Greetings Students and Parents,
In my college admissions advising practice there’s an oddity that I haven’t yet been able to explain- and it’s this. While every young adult I meet is unique- I find it fascinating to observe a cycle– whereby some graduating classes are heavily STEM focused, and other seasons it’s the creative arts or business, etc. In my 2020 high school graduating class over a third of my clients submitted their college applications as aspiring Computer Scientists, Mathematicians or Electrical Engineers- with lots of overlap in their research interests or niche. My class of 2021 is filled with aspiring MD/PhDs fascinated by Biochemistry, Genetics, Neuroscience and overall human health. Two years ago the class was filled with “creatives”– Fashion Design, Industrial Design, Lighting and Technical Theater, Art, Journalism — and these college applications emphasize a college applicant’s creative portfolio work. I find it very interesting how in each particular year there’s one group that is the largest piece of my practice- rather than having an even distribution across the hundreds of potential college majors.
WHAT’s YOUR NICHE? What has inspired and sparked your attention? Please don’t misinterpret my enthusiasm for finding a passion to mean you MUST have a passion. In fact- colleges are really intrigued by students who have overlapping or multi-disciplinary interests – and there’s some colleges with custom-designed majors! PERFECT!
On Valentine’s Day – in my blog on Course Planning- AP vs AICE vs IB, I wrote about finding a passion or “luv” for an academic and personal interest. Throughout the early years of high school, I aim to guide students to discover the many possible ways their talents and interests can be leveraged to uncover some potential academic areas of study. Then, at the end of the Junior year, we begin work on college essays- most requiring a clear and cogent response asking the student to articulate “Tell Us About Your Academic Area of Interest”. A student’s first draft typically has the word- “love” –it’s one of those words that students overuse or misuse in college and scholarship essays– “I’ve been in love with science for as long as I can remember”– well, probably not. Moreover, your childhood and experiences before the age of 13/14 shouldn’t account for more than a fleeting sentence or two of your valuable 300-500 word essay. More likely, your passion or interest was sparked by courses you’ve taken – a teacher, a lab, a lecture, a discussion- a summer program or a community initiative –something that caught your attention and ignited an interest in STEM, Business, International Affairs, the Arts– courses are the first step of exploration – but the rest is up to you. Let’s talk about “Loving High School” – and in particular what’s there to discover about STEM.
STEM COLLEGE ADMISSIONS – It’s Unique-
In this 3-part series — I’ll be emphasizing why high school is the time to prepare for Success as a STEM STUDENT and in the STEM College Application process.
Today, I want to start my three-part series about STEM — learning about the broad meaning of STEM fields and how to prepare for a path in STEM. In part II and III I’ll take about what STEM college admissions officers look for in an applicant and how to prepare for these majors.
What Exactly is a STEM MAJOR?
Traditional STEM majors include: Science (Biology, Physics, Chemistry), Technology (Computer Science, Information Systems), Engineering (e.g. Mechanical, Chemical, Electrical, etc.) and Mathematics. The complete list contains dozens of other subjects and extends far beyond the courses you’ve explored in your high school AP, AICE or IB classes.
Given your interests and strengths, let me guide you to the discovery of unique and cutting-edge STEM majors.
You might be surprised to learn that there are STEM majors for students who enjoy the liberal arts and those interested in business, social sciences and even the fine arts.
A variety of fields have been influenced by the analytical approaches and scientific techniques defining STEM programs. Collaboration taking place within multi-disciplinary teams is the direction of future innovation in all fields.
How do You Prepare for a STEM EDUCATION?
You probably read my other notes about course planning – and it’s been my experience that the students most prepared for the most rigorous and challenging undergraduate coursework in mathematics and science are those who selected AP, IB and AICE in that order. As an aside- but no less important- and perhaps somewhat expected – the AP classes best prepare students for the SATII subject tests- often required for selective STEM programs -especially those in engineering.
All STEM fields require a level of comfort and aptitude for quantitative analysis. For example, all engineering programs have math prerequisites; pre-med students need to complete rigorous chemistry classes requiring mathematics; and business school students, especially those in finance and marketing should anticipate coursework in advanced statistics and calculus. Therefore, we advise taking high school coursework that prepares students for calculus, statistics and advanced mathematical coursework.
STEM AP/AICE/IB COURSEWORK and College Admissions
STEM majors are more structured than others leaving few credits for exploration while enrolled as an undergraduate. Achieving high (threshold) scores on AP STEM exams related to your chosen major not only enhances your chances of college admission, but better prepares you for the challenging coursework ahead by creating opportunities to enroll in non-STEM electives/minors while enrolled as an undergraduate. Challenge yourself to complete as many of these AP classes as possible during high school: Computer Science, Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Statistics
CODING and STEM College Readiness
Students in all fields, from gaming and filmmaking to finance and medicine, are at a competitive advantage if they have 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 blending an interest in Computer Science with a traditional business or science field?
Multi-disciplinary problem-solving is typical in the fast-paced and incredibly competitive technical sector.
Discover unique STEM majors many that cross disciplines in innovating and exciting ways!
Aspiring STEM students! STEM fields are UNIQUE!! Working with an expert in STEM College Admissions throughout high-school will prepare you for academic success.
Do you enjoy and excel in your science and math courses? Do you think you want to become a physician? Maybe you’ve learned to code and write APPs or were told you would make a great engineer?
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D, provides pre-college STEM academic advising, ensuring academic success and helping you set yourself apart from other STEM college applicants.
- Develop your unique research interests in traditional & cutting-edge areas of science, math, engineering and technology.
- Receive guidance in selecting your high-school curriculum and competitive grade-level appropriate summer research programs enhancing your education and STEM activities resume.
- Receive support for identifying and participating in appropriate grade-level local, regional and national STEM competitio
Professor Emeritus – Cornell Alumni Rep