Existing programs at other colleges aim to inspire future STEM students as well, both virtually and in person. Freshmen at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania maintain a Facebook page to give prospective students a peek into life as an engineering student and to answer high schoolers' questions. At Worcester Polytechnic Institute, current STEM majors volunteer their time during science-focused summer camps for high school students, such as the Frontiers program.
[Read about other STEM summer camps.]
Though it's open to both male and female participants, men typically account for at least two thirds of the attendees at WPI's summer program, says Julie Chapman, senior associate director of admissions at WPI. To attract more high school females this summer, Chapman says WPI beefed up its academic offerings in fields girls may find appealing, including biomedical engineering, global sustainability, and environmental sustainability studies.
"They know what they know in high school," she notes. "We often hear that folks don't know about programs like biomedical engineering, or that there's a major out there that might allow them to do something like global sustainability... I don't think they realize the full umbrella of what all these science, technology, engineering, and math programs can provide for them."
Many other outreach programs target students in middle school, a pivotal time to pique female interest in STEM and to begin the necessary tracks of math and science courses, WPI's Sontgerath says. But high school is not too late for girls to whet their academic appetites, notes Duke student Schindler, adding that college students who were once considering the fields shouldn't hesitate to reach out.
"I would say that anything that [college students] do to reach out to high school students can mostly just be a positive impact," Schindler says. "Just going out and starting this conversation, even if we don't have everything together as university students, could still be a propelling step."
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