How to get started?

It seems like you might have already gotten started. After all you’re here!

What will you need to do to help your students succeed? Regardless of whether a student has sought you out, you are teaching a class, or you are a parent looking to mentor your child it is important to first start by looking at what the end product should look like for the competition. Is the competition judging posters, talks, or both? How long will your student have until that material is due? These things seriously impact the extent of your project and goals. You need to begin by helping your student consider a timeline and set reasonable expectations for their project. It is extremely important to stress that a competitive project can not be done in just a week, much less a night!

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium reviews and judges on both presentations as well as a research paper. In fact, many of the science competitions in Virginia do. The research paper is often due early spring (before March) since they are reviewed by judges prior to the competition. Your student(s) can then prepare their presentation for the day of. The paper will likely take your student(s) several weeks to write and thus all the projects themselves should be near complete near the turn of the year.

To complete the projects it should be expected to take several weeks and must be allowed time to make mistakes and redo some portions. It is important to stress to the students that the best projects illustrate attempts to fix or improve certain elements of a project. This is a natural part of the research cycle.

Now that your student has an understanding of what to expect from beginning a science competition, and is probably starting to think about what project they might want to do, it is time to determine what type of mentor you will be. Will you need to mentor a multitude of students in a class, a single student, or your child? Is the student self motivated or being required to do this?

Still worried that you might simply not be ready to mentor students? Here are some great tips from the AEOP on mentoring research students!


Hopefully, some of these tips can help you get your student(s) moving!