in-depth about our program for high school students by covering the following:

1. Pioneer’s unique academic system
2. The admissions process 
3. Tuition and need-based scholarships that are available 
4. Acceptance and the on-boarding process 
5. Faculty mentors and determining your research project
6. Pioneer certificate and college credit 

1. Pioneer’s Unique Academic System 

We built Pioneer’s academic system based on the three core elements: 

  • Originality: Did this research produce new knowledge? 
  • Validity: Can this research be replicated? 
  • Legitimacy: Is this the authentic work of the researcher? 

While most students agree that the opportunity to explore new and original ideas is the most exciting part of the research process, you can’t produce research that’s respected without it being validated. 

Producing new knowledge requires serious and thorough procedures, which is the goal of Pioneer’s academic system. Pioneer’s academic department constantly evaluates and pushes for higher standards and oversight. In addition to Pioneer’s endeavor, the partnership with Oberlin College reinforces the rigorous research process.  

Not only does Pioneer Academics review the research completed by the student, but our colleagues at Oberlin College also evaluate it to ensure all research completed consistently meets the three core elements of research.

Pioneer and Oberlin Academic Oversight
Pioneer and Oberlin College partner together to provide academic oversight of research opportunities for high school students.

And because of this academic system and our shared commitment with Oberlin College around research rigor and authenticity, every student who successfully completes the Pioneer Academic program earns two college credits. These credits can then transfer to a university depending on the transfer policy of the institution.

2. Pioneer Academics Admissions Process

Pioneer Academics hosts two, completely online terms every year for students: 

  • Spring-through-Summer Term: February-July 
  • Summer Break Term: June-September
Pioneer admissions process for research opportunities for high school students
How to apply to be a Pioneer student


The first step in the admissions process is to attend an online information session. Students learn more about Pioneer and are welcome to ask any questions. We’ll talk about the various academic subject areas available in social sciences, STEM, and humanities, and cover how to submit an application. This is a great way to connect with the Pioneer staff and evaluate if this is the best opportunity for you. 

If you feel confident after attending the info session that Pioneer Academics is the right choice, you can then begin the application process. In the application we’ll ask for: 

  • Basic information
  • Your areas of research interest 
  • Short essays
  • Long essays 
  • Standardized test scores (if available) 

After receiving your application, we’ll do an initial screening and select students to move on to the interview round. During the online interview, we’ll ask more questions to get to know you better and ask that you participate in a timed writing test. 

We’ll then review all your application materials and interview to determine admission. The entire process takes about 6-10 weeks.

Possible Application Decision Outcomes

When you apply to Pioneer Academics, there are three possible admission outcomes: 

  • Conditional Admission: We see you have exceptional talent, so you are conditionally accepted into the program! Your place will be confirmed once you and your parent(s) confirm acceptance and make a deposit. 
  • Waitlisted: You did not receive conditional admission, however, you were not denied. We’ll keep your information on file and will re-review your application materials if a spot becomes available.
  • Deny with Priority Consideration: You did not receive an invitation to participate in the Pioneer program, however, we encourage you to apply again. If you choose to reapply, you’ll receive priority consideration. 
Pioneer application results for research opportunities for high school students
The different paths to Pioneer application results


3. Tuition and Need-Based Scholarship 

The tuition to participate in Pioneer’s program is $6,450 USD. 

Pioneer Academics is a Public Benefit Corporation. As part of our social mission, every year we dedicate funds for full and partial need-based scholarships. In the U.S. and Canada, we conduct financial assessments ourselves. Internationally, we work with partner non-profit organizations and educational institutions that can help us assess need. Through these methods, Pioneer is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for all scholars who are admitted where need can be assessed.

Please sign up for an information session to learn more about need-based scholarships.

4. Acceptance and On-Boarding

During the application process, you’ll indicate four areas of research interest. We offer 30 areas in social sciences, STEM, and humanities. Based on your application and the information you provide during your interview, our admissions team of experts will determine the best research concentration for you and you’ll be notified when you are accepted of your research area.

5. Working with a Faculty Mentor and Determining Your Research Project

After you are assigned your concentration, you’ll then be connected with your faculty mentor along with the names of other students in your cohort. Each faculty mentor has a cohort of 3-6 students and will host five group sessions throughout the program to provide individualized guidance. These sessions are where you’ll gain foundational knowledge and begin developing the topic for your research paper.

Students receive faculty mentorship during research opportunities with Pioneer
Pioneer faculty having a group session with students

In addition to these important group sessions, Pioneer offers the resources you need to conduct real research, such as: 

  • Foundational research seminars focused on various subjects and research methodologies
  • The Pioneer Writing Center where you can submit drafts of your writing for edits and feedback.
  • The Oberlin College online library allows you to access more than 400 research databases and journals, plus 100,000+ e-books for your research.

6. Pioneer Certificate and College Credit

Upon successful completion of the Pioneer program, students receive two college credits that can then be transferred to another institution (like all credit transfers, this depends on the transfer policies of your college). 

While it is true that the college credit you earn after completing the program may save you time and money while pursuing your degree, the greatest value you receive by placing Pioneer on your university application is that your research accomplishment is backed by Pioneer’s reputation and accreditation.

Pioneer certifies your research, and therefore your work’s legitimacy and validity are endorsed by our official transcript. Only accredited programs can do that, and Pioneer is the sole accredited program of its kind.

Why It Pays to ‘Learn Backward’   

It can be a tough decision to determine if pursuing an online research opportunity is the best fit for you, especially if you’re thinking you might be too young or don’t have any research experience. 

That’s because we’re often taught, even way before high school, that we need to gain a broad knowledge of a topic before we can even think about doing anything else. 

For example, it may make sense to learn the foundation of physics before diving into physics research. However, with this kind of thinking many students actually avoid doing research. Even undergraduate students are afraid to start researching, many holding off until graduate school! 

Cover photo for article.

At Pioneer, we promote “learning backward”. We encourage high school students to dive deep into research topics. While conducting research, students are able to learn more about their subject area and gain research skills along with confidence and real-world expertise.

Contact Pioneer Academics

If you’re interested in learning more about Pioneer Academics, sign up for our next online information session. We answer many questions students and parents have about our program and we can help you get your application started. 

You can always contact our team directly at [email protected].

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Info session for blog page 400x270 1Doing research is commonplace.

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