Discovery Learning Apprenticeship FAQs

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Questions about becoming a Discovery Learning Apprentice, or have questions about your current apprenticeship? Have a look at the frequently asked questions below. You can also find overview information in the DLA Brochure.

Still have questions or concerns? Contact Sharon Anderson at 303-492-4404 or

What is required for participation in the Discovery Learning Apprenticeship (DLA) program?

The following requirements apply to this program:

  • Must apply and be accepted into the program
  • Must reply to offer and accept offer
  • Must attend introductory meeting in the fall
  • Must take online Discrimination and Harassment Awareness training (paid one hour for this)
  • Must complete Background Check as instructed
  • Must work as directed by faculty member and/or graduate student mentor and make a good-faith effort to work 10 hours/week spring and fall semester
  • Must attend three seminars for the year (one of which must be in the fall semester) or lose your place in program or opportunity to compete at symposium. Examples of seminar topics include:
    • Where Do Ideas Come From?
    • Library Resources and Research
    • Writing to be Read: Communicating Well in Engineering and Scientific Contexts
    • Preparing for Graduate School
    • Ethics in Research
    • Making a Research Presentation
    • Opportunities for Applied Research in Business and Industry and the Challenge of Doing So Internationally
    • Leadership in Research: Context, Roles, and Power
  • Must write a two- to three-page paper due at the end of October outlining your plans for work
  • Must attend spring meeting focused on Discovery Learning Research Symposium requirements
  • Must participate in the Research Symposium in mid‐April
    • Develop a poster that you will display
    • Develop a five-minute talk to give to the judges
    • Meet with assigned DLA mentors who will review your poster and make suggestions
    • Finalize and print your poster
    • Attend the symposium and compete for $100 prize in your category and life‐long bragging rights, as well as being featured on the Discovery Learning website
  • Complete three online surveys (mid‐fall, late January, late April) regarding your experiences in the program

How am I paid for my work in this program? Will it affect my scholarships/grants?

You will submit bi‐weekly timesheets and be paid as any other student employee, based on your hours worked. The pay rate for fall is $10/hour, with an increase to $11/hour in the spring, provided there has been satisfactory performance (up to $1500 for the fall semester and $1650 for the spring semester). You will need to check on the terms of your particular scholarship to see if income adversely affects your award. In most cases, it will not, but this depends on the scholarship.

Why would CU faculty like to get their research help through the program?

This program provides structure to the undergraduate research experience, and some additional oversight at the college level, which is appreciated by many participating faculty members. Also, the college supports Discovery Learning Apprentices with half of their hourly pay, up to $750 match for the fall semester and $825 match for the spring semester. This helps a faculty member leverage his/her undergraduate research dollars. Faculty members also see this as a way to encourage student interest in their research areas, and possibly interest students in attending graduate school in their discipline.

Do I need to have prior research experience to apply?

No, that is not necessary unless listed as a requirement for a project in which you are interested.

What makes this program different from other undergraduate research programs offered at CU, like BURST and UROP?

This is a college‐wide program, while BURST and UROP are campus programs and have their own requirements. You can learn more about them at their respective websites:

  • BURST (Bioscience Undergraduate Research Skills and Training)
  • UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program)

How do I improve my chances of being selected for this program?

  • Maintain your college GPA at 3.0 or above (the higher the better!)
  • Give careful thought when applying to the impression you are making - write a good cover letter and resume, and review the tips provided on the application
  • Respond in your cover letter to any requirements mentioned in the project listing - e.g., if the project says you must have taken Material and Energy Balance, tell me that you have done so
  • Select a diversity of projects – be sure they are ones of interest to you, but try not to select three from one faculty member as we may not give more than one student to each professor
  • Select five projects – if you are only interested in one or two, then by all means don’t apply for ones that are not interesting to you, however, applying to five will allow me maximum flexibility when considering you for a position.
  • If you are comfortable doing so, feel free to contact the professor offering the project to learn more about it and see if it is a good match. If you ask intelligent questions and make a good impression, the faculty member may ask for you!

What if I don’t have a CU GPA yet (e.g., I am an incoming freshman or transfer student this spring)?

Enter your high school GPA (high school students) - if it was above a 4.0, enter 4.0. Enter your GPA at your most recent college (transfer students).

I have applied for a Discovery Learning Apprenticeship before and was not accepted. Does this help or hurt my chances?

All things being equal (GPA has not increased/decreased, etc.), it will generally improve your chances as we like to give this opportunity to as many students as possible.

How do I decide to which projects I should apply?

Carefully review the list of projects that are available to you and only apply to projects for which you are qualified. Don’t waste one of your choices on a project for which you do not meet the requirements. You can also look at a full list of projects ordered by discipline here. Once you have reviewed the list, consider to which projects you can best contribute and which ones most closely match your interests and career plans.

May I speak with the professors in advance?

You are most welcome to do so, as it will help you decide if you are really interested in his/her project and may cultivate his/her interest in you.

I am not seeing any projects on the drop‐down list on the application - what is wrong?

You first must enter a major so that the project choices available to your major can be displayed, and the full list of projects will only be available for viewing during the application window from April 1 until April 30.

I am currently in another college, but I plan to transfer to engineering. Can I apply to this program?

Normally, you must be registered in the system as an undergraduate student in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. If you have an IUT on file with the college and your chances are good for being accepted, we will consider your application.

I am entering my last year of a BS/MS program - can I apply to this program?

No, you are generally considered a graduate student in the last year of a BS/MS program and this program is for undergraduate students only.

I see that gender, race and ethnicity are requested on the application. Are my chances of being selected affected by my response to these questions?

No, but they help us determine if we are doing a good job of proportionately distributing these positions across the diverse members of our college community.

I don’t have a secondary major, but I am pursuing a minor. Where should I include that on my application?

Put this as one of your three skills or qualifications on the online application - these should be items that you feel make you a great candidate for the positions you selected.

When you ask me for my level in school next fall, is this based on where I am in the curriculum or based on my credits which include a lot of AP and IB credit?

This is based on where you are in your curriculum – are you taking freshman, sophomore, junior or senior courses? Or you can enter "fifth-year senior" if you have completed most of your requirements.

What grade levels generally land these apprenticeships?

Juniors are most common, with some sophomores, some seniors and a few fifth-year seniors. Freshmen are rare and generally only accepted if they have exceptional qualifications.

Must I still submit a cover letter and resume if I know that the faculty member is suggesting me for his/her project?

Yes, and we suggest you take this requirement seriously. The online application will not allow you to complete the application without uploading these documents and if you upload non‐serious attempts, the Program Administrator will contact you and ask you to resubmit these documents to be considered for a position.

What problems might I encounter when entering data in the online system?

  • If you get an error that says something about a “duplicate key,” you have submitted twice. Check with Sharon Anderson to make sure your application was submitted properly.
  • If you make a mistake on your application and realize it after submission, notify Sharon Anderson and she can correct the error on the online database.
  • If you know of a project that is listed and it doesn’t show up for you, it means that the faculty member is not accepting your major for this project. Unless you speak with the faculty member and secure his/her permission and then let Sharon Anderson know to update the database, you cannot apply for this project.

Can I count my research work as an independent study and get credit for it, and still be able to apply for the DLA?

No, we recommend that you do them sequentially – either the DLA for the first year, followed by an independent study in the second year, or vice versa.

What if I miss the deadline for applying?

Sorry, you missed the deadline….you can apply next year if you are still around!

Who makes the hiring decisions?

Whether you are accepted to the program is decided by the program administrator, Sharon Anderson. She will suggest you for a specific project and the faculty member must approve your assignment.

How many will be accepted?

We expect to accept approximately 70 students into the program for the 2015-2016 academic year.

When will I know if I am accepted?

Students are notified that they have been accepted in early June. This notification comes via email. You must respond with an acceptance or rejection within 1 month of the offer. If you are not accepted to the program, you will be re‐considered at a later date if another student should choose to drop out of the program before beginning or shortly after the fall semester begins.

What if I am going to be gone this summer and can’t be contacted?

There is an opportunity to enter a Boulder address, phone number and email as well as a summer address, phone number and email. We suggest you keep an eye on your email in early June when offers are made. A lack of response to the email offering you a position may result in the position being offered to another!

If I am accepted, what if my plans change over the summer or what if I determine that my course load in the fall will not allow me to participate at 10 hours/week?

Please let us know of your plans to withdraw as soon as possible, so we can offer the position to another qualified candidate who may not have been accepted in the first round of offers.

If I am accepted to the program, must I make a firm commitment?

Yes, the Discovery Learning Apprenticeship is an employment commitment and it should be treated as you would any professional job. You are expected to behave in both an ethical and a professional manner throughout the year. Dropping out for frivolous reasons (valid reasons might include a family emergency, or health problem) reflects negatively on you and may affect your ability to secure a reference letter from your faculty supervisor for future employment, scholarships, graduate school applications, etc. In addition, accepting a position with an attitude of “I’ll try it and see if I like it and drop out if I don’t” is a disservice to the many other students who applied and were not accepted to this highly competitive program and a disservice to the faculty member who has invested time, effort and money in you. Finally, your work in the program may not be counted for the Discovery component of the Active Learning Award if you do not complete the program.

What doors has the DLA program opened for students in the past?

Students have reported that the DLA program helped them in any number of ways, including:

  • Determining a career direction
  • Determining whether they wished to attend graduate school
  • Landing an internship or co‐op positions
  • Landing a full‐time position
  • Landing an NSF grant
  • Landing a summer research position
  • Landing a scholarship

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