5 Ways STEM Students Differentiate a College Application

Amanda Orbuch
Amanda Orbuch

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

For many STEM students, the college application is an anxiety-producing process. It is often unclear what one can do to differentiate their application from others in their domain. Competitive STEM students differentiate themselves from the pack in a few key ways. Here is a list of helpful tips to create the strongest possible profile as a STEM student.

1) Do a competition

For so many reasons, participation in competitions demonstrates something incredibly important to colleges. For one, it shows drive and an ability to persist in the face of expectations, judgment, and limited time and resources. It also demonstrates the ability to “sell,” that is, communicate the importance of, your research.

For exact lists of different STEM competitions, check out either this article or this article.

2) Participate in original research

Demonstrating experience in a real-world laboratory setting can be crucial to establishing yourself as a strong STEM candidate. It shows initiative and indicates some practical skillset. It also shows the ability to apply theoretical academic concepts to actual studies.

For helpful tips on conducting original research, check out this article on how to ask a researcher to join their lab.

3) Demonstrate interests outside of STEM (e.g., humanities)

There once was a sense that students should be well-rounded. Eventually, that pendulum swung far in the other direction, such that students who are “pointy,” that is, dive deeply into a single interest, became preferred.

However, to exclusively be involved in STEM activities may act to your detriment in some regards. Even STEM fields require extensive communication and writing skills, as well as the ability to market your work. These skills are often more easily cultivated through traditionally “humanities” avenues, like Speech and Debate or a literary magazine. In this sense, pursuing some degree of humanities work may indicate a skillset that is complementary to your primary skillset in STEM.

4) Showcase your personality in your essays

Too often, colleges see students whose applications read like those of automata. That is to say, many students demonstrate the objective criteria constitutive of a strong academic applicant— strong grades, extensive extracurriculars, and high standardized test scores. In an applicant pool of such strength and homogeneity, the essay becomes critical to standing out. Do take the opportunity to showcase your personality in your essay.

This cannot be stressed enough. Your hopes, insecurities, fallibility, and idiosyncratic qualities make you more than your numbers, and could very well be the key to your admission. For more advice on how to craft such an essay, check out this article. For other tips on your essay-writing process, check out this article on essay inspiration, and this video on essay tips from Stanford grads.

5) Submit supplementary application materials

A final way to drive home your competence in STEM is to submit a research paper as a supplementary material. In doing so, you are able to showcase the product of your efforts. This gives colleges an opportunity to see your best work.

You also may want to consider submitting an arts supplement, as detailed in this article. If you have other questions on precisely what constitutes a supplementary material, check out this article.

The college application process can be hard, but it can be made easier. We’re here to do that with you! Not only can we offer general advice for how STEM students differentiate their application, we can help your specific app shine. Book a consult to learn more about our Empowerly approach!

Questions? Let us know!