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College Mentors Key to Prospective Female STEM Majors

Female participation in math and science is lacking, but college students can motivate high schoolers.

Girls in high school can find STEM majors appealing.

Having a female mentor to look up to in high school can help future STEM majors.

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[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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