Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Engineering

Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Engineering

As part of your college application, extracurricular activities—including those over the summer— help demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and commitment to an area of study (typically, the one you might pursue in college).

But “programs” are not the only way to explore academic interests. You can join clubs at your school or locally, take free online classes via edX and Coursera, shadow, or intern (aka volunteer for most students)—there are tons of options ranging from super formal (and pricey) to those as simple as reading in your free time.

The following programs are some of our favorites for students interested in exploring engineering.

Lincoln Laboratory Radar Introduction for Student Engineers (LLRISE)

The LLRISE program is a two-week summer institute for rising seniors that teaches students how to build small radar systems. The project-based enrichment program challenges students to build a Doppler and range radar.

COSMOS UCSDUS IrvineUC Santa CruzUC Davis

The COSMOS program is a four-week residential program designed by the UC schools. Each campus focuses on different subject areas, all admitting their own “cluster” of students. The courses are taught by UC faculty and researchers. Students choose from nine different clusters, which include engineering design, biodiesel from renewable sources, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and more.

Penn Engineering Summer Academy 

The Engineering Summer Academy at Penn (ESAP) welcomes highly motivated and talented students to explore Engineering at the college level.  The Academy’s intensive, three-week programs combine sophisticated theory with hands-on practical experience in cutting-edge technologies. Work with leading faculty while earning college credit, live on Penn’s historic campus, and connect with new friends from around the world.

MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute

The MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI) is a rigorous, world-class STEM program for talented students who will be entering their senior year in high school. The four-week program teaches STEM skills through project-based, workshop-style courses. BWSI began in 2016 with a single course offered to 46 students, a mix of local daytime students and out of-state residential students. In this course, RACECAR (Rapid Autonomous Complex Environment Competing Ackermann steering), students programmed small robotic cars to autonomously navigate a racetrack. It is a 4-week residential program for rising high school seniors and the program is free.

Google Computer Science Institute 

Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI) is a three-week introduction to computer science (CS) for graduating high school seniors with a passion for technology — especially students from historically underrepresented groups in the field. CSSI is not your average summer camp. It’s an intensive, interactive, hands-on, and fun program that seeks to inspire the tech leaders and innovators of tomorrow by supporting the study of computer science, software engineering, and other closely-related subjects. It is a 3-week program and it is free.

AI Scholars

A 10-day program that exposes students to fundamental AI concepts, and guides them to build a socially impactful AI project. The program runs as a 10-session (40 hour) project-based Bootcamp.

CATALYST Academy

CATALYST Academy is a one-week residential program for rising high school juniors and seniors from underrepresented backgrounds who desire to learn about engineering and careers within an interactive milieu.

MIT Women’s Technology Program (WTP)

The MIT Women’s Technology Program (WTP) is a rigorous four-week summer academic experience to introduce high school students to engineering through hands-on classes, labs, and team-based projects in the summer after 11th grade.

WTP is designed for students who are excited about learning, have demonstrated their ability to excel at math and science in their high school classes, and who have no prior background (or very little) in engineering or computer science, with few opportunities to explore these fields.

WTP is a women-focused, collaborative community aimed at empowering students from groups historically underrepresented and underserved in engineering. We especially encourage students to apply who will be the first family member to attend college, who come from high schools with limited access to STEM classes and activities, or who are African American, Hispanic, or Native American.

Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)

The MITES program is a six-week long residential program geared towards rising seniors from underrepresented or underserved communities. The program aims to provide the skills and knowledge necessary for pursuing a career in the STEM fields. Students take one math course, one life sciences course, one physics course, one humanities course and an elective course. Placement is determined by diagnostic tests that are administered to all students during the orientation period of the program.

 

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Resume/Activity Sheets: Where Less Is Always More

Resume/Activity Sheets: Where Less Is Always More

The resumes we see tend to take two forms: the students who does it all, but nothing very deeply or well, and the students who does very little (to varying degrees of depth and rigor). 

You don’t need to do it all, but you do need to do something, or a few things, really well or to an extent that goes beyond that of your peers. And if you can’t help but spread yourself a bit thin, you can still craft a narrow application (ask us how!). 

Colleges look for students with something unique, a specific talent, skill, or interest to add to their next class. Students who drill down on an interest or two early on in high school will be better positioned to tell a clear, focused story in their applications. By doing so, they hand the reader of their file exactly what they are looking for—they make it easy to see the value you will add on campus.

This might mean doing a lot of exploration early in high school and this is okay. However, don’t be afraid to find something you like, drill down on it, and not do too much else extracurricularly. You don’t want a resume that reads like a laundry list anyway.

Here’s what a few top colleges have to say on the subject via Niche:

  • “You [should] demonstrate a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for what you spend your time doing. The joy you take in the pursuits that really matter to you – rather than a resume padded with a long list of activities – will strengthen your candidacy.” –Yale’s advice on Activities
  • “When we evaluate an applicant’s activity list, we’re not looking for a specific number of involvements or even specific types.  We are much more interested in seeing an applicant follow their passions and show dedication over time to a few specific involvements rather than spreading themselves too thin.” –USC Admissions Blog
  • “We are looking for students who will contribute their talents, interests, perspectives, and distinct voices to our community… We are more interested in your focus on a few activities over time (such as work, care for parents and siblings, service, or athletics), rather than membership in a long list of clubs—although we understand that some students can balance an assortment of activities.” –Swarthmore College, “What We Look for in a Swattie”
  • “You’re joining a team. And because we’re recruiting a team of people who will work together, we want a variety of strengths and talents that, together, will form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, not every talented student needs to be talented in the same way.” – UNC-Chapel Hill, “Who We Want”

The question I ask a lot when thinking about activities: How much can you meaningfully contribute to more than a few activities? Narrowing down your interests and corresponding activities can provide the time and space needed to engage more meaningfully and at a higher level in the one or two things you love the most. It’s a bonus if these activities relate to your potential college major, or support it in some way!

Remember, colleges seek to build a well-rounded class comprised of students with unique talents and skills, not a class full of generalists.

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What Has Not Changed in College Admissions

What Has Not Changed in College Admissions

In his recent Forbes article, The College Admission Precedent, Brendan Barnard asks us to please stop using the word unprecedented when describing the college process this year because it is “an unwelcome and constant reminder of just how uncertain the past months have been, as our world reels in the face of a global pandemic.” I’m not bothered by it, but what I love about his piece is the focus on the constants. Year over year, things really don’t change all that much. A few quotes I pulled that remind us to keep moving forward, take a deep breath, and stay the course:

Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment at Cornell University points out that “the basic timing for college learning and degree-seeking as a life event doesn’t seem to have faced the same kind of profound disruption as other related activities.” He says, “with minor exceptions, we’re still seeing students aiming to complete their high school career on time and begin their college career shortly after, and the same for students progressing from college to career or to graduate and professional schools.” He adds, “even when the mechanisms and the anticipated experience are uncertain or have significantly changed, most—really almost all—students seem committed to their anticipated timeline and progress without interruption.” 

Jeff Schiffman, director of admission at Tulane University agrees. He says, “frankly, the applications themselves were not substantially different from previous years. Yes, we saw more students mentioning ‘caring for younger siblings’ in their extracurricular list, and yes we saw a few times where the “12” was missing from the grades the student played tennis, but overall most applications were not markedly different from previous years.” He adds, “to me, it felt mostly like business as usual.” 

Todd Rinehart, vice chancellor for enrollment at the University of Denver at the current NACAC president points out that, “while much has changed this year in the way colleges and students engage with each other and how college admission officers conduct their work, students can take solace that the application reading and evaluation process is still grounded in the same principles and factors as previous years.” He adds, “admission counselors may be working remotely, but our reading and committee work will continue successfully, providing students full consideration for admission and scholarships. That process will not be jeopardized!”

And my favorite — please please students take this man’s advice and get apps in EARLY:

To that end, Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign highlights another enduring truth about how students apply to college. He says, “it is human nature to apply right before the deadline. Of our Early Action applicants, over half came in within the final two days of our deadline. This has been true for each of the last several years. It doesn’t appear to matter if our deadline is November 1 or November 15, most students will apply within a few days of the deadline.” While unlikely, a change to this precedent would be welcome by many anxious parents and educators!

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Optional Components of the College Application

Optional Components of the College Application

If you want to maximize your chances of acceptance, don’t consider any optional components of a college application optional. Here are some common optional components:

  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • Videos submissions
  • Letter of recommendation (any or extras)

Option to write an optional essay? Write it.

Option to Interview? Sign up (then prepare for it…more on that here and here).

Option to create and send a video introduction, for example, like CMC, U Chicago and Bowdoin offer? Do it.

Option to send an extra letter of recommendation, or to send one at all if optional (many schools require zero LORs, so if you can submit one as an option….)? Request one and have it sent.

Why submit optional materials? It means you want to go above and beyond what other applicants will do to demonstrate who they are as well as their commitment to being accepted to the school to which you are applying. You are giving yourself the opportunity to let the admissions committee get to know more about you. More of “you” to evaluate, assuming the you that you present is in a good light, is usually a good thing.

Also, for many AdComs, not submitting optional materials looks lazy. If I have applicant A and applicant B on the table, and all things are equal but A submits extra materials and B does not, there is a higher likelihood I am going with A. I like to see the extra hustle, and colleges do, too.

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Rejection and Lack of Fit

Rejection and Lack of Fit

With the amount I post on how to deal with failure, rejection, and disappointment, you’d think all of your students rack up a long list of denials! That’s not the case, and since this blog is widely read outside of our client base, I post what’s on my mind around this process broadly. I know this time of year is tough on families with high hopes in this process, so I post about the tough parts.

A want to share a wonderful article by Adam Grant.  As someone who has been rejected an appropriate amount, How to Bounce Back From Rejection is something I believe I know well. However, it is not something you can really teach or prepare a student for when it comes to the college process. There will be some disappointment and it hurts. Sometimes it comes before you submit apps, for example, hearing that you don’t have a competitive profile for a certain school. But often it comes later, once that sentiment is cemented by a deferral or rejection.

What Grants points out that I hope all students can keep in mind is rejection often happens because of a lack of fit. In college admissions, you don’t control what a school decides is the fit they need at any given moment in the process. It is not entirely personal or a reflection of your whole self as a student, person, friend, classmate, son, daughter, etc. Students, please remember:

We are more than the bullet points on our resumes. We are better than the sentences we string together into a word salad under the magnifying glass of an interview. No one is rejecting us. They are rejecting a sample of our work, sometimes only after seeing it through a foggy lens.

And I hope parents also do not take a college rejection personally. I know many of you who were/are deep in the process; where your student goes to college has nothing to do with and says nothing about your success as a parent.

“When someone rejects you, it helps to remember that there’s another you.” Hang in there!

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Don’t Worry So Much About Where

Don’t Worry So Much About Where

Like the author of the article I am sharing below — and that I share every year around this time — I was not a perfect student in high school. I similarly credit my “failure” in high school, and rejection by my “dream” college, with leading me to a school that was the best place for me to develop into the student I had the ability to be but couldn’t be as a rebellious teen. Luckily, my parents let me lead in my college admissions process and that also meant accepting the “consequences” of my GPA. I can’t possibly think about where I would be today if it had happened any other way. I never would have learned, what I thought then was the hard way, about what really matters in creating a life (and finding work) with meaning, and becoming an energized and self-directed learner.

Anyway, William Stixrud is the co-author of The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives, with Ned Johnson. Below is an old-ish article in Time that I will never stop posting. I hope you give it a read.

—-

When my daughter Jora was in high school, she went to a talk I gave on the adolescent brain, during which I pointed out that high school grades don’t predict success very well. On the way home, she said, “Great talk, Dad, but I bet you don’t really believe that bit about grades.” I assured her that I did. To prove it, I offered to pay her $100 if she got a ‘C’ on her next report card — in any subject.

We’ve all heard the familiar anxiety-inducing nostrums: That a screw-up in high school will follow you for the rest of your life. That if you don’t get into Harvard or Yale, you’ll never reach the c-suite. That the path to success is narrow and you’d better not take one false step. I have come to think of this unfounded belief system as what we psychologists call a “shared delusion.”

So why don’t we tell our kids the truth about success? We could start with the fact that only a third of adults hold degrees from four-year colleges. Or that you’ll do equally well in terms of income, job satisfaction and life satisfaction whether you go to an elite private college or a less-selective state university. Or that there are many occupations through which Americans make a living, many of which do not require a college degree.

I am not against being a good student, and there are clear advantages to doing well in school. But you don’t need to be a top student or go to a highly selective college to have a successful and fulfilling life. The path to success is not nearly so narrow as we think. We’ve all heard the stories of the college dropout who went on to found a wildly successful company. I myself was a C+ student in high school who flunked out of graduate school. At one point I went for 20 weeks without turning in a single assignment. (I often tell the underachievers I see in my practice: “Top that!”) Long story short, I managed to do pretty well in life, and I credit my failure in graduate school with leading me to a career more in line with my skill set.

The problem with the stories we’re telling our kids is that they foster fear and competition. This false paradigm affects high-achieving kids, for whom a rigid view of the path to success creates unnecessary anxiety, and low-achieving kids, many of whom conclude at a young age that they will never be successful, and adopt a “why try at all?” attitude. Many of these young people engage in one of the most debilitating forms of self-talk, telling themselves either, “I have to, but I can’t,” or “I have to, but I hate it.”

Why do we encourage our children to embrace this delusional view of what it takes to be successful?

I’ve asked various school administrators why they don’t just tell kids the truth about college — that where you go makes very little difference later in life.

They’ll shrug and say, “Even if we did, no one would believe it.” One confided to me, “We would get angry calls and letters from parents who believe that, if their children understood the truth, they would not work hard in school and would have second-class lives.”

Many adults worry that if their kids knew that grades in school aren’t highly predictive of success in life, they’d lose their motivation to apply themselves and aim high. In fact, the opposite is true. In my 32 years of working with kids as a psychologist, I’ve seen that simply telling kids the truth — giving them an accurate model of reality, including the advantages of being a good student — increases their flexibility and drive. It motivates kids with high aspirations to shift their emphasis from achieving for its own sake to educating themselves so that they can make an important contribution. An accurate model of reality also encourages less-motivated students to think more broadly about their options and energizes them to pursue education and self-development even if they aren’t top achievers.

Children are much more energized when they envision a future that is in line with their own values than when they dutifully do whatever they believe they have to do to live up to their parents’ or teachers’ or college admissions boards’ expectations. We don’t inspire our kids through fear. We inspire them by helping them to focus on getting better at something, rather than being the best, and by encouraging them to immerse themselves in something they love.

So if you want your kids to succeed in life, don’t perpetuate a fear-based understanding of success. Start with the assumption that your children want their lives to work. Then tell them the truth: That we become successful by working hard at something that engages us, and by pulling ourselves up when we stumble.

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After a College Applicant Hits ‘Send’

After a College Applicant Hits ‘Send’

“Something beautiful is being formed in the dumpster fire that is senior fall.” 

Kelly Corrigan’s 2019 New York Times article, After a College Applicant Hits ‘Send’, has tons of these great tidbits. You’ll laugh, and cringe, and hopefully think about how small this moment is in the grand scheme of things. But in all seriousness, it’s an article about the growth that can come from just surviving the process that is applying to college today (it was SO much easier way back when). It can be about something more than — or other than — where a student gets in. 

With decisions from some of our nation’s most selective colleges and universities coming out, I like to post some articles on the process that provide a little bit of perspective. My guess is, for the most part, parents will be reading them (but we hope students do, too!). Parents of seniors: you’ve got this! Congratulate your student for making it through what has been an insane year to apply to college. 

Parents of juniors: you’re up next! So here’s something important for that group to consider:

Deciding where you belong in the process has a lot to do with how you answer these questions: What will happen if you let them lead, and what will happen if you don’t? Another worthwhile thought experiment goes like this: If we decide they’ll find their way one way or another, if we agree that any one acceptance letter is not the prize, what could the reward be? Developing comfort with uncertainty? Expanding self-knowledge? Building new capacities and a sense of agency? Because that kind of personal growth is not too much to ask of this process. And what a grand outcome that would be.

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Optional Materials in College Admissions

Optional Materials in College Admissions

If you want to maximize your chances of acceptance, don’t consider any optional components of a college application optional. Here are some common optional components:

  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • Video submissions
  • Portolios (art, maker, etc.)
  • Recommendations (any or extras)

Option to write an optional essay? Write it.

Option to interview? Sign up (then prepare for it…more on that here).

Option to create and send a video introduction, for example, like U Chicago and Bowdoin offer? Do it.

Option to send a portfolio? If you have a talent that fits the portfolio requirements go for it!

Option to send an extra letter of recommendation, or to send one at all if optional (many schools require zero LORs, so if you can submit one as an option….)? Request one and have it sent.

Why submit optional materials? By doing so you are going above and beyond what other applicants will do to demonstrate who they are to admissions. This could be especially important this year as schools go test-optional. It demonstrates a greater commitment to being accepted to the school to which you are applying. And because there is more of “you” for them to evaluate, you typically increase your odds of winning over the admissions committee.

Also, for many AdComs, not submitting optional materials looks lazy. If I have applicant A and applicant B on the table, and all things are equal but A submits extra materials and B does not, there is a higher likelihood I am going with A if those materials help me get to know them better. I like to see the extra hustle, and colleges do, too.

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HOME: Hopkins Online Multicultural Experience

HOME: Hopkins Online Multicultural Experience

When Johns Hopkins was founded as the nation’s first research university, we were charged with a bold mission: Create new knowledge for the world. We believe that bringing together a community of people from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences is fundamental in our pursuit.

The goal of HOME is to connect African American, Black, Latinx, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, and multiracial high school seniors to the people, organizations, and resources that unite our multicultural community.

To support safety and public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are hosting our annual HOME (Hopkins Online Multicultural Experience) program virtually.

HOME Application

This application is required to be considered for the virtual HOME and HOME + Impact Program and all applicants must be rising seniors. To apply, please fill out the application below. Please indicate if you are applying for HOME or HOME + Impact based on your schedule and personal preferences.

Applicants must upload their high school transcript at the bottom of this form in order for their application to be considered complete.

The deadline to apply is September 21. However, applications are reviewed on a rolling basis throughout the summer and early fall, so we encourage students to apply as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please email home.program@jhu.edu.

Space is limited for the program, and acceptance or non-acceptance into HOME or HOME + Impact is not an indicator of admissibility to Johns Hopkins University. Your application to Johns Hopkins University will not be negatively impacted in the event that you were unable to attend either HOME program.

More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Update 6/26)

More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Update 6/26)

Okay, so just about everyone is TO for this year!

Some of the recent additions to the list are below, but please go to FairTest.org for a full list:

Amherst (1 year)
Babson (1 year)
Bentley
Boston University (1 year)
Brown (temporary)
California State Schools – CSU’s
Case Western University
Chapman University
Claremont McKenna (temporary)
Colgate (1 year)
College of Charleston
College of New Jersey
Columbia (temporary)
Cornell (temporary)
Dartmouth (temporary)
Davidson (3-year trial)
Elon (3-year pilot)
Fordham (2-year pilot)
Gonzaga (temporary)
Hamilton (1 year)
Harvard (temporary)
Haverford (3-year trial)
Indiana University
JHU (temporary)
Loyola Marymount (1 year)
Loyola New Orleans (TEST BLIND)
Macalester
Michigan State (1 year)
Middlebury (3-year pilot)
Northeastern (1 year)
Northwestern (temporary)
Oberlin (3-year pilot)
Occidental (1 year)
Ohio State (temporary)
Penn (temporary)
PSU
Pomona College (1 year)
Princeton (temporary)
RPI
Rhodes College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rowan
Rutgers
Santa Clara University (2-year pilot)
SMU
Stanford (temporary)
Swarthmore (2-year pilot)
Syracuse
Texas Christian University (temporary)
Tufts (3-year trial)
Tulane (1 year)
University of California (temporary)
University of Oregon
University of Richmond (temporary)
University of San Diego
University of Southern California (temporary)
UT Austin (temporary)
UVA (temporary)
University of Washington (temporary)
Vassar (1 year)
Villanova (temporary)
Virginia Tech (1 year)
Washington & Lee (temporary)
Wellesley (temporary)
William and Mary (3-year pilot)
Williams
Yale (temporary)

Please note: going TO does not mean schools will be “easier” to get into. And when a school goes test-optional, it does not mean that you automatically should apply without test scores. There are very few students who benefit from applying without test scores to many top-tier colleges.

Also, test-optional and test-blind are two different things; watch out for articles citing schools as test blind when they really mean just test-optional.

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