Science First

College First Application

Application & Resources

What is College First?

College First is a paid, seven-week summer internship program at the Chicago Botanic Garden designed for rising junior and senior high school students with a passion for science and the environment. It's more than just summer fun—it's a springboard to your future success!

The College First program offers students the following:

  • College-level environmental studies: Delve deep into science with engaging courses three days a week.
  • Hands-on research: Dive into your own scientific investigation with the guidance of a dedicated mentor.
  • Nature exploration: Uncover the secrets of local ecosystems on our exciting Friday field trips.
  • College and career prep: Get invaluable support and resources to navigate college applications and launch your future.
  • Get a taste of college life! At our annual spring campus visits, stay overnight in dorms, explore exciting campuses, and experience the buzz firsthand. It's your chance to see where your science journey could lead.
  • Paid internship: Earn while you learn and gain valuable professional experience. 
  • Convenient transportation: Relax and let the dedicated school bus shuttle you to and from the Garden.
  • Lifelong friendships: Connect with like-minded peers and build a supportive network. 

College First is your chance to:

  • Ignite your passion for science
  • Make a difference in the environment
  • Gain valuable skills for college and beyond
  • Create lasting memories and friendships

Eligibility Checklist

To be eligible for College First, you must:

  • Be a current sophomore or junior in a Chicago Public School
  • Have a strong interest in science and nature
  • Show ambition to pursue a college degree

You must commit to all program elements:

  • Unpaid orientation
  • Full seven-week summer program
  • Monthly meetings during the school-year 
  • Arrange your own transportation to and from program bus stops

Additionally, consideration will be given to applicants who:

  • Belong to a racial/ethnic group underrepresented in science (African American, Latinx, Native American)
  • Would benefit most from college and career support (low-income, first-generation college student)

2024 Program

Paid internship:  
June 24 – August 9  
Monday – Friday    
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Orientation (unpaid):  
June 17

School-year meetings:  
Monthly (schedule TBD)

Annual college campus visits:  
During spring break  
(exact schedule TBD)

What's needed to apply?

  1. Completed application form.  
    Share your story and aspirations!
  2. Latest progress report.  
    Show us your academic achievements. (Report cards requested at acceptance.)
  3. Recommendation form.    
    Let a science teacher or community leader vouch for you. (No family members please!)
  4. Program permission waiver.  
    Get the green light from your parent/guardian.    

Apply Online

To be considered for the program, please submit all requested items by April 16.

If you have any questions, please email Click here to show mail address or call Karen Segura at (847) 835-6871 or (847) 849-0488.