By: Caroline Koppelman
We always say that colleges love extremes. They don’t want students who passively participate in a few clubs, play a sport for fun, and spend their summers at the beach. They want students who know what they love and pursue it with passion.
We see this frequently with students applying to engineering schools. Often when we ask them why they are applying to engineering schools they don’t know what to say. Sure, they liked building Legos when they were younger or maybe they just prefer physics to English. But they don’t have solid proof for why they want to apply to Michigan’s Engineering school or MIT. To get into these top-flight engineering programs, you’re going to need a lot to back it up.
You don’t have to invent an app or get an internship at Google to prove you’re interested in engineering, but you do have to intentionally choose your extra curricular activities. This means that students shouldn’t spend one hour a week at a soup kitchen just to fill the common app. That’s not to say volunteer work is unimportant, but instead that high school students need narrow down their activities to a few categories that truly matter to them. For students applying to engineering programs, we’ve found taking additional classes to be incredibly beneficial both in terms of personal growth and the application process. Taking a class not only demonstrates your passion, but it can help you decide which path within engineering you want to pursue. While you can take intensives over the summer, we recommend you also take a class or two during the year.
The class doesn’t have to necessarily be a large time commitment. But since most high schools don’t offer intense engineering classes, a class or two can show increased motivation. While students might take physics or an engineering elective, a structured, extracurricular course allows students to really see if they’re interested in the subject and demonstrates engagement with the subject to the college.
If you’re in New York, we recommend the following classes during the school year:
Classes During the School Year
The American Museum of Natural History offers multiple classes throughout the year for students interested in sciences. The courses range from anthropology to astrophysics to genetics, and more. They meet twice a week from 4:30pm-6:30pm. The BridgeUp program is great for students interested in the intersection of computer science and science.
Coursera offers courses across multiple engineering disciplines. A huge bonus of Coursera is that students can take the classes and do the work on their own time. Our students typically take one to two courses per semester.
NYU offers weekend workshops that help students discover and further their passions. Students interested in engineering can take courses in Computer Science and Architecture.
Columbia offers a Science Honors Program on Saturday mornings where students can take classes in Electrical Engineering, Sustainable Engineering, Computer Programming in Java, and more.
Fordham University’s STEP program introduces minority and disadvantaged students to STEM-related fields.
Courses like these are available nationwide. Local universities will frequently offer engineering courses available to high school students.
Unlike putting down a tentative major on your Common App, applying to a specific undergraduate program is a commitment. Students applying to engineering programs should make sure that they not only have passion for the subject, but a demonstrated interest to support that passion.