High school is a critical time for students to determine their interest and passion for college applications and later life. There are various activities you can participate in to indicate your interest in STEM, from within the school to outside of school. Below, we put activities into six main categories: Honor Societies, STEM Clubs, Tutoring, STEM competitions, Summer Programs, and Internships. Within each category, we will specify examples of activities you can potentially participate in. We hope that you can explore your interests in STEM activities further with this list and may decide to pursue a STEM degree during college.
Before going into the list, we would like to present an example resume from a STEM student who got accepted to MIT during Fall of 2017. This resume is an excellent reference for students seeking admission in STEM fields and looking for related activities to do.
1. STEM Activities: Clubs
After taking academic courses, if you are interested in STEM, the most prominent and straightforward way to deepen your interest is to join a STEM-related club at school. Looking at Chelsea’s Resume, she was involved in Math Club for four years, from 8th grade to 12th grade, and gained outstanding achievements individually and as part of Math competition teams. If you apply to a STEM research university like MIT, the admission team will look for your involvement and results in the STEM fields.
Each high school will have different club offerings, the list is included but not limited to:
- Science Club
- Robotics Club
- Math Club
- Coding or Computer Science Club
- Astronomy Club
- Chemistry Club
- Engineering Club
- Biology Club
- Physics Club
If you are interested in one particular field of STEM, but your school does not offer that club, you can take the initiative to start a club. All you need is approximately five founding members, an advisor who’s currently a faculty member or teacher, and paperwork filled out. Starting your club will make your profile stand out more because it shows leadership, initiative, and entrepreneurial spirit.
After participating in the club, you will meet people with similar interests and be able to participate in regional and national competitions!
Besides the club, there are also Honor Societies that you will be invited to participate in based on your academic performance and your academic interests. Examples of Honor Societies can be the Science National Honor Society or High School National STEM Honor Society. As a member of honor societies, you can compete for recognition awards at both the chapter and national level, participate in leadership roles and receive financial support in high school and college for potential research projects.
2. STEM competitions
Without participation in clubs, you can also register for different STEM competitions. In addition to nurturing your interest in science, technology, engineering, and math, STEM competitions also train you about problem-solving and critical thinking while working individually or working with others. STEM competitions aren’t always limited to solving coding problems or math problems but include other interdisciplinary areas like robotics, coding, game engineering, and more. We have published the complete list of prestigious national STEM competitions for high school students. There are also regional and state competitions within your residential area that are also worth checking out. The best way to access those competitions is through asking your advisor or faculty members about such opportunities. Chelsea’s above resume indicates that she participated in the World Youth in Science and Engineering State contest and received 1st place, ICTM State and District Math Contest, and National Competitions such as AMC and Mandelbrot. Participating in such competitions and receiving significant prizes like Chelsea can give you a leg up in the college application process.
Some of the outstanding national competitions are:
- American Mathematics Contest (AMC)
- S. National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO)
- Physics Bowl
As a high school freshman, the concept of performing STEM research new to many. However, performing research can be highly beneficial in advancing your passion for STEM and STEM-related research. University’s admission officers will be impressed if you show proof of interest in the STEM field. Chelsea mentioned one of the reasons behind her admission into MIT was her research experience during high school, combined with the professor’s reference. During her time in high school, she participated in independent study and research about Biomedical Engineering at UIUC (the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign).
Research opportunities can be found in schools or neighboring colleges/universities. Students can choose two routes: research with a professor or independent study with a mentor. 10th and 11th grade is a prime time to find and do research opportunities. Research can be from AP classes you took or from the conversations with professors. In addition to these connections, you can also reach out to local colleges or research firms to see if you can participate in their studies. Even when Chelsea was in high school, she participated in university research, proving that nothing is unreachable or impossible if you are determined to find it!
4. Other in-school involvement
Besides other in-school activities that we mentioned above, another in-school involvement you can consider is tutoring. Peer tutoring in high school is a valuable way for students to strengthen their knowledge of a subject and gain teaching experience if they decide to enter the academic route in the future. Tutoring seems easy, but it’s challenging for people to explain the topics they understand to other students. Therefore, by being a successful tutor, you prove your firm grasp of the material and your teaching experience.
5. Summer Camps/Summer Programs
STEM summer camps or summer programs are organized by colleges, offering high school students a traditional college experience by taking college classes, performing cutting-edge research, and connecting with students worldwide. Students who participate in STEM summer programs will have the chance to explore their STEM activities, discover potential academic majors and have a taste of their dream college. Chelsea participated in 3 different summer camps during her time in high school: UIUC WYSE Discover Engineering, Berkeley Marine Research, and UIUC GAMES BioChem, which are all beneficial for her interest in Biomedical Engineering and Research during college.
Some outstanding Summer Programs in the U.S. hosted by colleges are:
- Tufts Summer Research Experience: Tufts Summer Research Experience allows students to learn about research methods, laboratory techniques, data collection, and analysis under active mentorship by Tufts’ world-class researchers and their teams. A complete list of lab programs can be accessed HERE.
- Smith College Summer Science and Engineering Program: designed for exceptional young women with solid science and engineering interests. You will engage in hands-on research with the Smith faculty in life and physical sciences and engineering. The program accepts young women entering grades 9, 10, 11, and 12.
- Johns Hopkins Engineering Innovation: Explore Engineering Innovation (EEI) is an exciting, college-level summer program for motivated high school students with an aptitude in math and science and an interest in (or curiosity about) engineering. Students complete hands-on projects in a variety of engineering disciplines and learn to think and problem-solve like engineers.
- The University of Chicago – Researching the Biological Sciences (RIBS): This four-week intensive summer research program for high school students exposes students to a broad range of molecular, microbiological, and cellular biological techniques currently used in research laboratories. Students will be immersed in the research experience within the session, giving them a taste of life at the bench.
If you have a dream college or university that you want to apply for, chances are the college will offer a summer program for high school students. Therefore, remember to check their website to see the deadline, eligibility, and application process!
Besides school-organized summer camps, you can also participate in Aralia’s Summer Research Program. During the summer, Aralia Education has series of courses, ranging from competition preparation, soft skills improvement, research papers, and U.S. Prep courses. Our signature Research Program has received great feedback from students in terms of content, personal projects, and overall course outcome. Our instructors in this program are professors from outstanding schools and universities across the US.
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. On top of clubs and other extracurriculars, having an internship under your belt will give you a taste of what your future job position is like, in case academia is not what you want to pursue after college graduation.
The most straightforward way to find internships is through your high school. If you study in a private high school, chances are you will do similar activities like internships/externships through the school. If not, you can reach out to the appropriate departments responsible for alumni access to network with alumni and find related opportunities. Finding opportunities through your network is another method by talking with your parents, teachers, advisors, or faculty members. Without networking, the easiest way is to search online or offline through LinkedIn, Indeed, or visit the business you are interested in and ask for an internship opportunity. We have also provided some related opportunities offered by universities and organizations to help you jumpstart your STEM career.
Volunteering opportunities are beneficial for students interested in environmental engineering, biology, or chemical engineering because those fields’ research focuses somewhat on the environment. Therefore, you can participate in environmental volunteering opportunities like Habitat for Humanity, or activities to promote nature preservation. The commitment to preserve the Earth will further prove to the admission officers that you are determined to pursue and become successful in the field.
With the 7 STEM activities that we mentioned, we hope you will be inspired and encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities to enhance your application profile and competitiveness. Besides nurturing your interest in STEM activities, remember to combine it with your artistic and athletic interests. Chelsea’s resume stands out because of her well-rounded involvement in STEM activities, piano and violin, track and & field, volleyball, and gymnastics. What an outstanding profile! If time doesn’t allow you to commit to all the activities, don’t spread yourself too thin by doing many activities at once. You should focus on the two or three activities you prefer and commit to advancing within the activity, by being a leader or achieving great prizes through tournaments or competitions.
The course helps students fill in the knowledge gaps required for the AMC10 competitions. Students will learn the problem-solving strategies of AMC10 and AMC12. Via practice questions, real exam questions from past years, students will be more confident and prepared for the upcoming competitions.