Can you afford to be a marine biologist? Or a scientist?

The early years

1. Could your parents afford to live on the good side of town? The one with the right schools? Did they send you to that elite private school?

There are clear advantages to attending a top-tier high school as is evidenced in a study of college admissions data. The Harvard Crimson recently reported that in Harvard’s Class of 2017, 6 percent of admitted students came from only 10 high schools. Eleven percent of high schools with students admitted to Harvard sent 36 percent of students, while 74 percent of schools sent only one student.

2. For Christmas, your birthday, or because, did you get your own computer?

In every country, students reporting “rare” or “no use” of computers at home score lower than their counterparts who report frequent use…gains in educational performance are correlated with the frequency of computer use at home. [link]

3. Could they afford for you to participate in all those afterschool STEM activities with their fees and hidden expenses?

Afterschool programs can have an impact on academic achievement. Improved test scores are reported in evaluations of The After-School Corporation (TASC) programs in New York City (Reisner, White, Birmingham, & Welsh, 2001; White, Reisner, Welsh, & Russell, 2001) and in Foundations, Inc. elementary school programs (Klein & Bolus, 2002). A more recent longitudinal study showed significant gains in math test scores for elementary and middle-school students who participated in high-quality afterschool programs (Vandell, Reisner, & Pierce, 2007)

Those who are admitted to UC are likely to participate in more precollege activities. The study also shows that there is a positive correlation between student precollege participation in these activities and their college experience, academic and civic engagement although the relationship is rather weak. The results also reveal that the participation in extracurricular activities and volunteer and community services is a significant predictor on first-year GPA and persistence. The more activities students participate in, the higher their first-year GPA is and the more likely they persist with their current college programs.

However, we found that a substantial portion of students, particularly those in lower-income groups, are not fully engaged in a well-rounded school experience that includes activities — and too often, it’s because of cost.

4. Did they send you to that cool summer camp?

Steven Infanti, associate vice president for admissions at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, said a STEM camp experience is something that makes him take a closer look at a student’s application. “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 his application, I participate in this camp…that shows a lot of initiative and someone who has a passion,” he said.

5. Did you get to travel to the ocean on vacation? Could you afford to travel abroad?

From a prominent university’s website,

High school study abroad programs, and even international vacations, are fantastic opportunities for cross-cultural understanding, learning, and personal growth. For that reason, they can certainly be helpful experiences to draw on when applying for colleges.

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