Since childhood, you may have been passionate about STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and planned to go into a STEM field in the future.
If that’s the case, the bad news is that college admission rates to STEM majors at the best universities have become very competitive. Thanks to opportunities in STEM careers growing two times faster than other occupations, STEM majors are sure to stay in high demand, as well.
The good news is that this post will cover the five most important things college admission officers are looking for. Now and in the future, standout applicants follow these tenets:
Have good grades and do well on any standardized tests you wish to submit.
While you’ll hear this advice regardless of your college plans, impressive grades and doing well on relevant standardized tests are essential.
Therefore, it pays to maintain your academic best throughout high school. Likewise, if you submit any standardized tests, aim high so admission officers at top-ranking institutions consider you a serious applicant. In other words, good enough to help prove that you can survive their challenging STEM major curriculum.
Step up your game by taking the most rigorous science course load available.
While we’ve already discussed grades as a critical factor, college admission officers also look for STEM major applicants who challenge themselves. In other words, students with an advanced course load who still did well through all four years of high school.
Why does this matter? It goes a long way to prove your passion for learning, as well as an advanced level of academic knowledge. All this boosts your capacity for surviving the demanding STEM major college coursework in the future. If you have the opportunity to take AP classes, IB classes, or early college courses, we highly recommend taking them to be a competitive candidate.
If your school isn’t able to provide any of these challenging courses at all, you’re not alone. There are plenty of schools that aren’t able to offer advanced curricula. However, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck! Here are a few ways you can still push your transcript to the next level:
- Try enrolling in a community college course or accredited online institution.
- Ask if your school will offer class credit for independent study hours. You could use this time to study for the AP exams, which you can take without the accompanying class.
- Sign up for mentorship through a program like Empowerly’s Research Scholar Program. The RSP offers a host of perks and tools to level-up your very own research project. Not only that, participants get to work with a PhD candidate who specializes in their area of study… resulting in more nuanced, sophisticated, and publication-worthy work that can even impress colleges.
Involve yourself in a variety of STEM activities to gain solid STEM experiences.
While high school extracurriculars deserve a blog post all their own, a truly standout STEM major applicant will get noticed by college admissions officers for their STEM commitment beyond academics.
This can include taking additional elective STEM courses online or at a local college (like video game design); joining a robotics club or, better yet, starting one; participating in math and science competitions; even doing an internship at a STEM business or a local school.
On that note, we have to level with you: it’s true, landing your dream STEM internship may be a little harder than it sounds. In fact, sometimes it can feel like “STEM internship” has become a buzzword that every high school student on the planet is competing for. Here are a few top tips to give you a foothold:
- Use your connections and networking. Many (if not most) valuable internship positions don’t even get posted to the internet, but are shared directly with those who are recommended or referred.
- Go ahead and ask if you can job-shadow, extern, or conduct an informational interview, if an internship position isn’t available. Each of these are still invaluable information-gathering opportunities… not to mention networking!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you find yourself getting little to no response on your own, despite your best efforts, call in the experts. Empowerly’s Startup Internship Program is specifically designed to connect applicants with Empowerly’s warm connections and coach you to land a great internship.
Best of all, getting as much STEM experience as you can not only enhance your STEM major application but also helps you narrow down your personal STEM interests.
Your professionalism, ability to work well with others, and other positive personal characteristics make you stand out.
One of the main benefits of STEM education is encouraging teamwork in students. Logically, college admission officers look for evidence that you can collaborate with others productively in a team-oriented environment.
As a result, the strongest STEM major candidate can prove their professionalism, teamwork skills, and communication skills not only in the classroom but throughout their school and community.
When the competition for STEM major opportunities is tight, you can count on college admission officers to consider good personal qualities through letters of recommendation.
Tell an engaging STEM story connecting your high school years to share with college admission officers.
Finally, you can impress college admission officers by having a personal STEM story that connects your high school classes, experiences, and passion to your future STEM major. Demonstrating your vision puts you ahead of the pack.
You can use your application, essay, resume, portfolio, social media, and interview, to name a few, to paint a bigger picture; one that shows how STEM has been your passion and pursuit throughout your high school career.
You can make your STEM major the logical conclusion of your personal STEM story, and look ahead to the future STEM career where you will change the world for the better.
Need more help with your STEM major application?
We hope the five insights we’ve shared to what college admission officers look for in STEM majors will help you stand out from the crowd.
We’ve got you covered from A to Z, including expert application review, essay editing, and other programs. Book your consultation today to get started!