Pathways Undergraduate Researchers Application Tips

Education & Training

Pathways Undergraduate Researchers Application Tips

Due to the competitive nature of the Pathways Undergraduate Researchers program, the following suggestions should be taken into consideration when preparing an application; however, adhering to these recommendations does not guarantee acceptance into the program.

The Application Process

Give yourself time to complete the application and for your references to send their recommendations.

The application has two components – one that you complete and one that your references complete. We require two recommendations for your application to be considered.

Review the application early and thoroughly. Complete your section well in advance of the deadline. Your section includes the online form (including the email addresses of two references), a recent school transcript (PDF) and the completed short-response essay form (PDF).

Your references will not receive their recommendation form until you complete your section of the application. Once you submit your application, our system sends your references an email with instructions on accessing and completing the recommendation form. Submit your section early so your references have time to complete/submit their form.

Know how the Fred Hutch research areas align with your interests

Before you begin your application, learn about the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Browse our lab pages to learn about our faculty and their areas of research.  This will allow you to submit a more well-informed application. 


An informative recommendation should come from someone who can highlight your strengths that are relevant to the internship, your quality as a student compared to other students, your accomplishments, and how this program will further your academic/career goals.

Choose your references wisely – recommendations from individuals that know your interests, personal characteristics, and abilities may be viewed more favorably than a recommendation from a person who doesn't know you as well. One recommendation from a science teacher or similar can address your interest in science. Recommendations should come from teacher(s), school staff, or supervisor(s) at a volunteer or paid position. Recommendations from people who haven't seen your work in an academic or professional setting, such as coaches or family friends, are discouraged. 

Give your references at least two weeks to submit a recommendation on your behalf. We do NOT accept late application materials or recommendations. If you ask your reference a few days before the deadline and s/he doesn't have time to submit it, you may find yourself in a bind.

Ask for your recommendation in writing or email in addition to in person. Give your references a copy of your resume and your short response essays. Also provide them with: a) the name of the program to which you are applying and a brief description (with URL); b) the name of the sponsoring institution; c) a brief description of how the program fits with your goals; d) a brief description of what you will contribute to the program and how you will benefit from participating;  and e) most importantly – tell them when the recommendation is due and how it should be submitted.* 

If necessary, send your reference a friendly reminder – preferably one week prior to the application deadline.  You will receive an email when a reference submits your recommendation.

The last and most important thing to do after requesting a recommendation is often the most overlooked - send your reference(s) a handwritten note of thanks!

*Inform your references that we require a specific, easy to complete recommendation form. We do not accept free-form letters. In addition to contact information, our form asks your references to:

  1. Rate the applicant on his/her Academic Qualities (Intellectual Ability, Enthusiasm for Learning, Commitment to Learning, Written Expression and Verbal Expression) and Character Traits (Respect for Others, Initiative, Self-discipline, Integrity and Independence); and
  2. Describe anything about the applicant that sets him/her apart from others (200-word limit).  

After you submit your portion of the application, your references will receive an email with instructions on how to download the recommendation form and submit it when they are finished.

Short Essay Responses

The short essay responses are a crucial part of the application. Take time to be sure your responses are thoughtful and carefully-written.

Start early! The short essay responses provide an opportunity to share your experiences and perspectives. It's also the primary place where you can elaborate on the qualities and attributes that will help you succeed in this program. Use specific examples. Essays should be written in full sentences and composed paragraphs. Ask a friend(s), teacher(s), and/or advisor(s) to review your short essay responses for content, clarity, and grammar.

The short essay responses have 1000-character limits (which include spaces), but we do not expect you to use all the space. Questions for the 2018 application were:

  1. List your previous jobs, internships and/or volunteer activities. Include duration and time commitment.
  2. Explain how the Pathways Undergraduate program will help you specifically. What are your academic and/or career goals? How does this internship fit into those goals?
  3. The Pathways Undergraduate program consists of 1) mentored research and 2) group activities with other interns. What qualities do you have that will allow you to succeed in each of these two settings? How will your host lab and the other interns benefit from your participation?
  4. Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself that sets you apart from other applicants? You may use this space to share something about you that is important for us to know. You might consider sharing any significant family responsibilities you have and how they impact who you are and what you do.

Proofread your application thoroughly for accuracy and completeness before submitting.