Writing about STEM and Research in Your College Essays

Applying to a STEM major and not sure how to share your interests in your college essays? Join CollegeAdvisor expert Maria Acosta Robayo as she presents “Writing about STEM and Research in Your College Essays.” Maria will share tips and advice in a 30-minute presentation followed by a 30-minute live Q&A. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!

Date 09/12/2022
Duration 57:26

Webinar Transcription

2022-09-12 – Writing about STEM and Research in Your College Essays

Hello, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisors, webinar, Writing About Stem and Research in Your College Essays. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting questions in the Q&A tab.

Now let’s meet our panel.

Hi everyone. My name is Maria Acosta Robayo, and I graduated from Harvard class of 2020, where I studied sociology and global health policy and where I was also on the pre-med track. Great. Awesome. Okay, so now we’re gonna go into our. First poll for this evening. So let me get it going. So let us know what grade you are in.

It allows us to ensure that we are speaking directly to our audience. So let us know. We’ll give it a second for it to collect all the information. okay, here it comes. So we have about 58% of our attendees. This evening are in the 12th grade. Followed by that we have a 19% is other and 17% is 11th grade.

Also 17% is 10th grade. And then about 3% is ninth grade. So we have majority, uh, 12th graders that are in the presentation tonight. So I’ll turn it back over to you, Maria. Great. Thank you. So the first question we’re gonna be chatting about is, um, as we’re exploring how you actually write about your some experiences, the first question students usually ask is like, where in the application, can you actually talk about those experiences?

So there is a couple places you can do that. Um, you can do that. On your account, common app activities list, right? So you have, um, about 10, uh, activity slots that you can write things that you’ve done, uh, for, and you don’t have to use all of them, but it is a really good idea to try to prioritize the ones that are most important to you.

The ones that you’ve learned the most in, where you’ve had leadership. And that can be one of the areas where you can write about your some activities. You can also talk about them in your essay. Um, and when you talk about them in your essay, I do wanna, um, kind of caveat that with saying that it should be part of a more comprehensive story about your passions, your goals, and your obstacles that you faced.

Um, we wanna make sure that your essay doesn’t sound like a resume or just like a list of like accolades or things that you’ve done. We really want that to be about your personality, your character. and if you wanna use examples that deal with things that you learned through your stem experiences, um, how that maybe has fueled your passions, or maybe obstacles you experienced during those experience during those stem experiences or activities.

That’s great. But again, we should make that part of your larger story about who you are as a person, because they will see those stem activities in your common. And then another place you can also put that is a potential resume or portfolio add on. So some schools have an option where you can add a resume or you can add, um, add something like a portfolio.

So if you’ve been part of like a publication or you have something that an additional add on, you wanna like put, um, potential product from one of your stem experiences, that’s something you could include there. So that’s another place where you can, um, you can, you can include your stem. Um, so what different stem and research topics can students, um, can students describe in their activities list or essays?

So there’s lots of things that are included in stem, but most students just think about it in like science and, and math things that fall under those two categories. But it really can be things that like span also the social sciences, for example, Engineering. There is a lot of things related to like science and math and that, but also like there might be more things that are cultural.

Like if you’re studying like engineering in different countries, in different cities, there might be things that touch base on the cultural or the social studies. Climate change, geology biotechnology, molecular, and cellular biology, Marine biology, clinical, like these are all different things that relate.

Um, maybe more like stereotypically, like biotechnology or molecular and cellular biology to stem on things that maybe are a little bit less directly, um, in stem, such as like climate change or like something more clinic. And so these are different topics that maybe you’ve done an activity in that would fall under stem and research topics.

I would also say research. Doesn’t just have to be in. you can do research that is more based on again, social studies. And so like if you’re studying economics and you’re looking at trends, like population trends, that’s still research. If you’re studying like historical archives and making like a meta-analysis of that, that is still research.

And so research is more think about. Your experiences that you’ve had, um, working with like different teachers in writing, like a, a, like factual based report where you went out and did your own research, or where you looked at archival research or research that’s been done in the past and made conclusions.

So I would talk with your, your advisor specifically about what would count as research, but it’ll also give some more general, like places where, or like activities that fall into that research. Um, Again, what type of, um, what kind of stem and research opportunities are available for high school students?

Um, so there is those Scholastic opportunities. So like doing research with a teacher or as part of a school club, again, if you go out and interview people and you write about your conclusions and you make an analysis of what you learned that is research, um, some students may also have had the opportunity to do summer or extracurricular.

Research opportunities. Um, and again, talk with your admissions officers about, or sorry your, um, Um, your advisors as part of CollegeAdvisor, um, about what activities you specifically have done. Um, but some again, kind of stereotypical opportunities that, or we’re just using, as examples could include research with a local lab, uh, a local clinic or biotech company.

Again, a lot of these are more open to students already in college, but there are some high school students who are able to maybe. Like that company has a high school intern opportunity. Um, that might be something that. Research with a professor of a local college. So even though you’re in high school, you can still, um, take dual enrollment classes at your local college.

You can still see if there’s opportunities for you to support, um, a professor working in that local college. Um, you could also do research as part of a summer or winter program. Again, some schools offer opportunities for, for, uh, high school students to come and do some research. Um, and so I would look at what opportunities there are in universities, in your area.

And those would all be examples of type of stem and research opportunities. Um, so how can students write concisely, but meaningfully, um, about the, those descriptions of your stem and research opportunities? So I would say there’s three steps that I would say when you’re looking at your common app activities list and you see, okay, there’s 150 characters.

How am I gonna write everything that I’ve learned? Everything that I. And so I would say step one is to just write a one paragraph description. Talk about the most impactful aspects of the activity for you, and also the most meaningful aspects of this activity for others. So what you learned and how you gave back.

and then talk about any recognition or awards associated with your activity and make sure that as you’re writing that you write numbers that quantify the impact of your activity. So this helps to provide evidence for what you’re saying. Like you can say, um, I volunteered at this clinic and helped a lot of doctors and helped a lot of like patients.

That’s great, but anyone can write that it’s different if you said I volunteered at X and X hospital working with over 50 patients to deliver food, um, run labs for three different doctors. Like if you give numbers, you’re able to more concisely, um, and more, um, meaning like more convincingly. Talk about the experience that you had.

And so obviously this goes over the work, the word count, you can’t write about all of that in 150 characters. And so what I would say step two, once you have that paragraph is to condense it into about 250 to 300 character count. The reason why I give those numbers is because it’s really hard to cut down.

And so give yourself like that soft goal of 250 to 300, and then in step. Before you take a, like, take a day away from it, clear your mind, and then step three, condense that language of that 250 to 300 character count two, one, meet the one 50 count and also to improve the flow. Right. There might be things that you might have to kind of change so that you can, um, meet that you might have to cut something.

Um, and so having breaking those into steps will give you little breaks so that you can clear your mind and come into it with a new perspective. Um, and I would say that this is helpful, not just for stem experiences, but anything that you write in your activities list.

Thank you. That is very insightful. So we’re gonna take a short pause because we wanna get a sense of where you are in the college application process. So let us know, perhaps you haven’t started. Or maybe you’re researching schools or maybe you’re working on essays and this webinar is gonna be even more influential, um, in guiding you towards, you know, working on your essays, um, or maybe you’re getting your application material together or closely done.

So let’s see where you all are at. Okay. So we have about 39% of our attendees are researching schools. I’m interested to know where you’re researching. Um, and then 25% are working on essays followed by that about 20, 21% are getting application material together and then 19% hasn’t started. And then about 2% is almost done.

So congratulations to those who are almost done. I’ll turn it back over to.

Great. Thank you all. Um, so the next question we’re gonna go over here is what are some tips to describe your research experience in the best light possible? So, like I mentioned before, as you’re describing it, think about the, the institution you did research in. It’s really helpful to have a name that admissions officers can look back to and refer to and say like, okay, this is where they did their research.

Because if you just say I did research. that could mean you did research in your home. You could do research for a family member for a friend. You need to include where you actually did it. That again, adds a little bit more of evidence to the research that you did. Um, again, I would include numbers. So think about awards that are associated with that number of publications, conferences, or presentations.

Anything that could give a little bit more of a quantifiable Description. For the research that you did. And again, the purpose of this is to set yourself apart from others who are writing the same thing that they did research, but this gives a little bit more evidence for what you actually did. Um, And this is something that I suggest for all students, regardless of what a type of activity they’re describing, but as much as possible.

I know, again, you’re working with a really tight character count, try to include a short phrase that describes the impact that your activity had on both your academic growth and potential career path. Um, I think it’s helpful. Have some continuity for why did you do this? Why is this important to you? Um, if you’re able to continue that into college, um, that’s really helpful.

That doesn’t mean everything you did in high school. You have to continue in college, but if there is something that you could link to like, Hey, like this is research that I did in high school, which got me really interested in X. And like, they could see that that is something that you could further expand.

Expand in their college that can further their own academic research. That’s all a plus, right? Like even if you’re writing later essays, you know, why at school you can talk about like that activity that you did in high school, that research activity and link it to like, okay, what’s a professor in that college, who’s doing something similar.

And you can link that to say, you know, I want to specifically do research with this person who is working in this lab, because look at all the things I’ve done in the past, this fits really well with my profile. Again, gives further evidence that the school is a good fit for you. Obviously, that’s not something you can write in 150 characters, but as much as you can give like a glimpse into that, that’s, um, like again, a bonus point for you.

And so talk about again, how that’s helped your academic growth or potential career path. And like I mentioned, in the previous slide, how that’s impacted others, if possible. Um, so what are some things we just talked about? Some things to try to do now, what are some things to avoid when you’re writing about your research experience?

Um, I would say the first thing to watch out for is misusing the word count. Um, so again, you’re very tight on the character count. So don’t include the title of like a really long paper document. Like if the title of the document, like research papers are usually have really long titles. If you are part of a publication, I would try to include that.

And like the title of that in like a resume or an add-on that you could add to your application, but I wouldn’t use. The description of an activity as an appropriate place, or I wouldn’t think of that as an appropriate place to write the entire title of something. That’s gonna take your entire work count, and you’re not gonna be able to describe what you learned, how that impacted other people.

And so make sure to focus on the right things for the, for the work count. um, the other thing is, um, it’s a bit of a pendulum swing of you shouldn’t be too vague, but you also shouldn’t be too technical. So first I’ll talk about being too vague. Um, so if you’re too vague, vague, then you’re not able to really describe like what you did and really set yourself apart from other students who also said they did research.

So you need to be specific about what your research, which was. For example, don’t just say you conducted biology research, say like, you know, you studied like X or Y cells, like, or like something that gives a little bit more information about what you did without becoming too jargoning. So the other side of the pendulum is that you wouldn’t wanna use words that aren’t commonly understood.

So, for example, um, if you did red blood, like if you did re malaria research, you’re usually dealing with like red blood cells. So there is a term that like you would use medically like, like erythrocytes that like nobody else would know really, unless they studied biology. And so you’re not trying to impress then admissions officer by giving them like these jargon words.

If you’re gonna say red blood cells. Usually like people would know what that means, but if you say erythrocytes, no, one’s gonna know what that means again, unless they’ve studied that before. So try to keep the. Very simple, something that everybody would know one way to check if you are being too jargony or too technical is if you ask a fellow friend who doesn’t study biology to read your application, or to read your activity description, and if they say they have no idea what, what you wrote or they’re confused, then you should rewrite that and make, use your friends to fact check whether it’s or not to fact check, but to kind of like jar check to make sure it’s not something that’s technic.

I would also ask them, um, again, family or friends to see if like they really understood what you did. Um, so if you’re being too vague, they might just say like, okay, you know, like now I know you did research, but ask them, you know, like, do you know what my research was about? And so that’s something that’s a good like litmus test to see if it’s too jargony or too vague.

Um, so I’d say you need to find a good, like, medium between. So now I’ll talk a little bit about my own experience writing about stem or research experiences in my application. Um, I’ll start off by just kind of sharing two, like categories where I did research or stem activities. Um, so for academic clubs, I did HOSA which some of you might also have done.

This is like a medical comp, a medical club. Pretty much. It’s a health for health profess. Um, where you choose a category. So it could be something ranging from medical law and ethics to medical terminology, to physical therapy. Um, and so for me, I chose, um, medical law and ethics and medical terminology.

um, and I went to states with my team and then I also started a chapter at my high school. And so that’s something that I wrote very concisely in my common up, um, in my common up activities list. It didn’t come up in any of my essays because it just didn’t fit organically in any of them. But that was something that I wrote about.

And then, um, I also went with my team to, um, states for science Olympia. Um, so those were two clubs that I was a part of. And then outside of that, I did extra as a extracurricular. I did a ho a hospital shadowing program. And so that was a really cool opportunity to do some research and to do pediatric surgery shadowing.

So pretty much that meant following around, um, a surgeon who works only on kids. And I followed them around in like clinic. And then they took us inside the operation room and we. Kind of stood there for hours just watching the operation happen. Um, which was really cool. Um, I learned a lot about different like surgery techniques, who is a part of the surgery.

Um pre-surgery and post-surgery, uh, clinical care. And then, um, I did that with the hospital that I had been volunteering with for a long. That wasn’t research, but I did do about two and a half years, almost three years of volunteering with them, um, usually after school, um, or during the summer. And so that was a really good opportunity for me to just have a better sense of like how the hospital works.

Um, and so that’s something that was in research, but I did include in my application. Um, so, uh, some last advice that I would give students, um, about writing their stem and research experiences is to be humble, but thorough. So you don’t want to. Come off as prideful or like look at all the things that I did.

Um, but you also want to make sure that the admissions officer has a good idea of like what you did do. And so that sounds like a bit of a catch 22. How do I talk about everything that I did, but also sound humble? Um, so I would say the, the answer to that is tone. Use your words wisely to describe things that you did, how you helped people, how you grew, but not necessarily to say like I’m the best or like I’m so knowledgeable about this, or like, look at everything I did.

And so just check the tone in which you write everything, um, give quantitative evidence where you can so that you could show some more of the impact and focus on the work that you specifically did in this activity. So some students go wrong in thinking about like writing everything as if. Uh, like as if they’re applying as a group, right?

Like my team did X, you know, write about like what you specifically did within your team. Maybe you could reference your team as like you went, um, like even when I wrote about HOSA, even though my team went to states, I wrote about like me for my specific competition qualified for states. And so that makes it less about like this general group, because I’m not applying as a group.

I’m applying as an individual. and it makes him, makes the spotlight better on or more focused on like what your accomplishments were and like why you deserve or why you would be a good fit, uh, for the school. So, um, That’s everything that I have for you today, um, in terms of like the presentation. Okay.

Thank you so much. So that concludes our presentation portion of our webinar. I hope you found the information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link and the handouts tab, moving on to the live Q&A I’ll read through the questions you submitted in the Q&A. Then paste them into the public chat so that you can see them and read them aloud before Maria gives you an answer as a heads up, if your Q&A tab, isn’t letting you submit questions.

Just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not the webinar landing page. Okay. So moving to our first question. Um, okay. So question is. Does Harvard and other Ivy school applications have separate op um, options to upload your resume. And if there is no option, what other options can students have, um, to upload their, their resume to the institution.

So the student wants to really showcase their resume. So, um, one does Harvard and Ivy league schools allow you to do. Yeah. So I would say, uh, the application like varies from school to school. I’m not a hundred percent sure about Harvard this year offering an option for that. Um, you can do that by go selecting Harvard as one of your schools in the common app and actually seeing like what requirements they have, if they have an option to include something else.

Usually after COVID they had like a section where you could describe something else that affected your life or something like that, that you could include. Um, I’m not sure if Harvard specifically also included a link for resume. Um, so I would check on your common app and if it’s not there, I would email the admissions officer.

I think like there is nothing wrong. Like if anything, you wanna get your name on the radar, if possible. And so you can email an admissions officer and ask specifically like, Hey, this is something I want to showcase. Is there a way I can do this? And again, you kind of kill two birds with one stone. You not only get your answer about, uh, including a resume.

Also get your name a little more.

Okay. Thank you. Next question is how would I find research opportunities? Yeah. So, um, if you, I know that they’re gonna distribute, I think these slides after this webinar. And so if you look through those slides, you can see a couple examples of what you can do to get research experience, um, and. What I would say is, look at specifically, like some of the examples that I gave is you could do research as part of a club.

You could do research with a professor in a local college. And so I would say, look at what opportunities are available to around you, are clinics available for you to potentially shadow in or do volunteering in, are there labs that are like colleges offer, like. Um, or there are labs in different colleges that might offer you opportunities to intern there.

Um, look at universities nearby. Are there opportunities for you to do like a summer internship or a break internship? Um, so I would say those are different examples, but you have to see what’s local to you and what’s available to you. Um, Again, keep in mind that you are in, in high school. And so there might be some more restrictions about what you can do or what you can do with research, but your best bets are your local, like universities, local colleges, and your local hospitals.

Okay. Next question is what is the pre-med track that you referred to at Harvard? Is there a pre-med course program? Um, so pre-med, and this is a really good distinct. Um, there is no major called pre-med. Like you can can major in anything. As, as I mentioned in my first slide, I, uh, studied, I majored in sociology and my minor was in global health policy.

And so I didn’t major in pre-med pre-med is a track. So there is a pre-law track pre-med track. And what that means is it’s usually, um, to get into medical school, you have to fulfill a certain number of course requirements. So that usually include. Couple years of biology, you have chemistry of physics, some lab, um, other requirements that you can find online, but those are for medical schools.

So don’t get confused. Like that’s not what you need to get into college. It’s once you’re in college, then to take the next step, go to medical school in four years. So again, nothing you have to worry about right now. You usually have an ad, um, an advisor, like a premed advisor, and they show you how you could meet those requirements and be on the premed track.

So premed track is like nothing that you officially declare or anything like that. It’s more so a course of study that, you know, you should take. So for example, my freshman year, I didn’t wanna take my pre-med classes. Like my, my stem pre-med classes. I wanted to take like medical. I wanted to take, um, a couple more classes that were part of maybe potentially part of the track, but not necessarily my bio and my chemistry.

I wanted to explore a little bit more, but the reason I knew I could do that is because I was on the pre-med track and I knew what courses I needed to eventually take. So I knew my sophomore year would be more difficult because all of a sudden I was gonna do more biology classes, more stem classes. Um, but I wanted to take that first year to explore.

And so all in a nutshell, the pre-med track is like a set of guidelines for the classes you should take in order to get to medical school. That’s something that you will talk about with your, your advisor once you get into your school. And, um, it’s something that you can leave. You can be part of. You don’t have to declare it.

It’s more just like a guidance of what classes you should take. Okay, our next question reads, do Ivy league schools accept personal extracurricular activities rather than extracurricular activities occurring within your school? Some high schools don’t provide extracurricular activities like other high schools do.

Yeah. So what I would say is. Extracurriculars is anything that you do outside of school, like outside of like your academics, right. So you could still do, and I’m sorry, it’s not outside of school necessarily. There’s school extracurriculars as well, but it’s anything that’s not specifically related to your classes.

And so you could do independent ones. Like, for example, like I played tennis, I play tennis for like a club in Miami, but it wasn’t a, like, I didn’t play for school. And so that’s an example of like, I, I did put tennis, um, As part of my application and it wasn’t part of school. Um, if you did research it doesn’t or you were part of like maybe your, your, uh, local community had, has a science club, right?

Your school might also have a science club. You don’t have to be part of the school science club. You could be part of the community science club and include that you mentioned you’re right. Some schools don’t offer the same opportunities. So you could potentially join, like if your local college has, um, a different activity.

So for example, I wanted to learn how to cook better. And so I took a cooking class as part, as like a local, um, my local college had like a culinary club. And so I joined that. And so that’s an example of like, my school didn’t offer that, but a local college did, or a community center. Did you can write about those things as well.

Um, I would say even, um, there is an option there, if you are a caretaker for family, um, or like, you know, you care. You take care of your grandparents or siblings. Like that’s also something that the school will like honor as like, Hey, this is a responsibility. You probably grew through this experience.

You’re serving your family. You are, um, like this is an extracurricular in your life, even if it’s not a formal one. Um, so that’s an example of something that maybe is a little bit more, not the conventional way we think about extracurriculars, but it’s. The schools also honor that you have responsibilities that might have taken away from your ability to do other extracurriculars.

Okay. So next question is, is it too late to try to build your resume during your senior year? I don’t have much to put academically and I don’t know what would make me stand out. Um, yeah, so I would say it’s not too late. Include activities. I think what’s important is like, again, put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer, right?

If you’re seeing someone who has like done no extracurriculars, but then senior year, all of a sudden is doing a million things. That’s a little suspicious, right? Like you’re thinking this person just needed something to put on their resume. And so there you can account for lost time in that. There are some things you can do where like you could think about what are some things that I did maybe more informally before that I can like still talk about in continuity.

So for example, let’s say throughout the course of like the past two years, you’ve, um, been at tutoring sessions and you’ve helped students maybe more formally this year, you are actually like doing specific, like you start a tutoring. That’s something that is a little bit continuous, right? Like you can use more of your informal experience doing tutoring before, and maybe formalize that a little bit more.

Now, maybe you played an instrument before, and maybe now you want to play an instrument at a nursing home or at a clinic, and you make that more into a community service opportunity. That’s something that you can again, show continuity in, but I would say it’s. Difficult to just go nothing to a lot of things or from nothing to something like super involved one, because you probably don’t have the time to do that right now.

Applications like first round is in November. That’s like two months away. Um, and so it would be really hard for you to just start something from scratch. I would say there’s something you’re super passionate about. And like you just found out about it now. Like great, like follow that and like make sure, like, you know, that that’s genuine and that will come out through your essay.

Like, what I would say is maybe if you start something from scratch now or something that doesn’t have any continuation. then think about how you might include that in an essay so that you could give a little bit more of a context of why you didn’t do that before. Right. It doesn’t mean that your essay becomes like an explanation about your extracurricular, but it just means you have the opportunity to maybe give a little bit more context through your essay.

Okay. Next question is, do you have any specific tips for. Juniors who want to get more involved in the stem field? Yeah. So juniors are in a really great position where like you are not yet like having to deal with applications. You have time to build up your resume a little bit more and more importantly, you have a full summer ahead of you.

And so what I would say is start finding opportunities for you to do research. So start emailing professors at your local universities at your local colleges. Start looking for opportunities at hospitals or like labs, um, and just send as many like emails and like calls as possible to see what opportunities you have available.

I think you also have better opportunities to do something. Like organized. So for example, like if there’s a community service project that you had in mind, it’s really hard as a senior to do that in a month and a half. But as a junior, you have about a year to recruit people, to plan things out, to maybe do like a small test of like, how that would turn out before you do a full scale like project.

And so you have the time to gather the resources that you need and to do it more continuously. So I would say, think about what your like, talents are, what your gifts are and think about how you could serve the community with that. Um, if for specifically research again, like start cold calling like professors, think about how you can do, um, research with them.

I know I advised one student who did that, like, so I know, I know it’s possible. I definitely have students who have done that before. Um, and they were able to talk about their experience doing research in their essays. And so I would definitely encourage you to do that. If you’re a junior interested in doing.

Okay, so this question goes back to extracurriculars. How important are other extracurriculars that are not strongly related to the stem field, such as sports, art, et cetera, in your application?

Um, sorry, can you repeat that question? Yes. Yes. Yes. How important, let me go back to it. How important are other extracurricular activities that are not strongly related to the stem field? . Yeah, I think that’s really important. Like you don’t, you’re not just applying as only pre-med like they wanna see usually admissions officers wanna see well-rounded students who have other passions outside of just medicine or just, or outside of like science.

And so I think it’s important to have stem and research, but it’s also important. Like it will make you stand out if you do other things as well. And so when I was doing my, my application, like I was very clearly a premed profile. I spoke very clearly about wanting to be a doctor. I took a lot of science classes.

I had science extracurriculars, like I had all of that in my pocket, but I also had other things that made me stand out from the other pre-med applicants. And so actually I think it’s crucial that you include other things that will, again, set you apart from other people with the same profile.

Thank you. Okay. Our next question. Let’s see. Okay. So if you want to go into the stem field, you kind of touched on this. Does your common app essay have to tie into why you want to pursue stem or can it be completely unrelated? um, you don’t have to, you don’t have to specifically like, mention why you want to be.

Pre-med like, there’s a lot of student, like, I didn’t write, write like, too much about wanting to be a doctor. Like I just wrote about like different. Things in my life that made me who I was. And that naturally led to like, one of the things I wanted to do was to be a doctor, but you don’t have to do that.

I know a lot of students who are pre-med at Harvard, who wrote about completely different things. And so it’s an opportunity for you to describe that passion. And if, again, if you’re writing an essay about your passions, it just naturally makes sense to write about pre-med right? Like clearly that’s one of your passions, but I would say maybe you’re tr you wanna talk about like something that was an obstacle in your life that you you think is not represented in any of your essay.

And then it’s really inorganic to just include. Oh, and I also wanna be premed like that might not necessarily be the best. But if you have something like an obstacle that doesn’t seem like it ties into pre-med, but then as you’re writing, you’re like, oh, actually this experience made me realize I want to be a health professional.

Perfect. Then you include that in your essay. So I would say the golden rule for this is whatever your topic is. It should be about something deeper than just like, you know, your career goal. It should be about your character, your personality, your identity, and. That naturally leads into your career pursuits.

Like that’s great. But the important part is that that’s an organic transition into that or an organic part of your essay.

Okay. Good point. Good point. Um, how important are standardized test, such as the SAT in an application, and is it worth investing a lot of time preparing for such an assessment? Yeah. So that’s a great question. And I know a lot of students are asking about this post COVID when a lot of the standardized tests became either, uh, or the schools became test optional or test blind.

And so what I would say is if you have the opportunity to take the SAT, ACT, that is an additional data point that admissions officers can use to see, to compare different students. If a, if a school says they’re completely test blind, They’re not necessarily looking at that when they’re comparing students, but if a school is just optional, that is something that they could consider as they’re admitting people.

And so what I would say is make sure that if you ha, if you feel confident, like if you feel like, no, I don’t have time to study for this. I am gonna do really badly, like. Obviously, try to think about this as objectively as possible. There’s always a little bit, sometimes a bit of nerves and self doubt when it comes to standardized testing.

But if you take some tests and you’re like, I’m consistently like, just I’m, this is not for me. I’m not doing great on this focus on your essays and focus on some of the other parts of your application, because now you have more of that flexibility. The caveat to that is make sure that your school is actually test optional.

Like don’t do this. If a school says that it’s required, there are still some schools that. Test is required. And so if that’s the case, take your test. Even if you don’t do well, take your test, submit them because it’s required. If it’s optional, take practice tests, evaluate whether it’s something that you want to include in your S in your application.

And if it’s something you can do and you’re doing well, include it again, it, if a school is test optional, or if it’s required, they will use, they could use that as, um, an additional data point to see what student they want to.

Okay, our next question. What, if any, are none research related ways to demonstrate specific science interests? Yeah, so, um, I give a couple examples of that when I did like volunteering at my local hospital, right. Like I was. In a hospital setting, I was transporting like labs and bringing patients food. So all of those are opportunities for me to like, it wasn’t research, right?

Like I wasn’t sitting down doing research, but I was doing community service in a stem related area. Um, when I was shadowing, there was a research component, but there’s just shadowing. It’s just like you just go and shadow doctors. That’s another like clear stem experience. Let’s say you’re doing, uh, tutoring.

So let’s say you go into, if you’re high school, you’re going into middle school and you’re teaching students math. That’s still stem. That’s not doing research, but it’s a community service opportunity where you are using a stem skill to teach others and like help your community. And so all of those are examples of in the fields of science and math, you are going out and like doing an activity that helps others.

And it’s further like allowing you to get a better understanding of, of the.

Okay, we’re gonna take a short pause for me to share with you all more about CollegeAdvisor. So for those in the room who aren’t already working with us, we know how overwhelming the admission process can be, especially for competitive applicants like yourself. Our team of over 300 former admission officers and admission experts are ready to help you and your family navigate it all in one-on-one advising sessions.

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After scanning the QR code, you’ll be able to select the date in a time for a phone conversation with the member of our. So take a moment and if you can scan the QR code and we’ll continue to have that QR code on the screen, as we continue with our questions and answers. Our next question is, are scholarship opportunities available for stem students?

Um, oh wait, let me, let me rephrases, are there scholarship available for stem? Um, I would assume it would say for stem college students, I think that’s the way the question was trying to be framed. Are there scholarships available? Yeah. So there’s, um, lots of availability for like, if you, if you go, Google is your best friend on this.

Like if you go to Google and you look up scholarships for student high school students and stem. Like you will find different opportunities. There is some for athletes, there are some for history. Like if, if you look at any specific like career track, like law students, um, you just have to distinguish, make sure that you’re seeing high school students, because they might, you might be getting like, Scholarships are available for like engineers in college or like students say to medical school.

And so what I would say is put high school student like, um, college scholarship for high school students in stem and narrow it down. I would say, if you start broad, you’re gonna get some of the more competitive, like larger, larger scholarships. The more you narrow down, maybe the less, um, Prestigious are like less money that they have, but there is less of a competitive, a competitiveness because it’s so specific.

It’s so niche. So for example, when I was looking at scholarships, I looked at a Hispanic, like, uh, this is less about career and more about like ethnicity, but I looked at the Hispanic, like scholarship fund, which was great, very well known. But then I also looked at like Hispanics in Florida in my area.

And I found something that was less competitive. There was less people who knew about. It was less funny than the Hispanic scholarship fund, but it was more specific to who I was. And so there was more likelihood that I would get it. And so what I would say with this is, again, use Google. That’s your best friend when it comes to scholarships because scholarships, um, something that students in general should know about scholarships, whether it’s stem or in something else, is that some of the larger ones, like the institutional ones, like the Melinda and bill gates foundation, the Coca-Cola scholarship, Jack and cook, all of those are usually.

um, long lasting. So you’ll see those pop up every year. And it like, there’s a new round of SU awardees every year. And then there’s some that, for example, like there are some scholarship funds that are made in memory of someone who passed away or in memory of an event. And those usually are just given until the funds run out.

And so there are some that might not be there this year, but they were there last year. And so I would try to look at the most updated list once for 2022. And again, start with broad. So students in stem and go more deep into like, maybe are you a mathematician? Are you looking for clinical? Are you looking for something in engineering and try to narrow down into more specific opportunities?

That could be less again competitive because it’s a less pool of people who are. Great. Okay. Next question is besides starting a stem related club or joining a stem related teams at your school, what are other ways to explore the stem field at one’s own high school? Um, yeah, so that’s a great. Um, a great question.

I’d say you could start your own club. Um, that’s a really good opportunity. You could also just do more science or stem related classes. Um, and you could also, as you do that, try to see if there’s opportunities to work with your teacher in writing a paper or submitting a research paper for publication.

You don’t necessarily have to work at a lab to do that. Like you could write, you could do some original research with the supervision of a teacher. You could potentially submit that to a journal. Obviously like the more prestigious journals will be looking for like a lab, but there might be some local journals that you could submit that to, or a local magazine.

Um, and so those are opportunities that you could have again, taking more classes, starting your own club and seeing what opportunities you have to work with your teachers. Okay. So will declaring pre-med interest at the time of application for Harvard. Help in the selection or not. And then I have, so there’s some more to the question.

Um, you have informed that pre-med is selecting courses that can be taken after entering the program. Will the admission officer give weight if you express interest for pre-med track based on the strength of the application? Yeah. So what I would say is everything that you put in your application will be used to compare you to other students.

So for. If you say that you are a pre-med you like you’re interested in pre-med you will probably be compared to other pre-med students. And so you have no choice. You have no control over who the other, like who the cohort of students you’re applying with is for a given year, maybe less students are applying pre-med.

And so for a given year, you actually stand out more because you’re pre-med for a different year. There might be tons of pre-med students, all using COVID. An opportunity to write about like, why they wanna be doctors that might be a year where like, it might be really difficult to get in as pre-med, because everybody’s pre-med and the, the school’s trying to diversify.

And so what I would say is if you’re pre-med and you want to, and you actually want to be, pre-med like in college, then genuinely write about like your passions and you have no control over knowing like how many other pre-meds there are. So if it’s truly part of your application, right. About it as genuinely as possible, and then you just kind of have to like play the cards because you won’t know, um, if you are actually not really interested in pre.

And you just wanna, because think are gonna learn procedures again, that could really backfire because if there’s a lot of premed students and you’re not actually premed, you could be the less weighty option because obviously actually premed and just using it to get in. It’s not gonna be as genuine as somebody else who like has done all these activities can show that they’re really pre-med.

And so that could actually count against you. And so I wanna make it the decision less as trying to predict. Which one is gonna be more advantageous, because again, it just depends on your cohort. Um, and think more about like, what are your actually passions? What are the extracurriculars that you’ve done?

How can you best support why you want to go to college, the specific college and major in whatever you want to major. Um, and if that is pre-med fantastic, go for it. And knowing confidence that you did your best and that you were genuine. Um, and if it’s not then like focus on like what it could be, or like, think you’re most interested in, even if it’s not pre.

Okay, our next question. Should I include the duration of my activities on my activities list? Yep, absolutely. So there’s actually, it’s a requirement. So they’ll ask you how many hours per week, how many weeks per year, how many years you did it. And so there will be actually like a dropdown section where you have to submit how long you’ve done different.

Okay, so next question is, do course credits a platform such as course. Sarah also count as examples for stem experiences and are they appealing to include in the application at all? Um, I don’t really know what course Sarah is, but I’m guessing it’s kind of like edX or one of like can academy where you could like take a course.

That’s not through your school. Um, and so I’ll just say like, yeah, like those all are helpful evidence for obviously if you went out of your way to take a class on top of your high school classes, like clearly, like you’re interested in that topic. Like it is further evidence that you’re interested in that I don’t think it counts as like a school credit.

Like you. To either be in like a dual enrollment class or like Anin will give you like an actual course credit. I don’t think Coursera or any of those, like, they give you certificates and all of those things, but those aren’t like the equivalent to a high school class from an institution. So I would say, think about those as an extracurricular.

Like you’re correct. Like that, that is more of like, I wouldn’t write them as one of the 10 extracurriculars. Um, but I would include it as like, I know students who have used it as part of an extracurricular, but they describe it as like, um, if you took a set of classes, then you can write like, you know, um, you can write about like a series of classes that you did.

If you only did one, then again, you would only talk about that one. But I think that would be the most appropriate place to write about that. Um, and I would try to link it to like, okay, so you took this class. What did you do at that? Information. Um, so you could maybe talk about a project that you did for that class.

You could talk about like how that maybe evolved into an extracurricular that you did. Um, but I would say don’t think about it as a class credit and rather as an extracurricular. Okay. A lot of questions about the extracurricular list, which is cool, cuz that connects to, you know, writing the essay. Um, this question is, can I include activities from middle school or just, or does it need to just be high school activities?

Yeah. So the preference definitely goes to high school activities just because it’s the most recent, the exception there is. If you started something in middle school and continued into high school, that’s actually the best case scenario. Right? You’ve done it for a really time and you’re still doing it.

Now. I would say if it’s something that you did in middle school, but stop doing completely. I would, I would put it lower in ranking in the one to 10 activities on your con app. Um, you could still include it. Like if you have space, like, let’s say you only did six things in high school, you could write those six things and then write some of the middle school ones.

But I would say admissions officers do have like the, like. Kind of the prerogative to look only at your high school experiences if they wanted to, because those are the ones that are most recent, um, especially if there is nothing linking your middle school experiences to your high school experiences.

All right. Someone asked, um, can you list AP courses as college college credits? If the scores are four to five? Uh, yeah, so some schools do take college courses as credits some schools don’t. So specifically Harvard, they. I did my a, so I actually took like college classes. I did my first years of college and Harvard didn’t take it.

They didn’t take it as a college credit, but they did evaluate that. That was one of the reasons why I got into Harvard. Like they took that into consideration when I was applying. Um, so what I would say is if you’re really interested in like, you know, I need my AP credits to count, make sure that you look at, uh, at the school that you’re applying.

If you don’t see anything on their website about it, email an admissions officer, like get it straight from each school because some schools accept it, some don’t. And so what I would say is check with each school individually to see if they do count course credit, whether that’s AP or dual enrollment.

All righty. So I just wanna remind you on the, please submit your, your questions. If you have any additional questions as we are near. The end of the webinar. Um, our next question is, um, which kind of is similar to some questions that have been asked previously, but what I think it’s good to reiterate it, what school related extracurriculars make me appeal to colleges more on the pre-med me track.

Yeah. So we’ve mentioned though, some of those already, so again, like you could do research, you could do some clinical shadowing clinical community service. Um, you can. Yeah. Volunteer at your local like clinic or hospital, you can do research with like local S with your teachers. Um, these are all opportunities that you might have available.

Um, I would say some other unconventional, or just more, less used are like, if you mix like medicine with journalism. So like maybe you intern at like a medical journal or maybe you. If you’re thinking about like tech and health, maybe you intern at a tech startup. Um, think about ways that like, if you’re really interested in some other topic in relation to medicine, what are companies or research institutions out there who are already doing that?

And how can you help? Okay. What if you don’t know what field of study you’re applying for and what research you’re interested in completing. Yeah. So a lot of students apply to college as undecided. You might not really know if you want to be like stem, if you want to be pre-med, maybe you are just interested in getting more research experience.

And so what I would just say. Is focused then on like, who is available to you and where can you get that experience? Um, again, you don’t have to know already that you’re pre-med. Um, and so you don’t really have to like narrow yourself into that box. Like you can really explore more and just be honest with admissions officer and say like you’re undecided.

Um, what it is important in that is that you still, even if you’re undecided about what career you wanna take, you still have to be decided about what your passions are like. So for example, You may not know what career you wanna have, but you know, you’re really passionate about music or passionate about art or passionate about sports or passionate about serving others.

Like those are passions that you should talk about that you should give examples for doesn’t necessarily translate into a major. And so again, I would, I would separate the, the advice in that you don’t have to be decided about your career track or your major, but you should be decided decisive about what have been your passions.


okay. And this will be our final question. Um, do your essays have to be related to the major you are applying? Yes. Um, your essays don’t necessarily have to be related to your major. Like I just mentioned like a major talking about the pursuit of a major is like talking about like something that you want to pursue further in college, and that could be an interest.

And so you could link that into your essay. If you were really affected by something in health, um, like, you know, someone got sick in your family or like you had an experience with like health, like you could write about that. Like, you know, I’m interested in the effects of health on like people on society, on individuals and that, like, I am interested in learning more about medicine.

You don’t have to talk about what major though, like that is a more broad passion or interest. You don’t have to talk about the major. I actually would disincentivize. Talking about a specific major. Like if you wanna talk, talk about a career track, uh, like in your common up essay, right? Because the common up essay again, is an opportunity for you to talk more about your personality, about your character, about your passions.

if you’re talking about like writing a, like why X school essay, then you can dive a little bit more about like, you know, maybe the school offers a really interesting major that you wanna do or that you wanna pursue. And that it’s with a specific professor and you’re really interested in their research.

Like that is an area where you should be specific and you should talk specifically about the school, but in your common up essay, you have a lot, you should devote more of that word, count to like other things that are not necessarily. Like your, your major or your career track. Okay. Well, that ends, that is gonna end our webinar for this evening.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing all of this great information about stem and research and adding that into your college essays, and also talking more about just like extracurriculars as it relates to the topic at hand, I wanna share with you all that, we do have a series of webinars that we are continuing.

For the month of September, every month, we are gonna have a list of webinars that are geared towards supporting you on your college application process. So to register for our webinars, make sure that you sign up on CollegeAdvisor.com/webinars. And again, if you already scanned that QR code, make sure that you also sign up for a free consultation with a member of our team.

Again. Thank you, Maria. Thank you everyone for participating and good night.