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TryEngineering Summer Institute

An exciting two-week, on-campus engineering camp for high school students held at three premier universities across the United States in 2019.

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Why Summer Programs Make a Difference to College Admissions Officers

While grades and standardized test scores are still the top factor for college admission, colleges take a close look at extracurricular activities as well. What students do over the summer is of particular interest.

According to Mark Kantrowitz, senior video president and publisher at Edvisors Network, in an article published by CNBC, colleges think of summertime in the same way that a prospective employer thinks about a hiatus between jobs. “Colleges want to understand, what have you been doing with yourself? What happened during that gap?” he explains. The answer to those questions can be indicative of what a student will spend time doing on campus.

Students at the TryEngineering Summer Institute engage in a design challenge.

The summer experiences that are most likely to stand out to college admissions officers are those more specialized than a recreational summer camp. Students hoping to show off their dedication to athletics might consider a sports camp, while someone who has their sights set on admission to an engineering school will want to spend time over the summer at an engineering program that will set them apart from other applicants.

Something that makes Steven Infanti, associate vice president for admissions at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, take a closer look at a student’s application is a STEM camp experience. “When I look at an applicant who has a 2.5 [GPA], which would be kind of a borderline admit for us, but I see on the application, I participate in this camp … that shows a lot of initiative and someone who has passion,” he says.

Students at the TryEngineering Summer Institute design and 3D print components for robot cars that they will also race and put through obstacle courses.

Attending a camp can also help solidify what a student wants to do for a living in the future, helping them to be more focused in college.

As one past TryEngineering Summer Institute student said, “Multiple times throughout the camp, I had these moments where I could envision my future with such clarity that I now know my future major and profession will be in engineering.”

Showcasing Summer Experience

During the college admissions process, students may choose to showcase their summer experience in a variety of ways, from simply listing it as an extra-curricular activity on a college application to working especially meaningful experiences into the essay portion.

Students at the TryEngineering Summer Institute make new friends from all over the world.

“If you had a transformative experience at the summer program or a big impact on others, that tells them more about who you are as an individual, especially if you can write about how it set you in a particular direction,” Kantrowitz said. “If something is of interest to you, you’re more likely to write a passionate essay.”

Students might also consider reaching out to summer camp counselors or directors for letters of recommendation. “Relatively few students submit letters from outside [school] or that are job-related,” says Eric Greenberg, founder and director of education consulting firm Greenberg Educational Group. “That can be enormously valuable.”

Engineering Summer Camp Can Help Chances of College Acceptance

Research shows that up to 80 percent of jobs in the future will require STEM skills. Yet the best schools are increasingly competitive, making it difficult for students to get the education they need to succeed in STEM careers. For example, Stanford’s acceptance rate is only 5.1 percent. MIT only accepts 7.9 percent of applicants. And Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering’s acceptance rate is just 12 percent.

While good grades and test scores represent the top factors in student selection, guidance counselors say that colleges look hard at extracurricular activities too, particularly those engaged in over the summer. For a teenager who is considering engineering as a career, participating in an engineering summer camp like TryEngineering Summer Institute that exposes a student to a number of engineering disciplines brings multiple benefits.

  • Hands-On Experience: When students get the chance to try a number of engineering disciplines at summer camp, just for the fun of it, it can help them to choose an engineering discipline to study in college. In turn, this can lead students to become more focused in their course selection and activities leading up to college, all of which may be appealing to college admissions officers.
  • Increased Confidence and Interview Skills: Multiple studies have shown that students who participate in summer camp experiences with new groups of people develop stronger social-emotional skills that can aid with everything from academic success to college interviews.
  • Preparation for Campus Living: High school students who spend two weeks at engineering camp on a college campus during the summer are better prepared for the realities of college living. The freedom that they experience helps them learn how to make more mature choices, which better prepares them for college and future success.
  • Enhanced College Admissions Opportunities: As colleges with strong engineering programs consider the applications of many qualified students, those students who can demonstrate a prolonged interest and experience in engineering often have an advantage. Few experiences can match a two-week engineering camp on a college campus. This shows college admissions officers that not only is the student motivated, but also is better prepared for life and success at college.

TryEngineering Summer Institute is a two-week co-ed residential summer engineering program for rising 8th through 12th grade students held at three premier colleges and universities across the United States. Students work in teams with other students, interact with professional engineers, and learn about cutting-edge research done at the host schools by current graduate students.

Students participate in a broad range of hands-on activities throughout their two weeks on campus, including building and launching rockets and working in teams to solve engineering design challenges such as building a robotic arm out of everyday materials, and designing and soldering working circuits. The students experience problem-solving and troubleshooting, and gain insight on what it is like to study engineering in a college atmosphere. Students explore many engineering disciplines, including electrical, civil, mechanical, chemical, and aerospace, and see how engineers work in teams to solve global challenges.

Learn more about enrolling in the TryEngineering Summer Institute on one of our three campuses this summer!


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