This is the second of a my 2020 STEM multi-series piece about everything you need to know about STEM College Admissions, STEM College Planning and STEM academic readiness.  As I noted in Part I a few days ago, nearly a third of this year’s graduating seniors are focused on Computer Science, Mathematics and Engineers- adding to that – several aspiring physicians, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists and computational finance majors  led to a very robust STEM season. All of these students had discovered their passion through interesting courses, research, extracurricular experiences, internships, competitions and guided personal readings and projects.

In Part I we talked defined STEM fields and talked about the preparation during high school essential for academic success during the undergraduate experience.   This post focuses on outlining why STEM college planning is unique.

College Admissions Tips: STEM College Planning

STEM College Advising In-Person Florida, Boulder & Denver, Colorado and Remotely Throughout the US!




What do STEM Admissions Officers Want to Know?


First and foremost, the most important piece of advice I can provide is to discover an area that you are truly passionate about and dive in!  My proprietary approach to guided academic discovery allows each student to build a unique and well-informed STEM Educational and College Admissions Plan as early as middle school!   What question do you want to answer?


STEM curricula 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. Therefore, it is essential that you demonstrate to the admissions committee that you understand the challenges ahead.

More than any other major, STEM applicants must clearly demonstrate informed interest. Your application must leave no doubt that you are prepared to succeed in some of the most demanding academic majors.  College admissions officers will look for specifics to ascertain no only your ability to success- but that you are clear about why you selected your major.


As a Professor Emeritus, and current Cornell Alumni representative,  as well as having engaged in STEM career recruitment, I have reviewed thousands of college applications and college STEM essays and resumes. Colleges look for rigorous and relevant STEM courses – this discussed at length in my previous blog.  A background in mathematics, science and coding is presumed – and in the most competitive programs.  Every applicant has done so– so it’s important to truly appreciate how daunting a task is at hand for admissions in distinguishing from among many very qualified applicants.  So what do admissions representative look for?

EXPLORE and ROAR  Become Involved in STEM Activities to Increase Your Chances of College Admissions Success &  Discovery of your STEM “problem”

Your extracurriculars allow you to discover a specific problem that fascinates and inspires you and will highlight your application by showcasing your informed interest in a STEM field.  With significant attrition concerns in STEM majors, it’s important that you can discuss an interest cultivated through hands-on involvement that extends beyond a few high school labs to include activities including FIRST Robotics, Math Olympiad, HOSA, Science Competitions  ( Click to Read: Competitions – INCREASE ADMISSIONS CHANCES ) , write an app or win a video game design contest.  Participate in a MakerFaire, or attend a collegiate summer program.


As all STEM fields involve solving problems that are more creatively enhanced within a team, many college applications require responses to specific essay prompts asking about your experiences in team settings, your ideas on innovation or ways you would change /improve the world.  College admissions officers do want to hear how you’ve engaged with others. Tutoring and mentoring peers and younger students is an awesome way to show your passion for a STEM field and your ability to work well within a team setting. By sharing your passion for a STEM field with others, you are passion and interest for STEM will be clear.

STEM COLLEGE PLANNING– Advocate and Detail Your Interest in Your Intended Major

Many colleges ask you to explain why you have an interest in your major – when it comes to STEM college Essays– this takes on a particular relevance.  What is the problem you want to address as an electrical engineering, bio-chemistry or astro-physic major? Absent hands-on experiences and solid research- you won’t be as clear in your application as the applicant who has been in a research or shadowing or internship setting.  I work with my students to understand the difference between biology, computational biology and biomedical engineering — or applied math, mathematics, or computational finance — .  When you know what you’re talking about it shows–.  Please don’t tell an admissions representative you want to be an engineer because you have been playing with legos since you were a little girl!   Yikes!

STEM College Applications are competitive! The earlier you begin engaging to create your STEM Educational and College Admissions Plan – by taking the right courses, engaging in relevant activities and working with others, you’ll increase your chances of admission to your top-choice colleges. For more information on how I can help guide you through the college prep and admissions process, CONTACT Bonnie R. Rabin, PhD for details on my UNDERGRADUATE COLLEGE COUNSELING and COLLEGE PLANNING.

My STEM students include aspiring Engineers, Business, Pre-Med, Pre-Law, Visual & Performing Arts & Humanities majors with a STEM “twist” – Ask me about multi-disciplinary STEM majors!

You might be the next Tony Stark or follow in the footsteps of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Sally Ride (NASA), Jeff Bezoz (Amazon), Shigeru Miyamoto (Nintendo), Jeffrey Katzenberg (Dreamworks Animation), Caterina Fake (Flickr),  Helen Greiner (iRobot), or Antonia Coello Novello (Surgeon General).

With our guidance, you will demonstrate STEM “informed interest” and:

  • Develop your unique research interests in traditional and cutting-edge areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
  • Strategically select your high school curriculum and competitive grade-level appropriate summer research programs, enhancing your education and STEM resume.
  • Identify STEM extracurricular activities and independent projects.
  • Explore new interdisciplinary majors that overlap with STEM like Computational Finance, Oenology, Cognitive Psychology or Human-Computer Interaction.
  • On your Common Application, write thoughtful college specific supplemental essays to demonstrate your maturity and ability to tackle STEM majors.
  • Learn how to present an effective admissions portfolio showcasing your strengths and/or research accomplishments as an aspiring STEM student.
  • Identify and participate in appropriate grade-level local, regional and national STEM competitions.
  • Explore and consider traditional and lessor-known cutting-edge STEM fields and BLENDED STEM MAJORS


bonnie advising a STEM student

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.

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.

Ask me about unique STEM degree programs combining engineering with liberal arts, fine arts and international studies!

Do you know which universities offer higher merit-based scholarship for STEM majors?

With three decades of university experience, Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D., has extensive knowledge of undergraduate and graduate curricula and degree requirements.  Based on your academic strengths and personal interests, we will work together to help you create a personalized STEM Educational and College Admissions plan.