11 April 2022
3  min.

We have recently celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and I would also like to touch on this topic, but in the context of entering STEM programs at U.S. universities. Although schoolgirls remain in the minority in STEM-related specialties, there is a trend towards more of them starting to consider this field for study and career.

What is STEM?

To remind you the meaning of this abbreviation, STEM is Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. The full STEM list embraces far more different disciplines falling under those four categories. It includes such majors as urban forestry, animal health, dairy science, business and beyond that does not relate to it at first glance at all. The list of disciplines is not something set in stone. It is being reviewed and updated. Also interesting is the fact that some disciplines are considered STEM in some universities and non-STEM in others. Much depends on the essence of the program itself and the proportion of its mathematical, innovative, analytical part in each of them. Accurate information on this matter, as always, is available from the universities themselves, in which the applicant enters.

Why not all girls can succeed in STEM

Studying in many STEM programs is not easy. The fact is that it is still necessary to have certain abilities to study the exact sciences. Persistence, perseverance and memorization will help in the process of learning and overcoming difficulties, but success in the program still requires logical, spatial, divergent thinking. Studying STEM is not about belonging to a particular gender. Girls can perfectly cope with complex mathematical, physical and engineering problems. The lack of parity between women and men in STEM studies and careers may be an established stereotypes still living in environment. One way or another, the situation is changing for the better.”

Features of studying STEM

The study of STEM material, for example, physics, mathematics, engineering, computer science, has its own characteristics, since some constructions follow from one another and it is impossible to move forward without a deep understanding of them. Students should be proactive in learning the materials, discussion it with other people, exposing themselves to solving everyday problems, doing exercise, applying knowledge in practice. If we are talking about which STEM disciplines girls usually choose, then, we need to say that biology, biomedicine, and chemistry are of particular interest for many of girl students, but other specialties such as physics, engineering, mathematics and computer science are also not left without attention.

Preparation while in a high school

The prerequisites for successful studies STEM in institutes of higher education are laid at high school. Unfortunately, many gifted seniors lose faith in themselves and go astray due to a biased attitude of others towards careers in STEM as purely male. Girl students may be very passionate about STEM subjects, but the fear of failure can prevent them from reaching their goals. So, girls should believe in their abilities and talents. It is good to create a solid foundation consisting of knowledge, rich problem-solving experience, and a whole range of learning skills and habits. They could reach that task by being heavily engaging in school life, reading additional material on the subject, taking courses, writing, participating in projects, conferences, and projects offered by other organizations. Setting a chemistry club, becoming an initiator of hosting a Science Day, assisting schoolmates with math classes are some initiatives on developing science, communication, leadership, teamwork skills, and preparing students for future study.

STEM and financial aid

Being underrepresented in STEM in U.S. colleges and universities girl students could win from this situation by having access to additional scholarships aimed at encouraging more women in STEM-related professions. Higher Educational Institutes establish special scholarships called women in STEM at graduate and undergraduate levels. The grants are available within schools (https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/wise/about_us/welcome.php) or provided by separate organizations, like Society of Women Engineers (https://swe.org/scholarships/) and American Association University Women (https://www.aauw.org/).

Getting work experience in the USA

Many students, of course, want to test their knowledge in practice and are interested in internships. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is one form of such practice. Girls need to be aware that the STEM OPT program allows students an additional 24 months to live and work in the US. Contact the university for more information about this.

Наталия Розанова
Старший консультант информационного центра EducationUSA Russia
Москва
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