Greetings Students and Families, This is the second blog in my multi-part series on STEM COLLEGE PLANNING.
As regular readers of my newsletters and blogs know, I’ve spoken about how College Admissions Officers want to know two things about every applicant:
1 Who are You ? What are you passionate about? What experiences shaped your character and define the person who will arrive on campus? So please live and enjoy yourself at school, at home and within your community. For STEM applicants, your problem-solving skills are of interest – and those of you with multi-disciplinary pursuits suggests a wider lens. It’s also important to demonstrate your collaborative/team-based experiences because STEM problem-solving involves this approach to learning and innovating.
2 What “Problem” do you want to solve- what do you want to learn with others on our college campus?
For STEM applicants- you will have a clear edge as a student and also in admissions if you can clarify your specific academic interests in your essays. I’ll talk more about this – please don’t write an essay about how you played with legos as a child! Also, you didn’t build a computer- you assembled it from pre-ordered parts. If you’ve shadowed a physician or volunteered at a hospital – relate that to the core concepts in biology and chemistry you observed in practice.
Today I will focus on how to build your STEM college plan. We will take a look at the steps to be taken to set and realize educational goals that involve learning about different STEM academic paths and how to compare and evaluate potential majors that may be a perfect “fit” for you!
MY STEM COLLEGE CLIENTS MAJOR IN TRADITIONAL AND CUTTING-AGE MAJORS including:
STEM applicants are expected to show evidence of their interest in their major- acquired thru not only coursework but competitions in science, math, programming and more. Independent research can be sparked by a number of outstanding summer collegiate research programs. These programs are highly selective and the chances of gaining a spot are enhanced by success in less selective entry-point programs in summers following 9th/10th grades as well as participation in Robotics, Math Team, HOSA, Hackathons and other locally based high school teams.
Here are some of my favorites- and I can help you target the right competitions and understand the research protocols for student submission.
National STEM Video Game Challenge: this competition asks students to submit original video games and game design concepts in platforms like GameMaker, Gamestar Mechanic, Scratch, and Unity.
AEOP – The Army Education Outreach Program on Army-sponsored STEM programs
Google Science Fair – This is a science and technology competition for anyone, team or individual, around the world ages 13-18. Participants are rewarded for being creative, inspiring, and designing projects that will make an impact on local or global communities.
Stockholm Junior Water Prize – The Water Environment Federation has created a competition for students in grades 9-12 who have conducted a water-science research project.
Is “Dual Enrollment” actually the right “fit” for you based on your educational plans and potential undergraduate major? Please don’t take classes simply for the purpose of raising your GPA. Selected electives should offer authentic learning opportunities that push you to discover something new that you CANNOT accomplish at your high school.
STEM undergraduate majors are among the most challenging and a firm academic grounding acquired throughout high school will prepare you for success as an undergraduate. Many of the STEM dual enrollment classes – especially those offered online or at a 2-year institution are recognized as less challenging and should NEVER be used as a substitute for taking the equivalent class if available at your high school.
College admissions will FROWN upon a college application that shows you opted out of AP Chem for senior priv – and took your math or science online or in the local campus when AP Calculus or AP Chemistry were offered at your high school.
STEM is changing our world and it’s quite more expansive than a traditional path into engineering, medical school or the science lab.
WHAT STEM major “fits” you- it may be an interdisciplinary program that leverages your personal interests and academic strengths.
STEM pre-college academic advising should prepare students for academic success as an undergraduate while guiding you to appropriate ways to set yourself apart from others during the STEM college admissions process.
The complete list of STEM majors and careers contains dozens of selections and extends far beyond the courses you’ve explored in your high school AP, AICE or IB classes.
Given your interests and strengths, or perhaps there is an area you have yet to uncover, let me guide you to the discovery of unique and cutting-edge STEM majors.
You’ll be surprised to know that there are STEM majors for students who enjoy the “Liberal Arts” and for students with overlapping interests in business, social sciences and even the fine arts.
A variety of fields have been influenced by the analytical approaches and scientific techniques taught in STEM programs. Collaboration taking place within multi-disciplinary teams is the direction of future innovation in all fields.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A STEM EDUCATION?
The nature of STEM fields continues to evolve. Advanced preparation for an undergraduate STEM major should include the following:
Mathematics: As noted, all STEM fields require a comfort and aptitude for quantitative analysis. High school coursework preparing you for Calculus & Statistics is advised.
All engineering programs have math pre-requisites preparing for advanced coursework. Pre-medical students will complete rigorous Chemistry classes requiring mathematics thru multi-variate calculus. Business school students, especially those in Finance & Marketing should anticipate coursework in advanced statistics and calculus.
STEM AP/AICE coursework: STEM majors are more structured than others leaving few credits for exploration at the undergraduate level. Achieving high (threshold) scores on AP STEM exams related to your chosen major not only enhances your admissions portfolio, but better prepares you for the challenging coursework ahead and leaves room to enroll in non-STEM electives/minors.
Challenge yourself to complete as many of these AP classes as possible during high school: Computer Science, Calculus BC, Biology, Chemistry, Physics C, Statistics
Multi-disciplinary problem-solving is typical in the fast-paced and incredibly competitive technical sector. Students in all fields, including video-gaming/artists, filmmakers, financial gurus and even aspiring physicians are at a competitive advantage having acquired basic programming skills. Robotics and Artificial Intelligence continue to influence all fields. Understanding the basics of coding is essential to success in STEM and many disciplines. Have you considered “Computational Finance” or “Computational Biology” as potential majors?
INCREASING YOUR CHANCES
First and foremost- be yourself because everyone else is taken! That’s not cliché-it is truly the most important piece of advice I can provide.
Discover an area that you are truly passionate about and dive in! Demonstrate informed interest thru experiences.
Demonstrate “INFORMED INTEREST”!
More than any other major, STEM applicants must clearly demonstrate “informed interest”! Admissions officers don’t want to read an essay describing your fascination with Lego since childhood. In fact- beyond a sentence– your childhood is basically uninteresting in a STEM essay. I have heard this over and over at admissions presentations. You have only 500 to 600 or so words to set yourself apart- show the aspiring competent STEM student you are now- not your childhood.
Your application must leave no shadow of a doubt that you are prepared to succeed in some of the most demanding academic majors. STEM curriculum are intense and challenging!
An astounding 25% of all intended engineering students exit the field after their freshman year. Only 40% of college students who declare a STEM major complete their degree. Demonstrating you understand the challenges ahead is essential.
STEM “informed interest” can be demonstrated through:
In addition to completion of AP STEM coursework, engage in sustained formal or informal STEM extracurricular activities and independent projects (we have plenty of ideas for an independent project)
STEM Research: participation in local, regional and national competitions working with our competition educator. (see my research page)
Thoughtful college specific supplemental essays showcasing maturity and self-directed exploration of a potential narrow area of interest (i.e. stochastic processes in Financial Modeling, Genomics, Artificial Intelligence applications to bio-diversity modelling, pharmaceutical development or language processing and interpretation.)
CONSIDER Applying to a cutting-edge, LESSOR KNOWN or BLENDED MAJOR — fewer applicants and perhaps you will really excel/enjoy these other potential paths.
Allow me to help you think outside the box, increasing your chances of admission. STEM majors such as Nanotechnology, Computational Finance, Oenology, Cognitive Psychology, Human Computer Interaction are just the tip of the iceberg of exciting STEM fields of study.
You’ve seen that bumper sticker: CO-EXIST!
Many colleges have unique programs balancing a STEM field with an interest in the social science, liberal arts, business or even the Fine Arts!
With the cost of a four-year education continuing to rise, families are justified in exploring the ROI of any major. Employers are seeking STEM graduates who demonstrate an ability to communicate, manage and collaborate with others.
Click and explore these three unique STEM degree programs combining engineering with liberal arts, fine arts and international studies!
Based on your academic strengths and personal interests, we will work together to create a personalized strategic STEM ADMISSIONS plan including:
Pre-college academic advising on coursework to not only increase your chances of admission, but ensure a seamless transition to your initial undergraduate experience. There’s more to STEM than “engineering”!
We’ll work together to identify and apply for highly competitive local and national STEM summer research programs. Our team has inside-knowledge of programs and faculty.
Whether you’ve just started following my newsletters and blogs or a long time reader– I welcome you to reach out with your Educational and College Planning questions. With so many changes taking place- from the uncertainty and “difficulties” of the online/hybrid classroom, the changed AP exam schedule (and how last year’s revised 2020 format might impact subsequent college credits) , paused extracurricular activities and ACT/SAT testing requirement changes (Revised SAT, eliminated subject tests and continuation of Test Optional, Score Choice and SuperScore options-)- Rising Seniors ’22 to students just entering high school should be thinking about how the COVID-19 continues to have on college admissions — and adapt your YOUR COLLEGE PLAN.
Especially for Juniors:
There are 3900+ potential colleges in the US!.
Juniors should begin the process of exploring major areas of interest. Leverage my university experience and knowledge of a variety of majors. Let’s explore together!
Look for synergies between your high school curriculum, your strengths and potential undergraduate majors of interest!
WRITERS BLOCK is included in all packages. Students will spend time to complete their Common / Coalition Core Essays prior to summer vacation.
Writer’s Block Workshop
Bonnie Rabin, PhD – Writers Block College Essay Workshop VIRTUALLY this year– daily presentations and one-on-one individual writing conferences–
I invite you to contact me with any questions about decisions you’re facing about your courses, extracurricular activities, learning accommodations or the entirety of your college application process.
Have an awesome day!
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Educational and College Admissions Consultant
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Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.