The Association of American Colleges and Universities has identified student participation in undergraduate research as one of ten “high-impact practices” highlighted in various reports from the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative. LEAP is a national initiative that champions the importance of a 21st-century liberal education—for individual students and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality. Benefits of undergraduate research and creative achievement include the following:
Advancing Cognitive and Intellectual Growth. These particularly rich benefits, in many cases demonstrated by metrics that can be measured, fall into two main categories:
- Gains in knowledge and skills
- Academic achievement and educational attainment
Fostering Professional Growth and Advancement. Related to career development, benefits include formulating career plans and acquiring the specific skills and competencies needed in various career fields (enhanced ability to work collaboratively with others in teams, stronger relationships with mentors and professionals, deeper integration into the culture and profession of the discipline, ability to make informed decisions about career interests, enhanced professional credentials, higher rates of acceptance and enrollment in graduate/professional schools, and directly securing employment).
Promoting Personal Growth. This benefits regards attitudes, values, aspirations, and beliefs (including stimulation of curiosity, enhanced ability to learn independently, enhanced development of personal initiative, increased confidence, enhanced ability to understand the philosophy of lifelong learning, greater recognition by peers, and enhanced opportunity to serve as an academic role model).
High-impact Learning Experiences. For underrepresented students, engagement in undergraduate research is positively correlated with improvement in grades, retention rates, persistence to graduation, and motivation to pursue and succeed in graduate school. For all, participation in undergraduate research with a faculty mentor is a high-impact learning experience, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement.