STEM Extracurriculars for College Applications

Figuring out what extracurricular activities to do or join in school isn’t easy. Everyone knows that extracurricular activities look good on a college application; however, you don’t want to spread yourself thin by doing too many at once. In fact, colleges value being able to see commitment and excitement for a few activities that you are passionate about; they want to see passion and commitment to activities that you find meaningful. By joining clubs that reflect your interests in the STEM field, you can show colleges that you are serious about pursuing STEM for a career. Here are some STEM extracurriculars that can impress colleges.

1. School clubs. The most obvious STEM extracurriculars are clubs. Not only do clubs provide a community of like-minded students, but they are easy to find and join when run through your school. Most science clubs are dedicated to a specific field or topic. If you don’t know exactly what you want to study, joining one or two of these will help you explore your interests in a structured way. Some examples of STEM clubs might include astronomy, astrophysics, biochemistry, earth science, oceanography, robotics, and physics.

2. STEM competitions. Science competitions for high schoolers come in two major forms: science olympiads and science fairs. Olympiads are knowledge-based competitions where tests and challenges show your expertise in a subject. Here are the major Olympiads:

  • Science Olympiad is a team-based competition where students compete in 23 events across various scientific fields. Subjects include Anatomy and Physiology, Forensics, Mechanical Engineering, and more. Succeeding in this competition demonstrates teamwork and quick-thinking skills. If you are interested in participating, check out our ultimate guide.
  • Chemistry Olympiad is a science competition that focuses specifically on students’ knowledge of chemistry. Chemistry Olympiad is a series of exams, where the top qualifiers move on to the next round. If you love chemistry and excel at standardized tests, look into local exams being offered in your area.
  • Physics Olympiad is a science competition that involves a series of tests in physics subjects. There are two levels of exams, and the top twenty finishers of the second level exam go on to an intensive study camp and eventually represent the United States at the International Physics Olympiad.

While success in an Olympiad shows your breadth of knowledge within a scientific discipline, success in a science fair demonstrates an understanding of methods, the ability to master a nuanced issue, and the ability to follow through on your curiosity. Science fairs range in size and prestige, from ones at your local school to national ones like the Google Science Fair. No matter what level you’re competing at, having a new and interesting scientific endeavor on your profile can help demonstrate where your interests lie as well as your capacity for innovation. Think hard about your topic and spend time on your research proposal to give your project its best shot.

3. Girls Who Code. Out of all the STEM extracurriculars, Girls Who Code is an exciting way to learn how to code in a creative way. The organization aims to close the gender gap in technology fields, and includes almost 90,000 girls across all 50 states. This STEM activity is a great way to try your hand at coding and learn something new, and will make for an impressive college application activity, too.

4. Tutoring. One great way to demonstrate to colleges that you are interested in STEM is tutoring. Whether you are paid or unpaid, tutoring demonstrates that you understand the material and are even able to teach it to others, which is an incredibly important skill for someone in STEM to have. Additionally, it shows that you have a strong grasp on the material at hand. This is a great way to help others, while also impressing colleges with your skills. Also, keep in mind that olympiads and science fairs exist at lower levels. You could become the coach of a local school’s Physics Olympiad team or you could become a science fair project advisor.

5. Summer programs. These STEM extracurriculars come in many shapes and sizes. Prestigious programs are often free, and they sometimes even reward students for their work with a stipend. Some of the best programs include the following:

  • The Anson L. Clark Scholars Program is open to students in a wide range of fields, from biology to computer science to history. Students from across the globe travel to Texas Tech University where they are afforded the unique opportunity to gain hands-on research experience in their field while working one-on-one with faculty over the program’s seven intense weeks.
  • MIT Introduction to Technology, Engineering, and Science (MITES) is a residential program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aimed at students interested in pursuing a degree—and subsequently a career—in the STEM fields. Program participants are academically talented and come from diverse, underrepresented, or underserved backgrounds. MITES is free—the only expense students need to cover is their transportation to and from MIT.
  • The Research Science Institute (RSI) gathers 100 of the world’s most outstanding high school students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a free, five-week program where they can experience the research cycle in its entirety. Combining on-campus coursework in scientific theory with off-campus work in science and technology research, RSI students produce individual projects guided by experienced scientists and researchers, culminating in written and oral presentations of their projects.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *