Greetings Students and Families This is the third blog in my STEM series.

STEM admissions is different!

How do you increase your chances of college acceptances in the competitive college admissions process?

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!



Establish Educational Goals
Completing the most challenging and relevant coursework is the baseline for success as a STEM Student.
Admissions officers want to know how you honed your interest. Why did you select your major? If you can share specific details about the problem you want to solve and address how a given university will allow you to do so- you are more likely to receive serious consideration as not only a qualied applicant – but one who has demonstrated SELF- INFORMED interest.
A student’s initial exploration of the 4000 potential colleges shouldn’t be driven by name recognition but through a guided and purposeful exploration of college majors, followed by a review of the “social” fit.
Whether you love or hate science, want to change the world, enjoy drawing, solving problems, singing or surfing the web, a student’s passions and interests should ALWAYS direct the college research process.
College admissions representatives want to accept students who have done their homework and there’s authentic mutual-fit.
  • What subjects do you really enjoy and do the concepts come naturally to you?
  • What are your personal strengths?
  • Are you a natural problem solver?
  • Are you creative?
  • Do you enjoy interactions with and helping others?  Most STEM essays ask about a collaborative experience.
  • Is having a broad based education important to you or would you rather prepare yourself for a very specific occupation (or be honest- income level)?  Some STEM programs require a solid core curriculum in the liberal arts- others do not. Think about your educational goals and explore the curriculum.
  • What types of news stories on your social media feeds do you actually gravitate towards?  Use that to deepen your direction towards finding a specific area of STEM that excites you- it’s probably multi-disciplinary.
Answering these questions helps you to navigate through the curriculum requirements for majors currently on your radar and those you haven’t yet considered.
Please learn about the faculty and their current research and describe this (briefly) in your college specific supplemental essays. Doing so will INCREASE YOUR CHANCES of Admission. For example, discuss Professor Gray’s recent work on genetics and relate her research to laboratory work you’ve enjoyed in your AP Biology class or a summer experience shadowing a physician or taking classes at the university level. In fact, are there faculty research groups engaged in the interesting questions you read about and explored in your own extracurricular HS experiences?




  • Develop your unique research interests
  • Engage in competition
  • Present an effective admissions portfolio showcasing and distinguishing your strengths as an aspiring STEM student.
Why is participating in STEM research competition particularly important?
  • Enhance your high school STEM education!
  • Increase your chances of Admission!
  • By participating in a major STEM competition for high school students you are stepping out of the crowd of students having high GPAs and extensive extracurricular accomplishments.
  • Your Common Application will showcase formal and/or informal STEM research activities and competitions. Admissions representatives prefer students who have already demonstrated an ability to conduct independent research essential to the problem solving you’ll experience as a STEM undergraduate.
  • Through academic research (lab work, computer science programs/APPs, math competition),
  • STEM competition not only enhances your pre-college education, it effectively demonstrates an ability to accomplish a major task validating your creativity, independence and ability to see a task to completion.
  • It doesn’t matter whether you win first place at Intel – participation is impressive and unique!
We maintain an extensive database of available STEM based venues as well as ideas for feasible independent projects.
Think beyond FIRST Robotics, Science Olympiad or HOSA.
So much more awaits you….


(8th to 12th Grade)

  • Brainstorming and planning for STEM projects
  • Ongoing project support and execution
  • Identify appropriate competitions within our extensive database of STEM competition venues
  • Direction in choosing an appropriate summer research opportunity
  • Preparation and guidance of competition applications and ongoing review of a publishable, scientific research paper
  • Direction and evaluation of entry forms, research abstracts and essays for various competition venue
  • Assistance in preparation of paper and research abstract to showcase completed work for the college application process.
STEM Competitions — Sample
  • 1st Place Intel Science Talent Search: “DNA-based Steganography”
  • Siemens: We Can Change the world Challenge: “100% algae based fuel converted to biodiesel used in a home heater”
  • Long Island Science and Engineering Fair: “The Evaluation of the Methodology of His-tagged ProteinExpression in Transfected Escherichia coli”
  • Exploravision national second place: REGENX: Human Limb Regenerative Protein Cocktail Injections.


The more you learn about potential areas of study, career paths and specific colleges, the easier it becomes to make informed decisions about where to apply and enroll.  By selecting universities that meet both your academic and social needs you’re more likely to be happy and successful in pursing educational goals.
 Do your research!
Speak with your guidance counselor, admissions officers, alumni, current and former students.
I invite you to leverage my extensive knowledge of university curricula and my experience advising thousands of high school, undergraduate and graduate students navigating curriculum choices to set and realize educational and career goals. Based on your academic strengths and personal interests, I welcome the opportunity to work together to create your personalized strategic educational plan.
YOUR COURSES for 2022-23!!
As noted many times in my blogs and newsletters, your student’s GPA and transcript are the most significant determinant of admissions and academic success. High school is a time for academic and personal discovery. Developing and sustaining a passion for learning cannot be overstated. Sometimes that discovery is sparked by coursework and other times it is through an extracurricular experience.
Every year, I meet no fewer than a dozen seniors who delayed their college planning until the fall of their senior year– sometimes they are very strong students arriving at their initial appointment with me with their short lists of highly selective colleges in hand. It’s not easy to share my assessment of “chances” – I need to be brutally honest. Chances that would have been higher if we had talked about STEM college plans much sooner than their senior year. A 4.0 GPA, and a pile of 5s on AP exams is insufficient to gain a spot at an Ivy League or other highly selective university. The single most glaring example is a lack of hands-on experience in the intended major field of study. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT FOR STEM STUDENTS!
Discovery and joyful experiences occur within classrooms and in extracurricular experiences. Extracurricular opportunities take place
1) within high school clubs,
2) community organizations ,
3) summer collegiate programs and
4) self- directed participation in competitions and contests — available in every discipline
I can guarantee you that there’s no magic formula for being accepted into a selective university, and any college advisor two tells you otherwise is being less than authentic with you. I can guarantee you that building an Educational & College Admissions Plan as early as eighth grade will greatly increase the likelihood of a student who is intrinsically motivated and prepared for academic success.  Students with goals and dreams are better students and live their high school years with greater ease than those who haven’t set some objectives.
What’s Next?
  • Review your current classes and make adjustments to learning strategies and time management? Do you need practical solutions to handle difficult classes – schedule a strategic academic consultation!
  • Now is the perfect time to determine and refine the most effective academic plan to include the appropriately challenging and relevant courses given potential academic interests. It’s important to avoid becoming unnecessarily overwhelmed. Maintenance of a GPA which allows for a healthy balance of academic, extracurricular and personal pursuits will increase the likelihood of a successful transition to college and admissions success. You do not need to enroll in 6-7 AP Classes. If you’re looking at a highly selective university- I also discourage Dual Enrollment classes.
  • Refine extracurricular activities to include a relevant summer plan! Update your activities resume. Think about ways to deepen an interest and let-go of those activities that do not bring you joy.
  • Select appropriate courses for the balance of your high school year that prepare you for success, offer enjoyment and prepare you for relevant standardized testing required for colleges on your radar.
  • Determine your standardized testing schedule, including your self-directed regular test preparation for AP exams, and SAT/ACT exams. AP exams are going to take on a greater role (sadly) in college admissions as the SATII subject tests were recently eliminated. Did you miss my recent newsletter- — contact me to request another copy.
Success begins with a student-led Strategic Educational & College Admissions Plan with actionable items!

Best wishes for an absolutely meaningful and enriching balance of our school year and Happy and Healthy 202!


Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. Educational & College Admissions Consultant brabin@collegecareerconsulting.com

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