Let’s face it. The competition among women for academic niches is as energetic and fierce as the women themselves. “Across the country, women are taking more advanced courses, have higher GPAs, and are more likely to be Valeedictorians,” notes Jed Applerouth, founder and president of Applerouth Tutoring. “When you have a larger pool of more qualified women, it’s a little more difficult,” he adds. “I’ve heard parents complain that it’s harder for their daughters to get in.”
Translation: Young women clash, while in many colleges, which seek to maintain a semblance of gender parity, admissions officers stretch a bit to let young men in.
But gender ratios go both ways. Although 56% of college students are women, pockets of predominantly male students can be found in excellent schools across the country. Here’s how young women can harness gender to their advantage.
1. Take advantage of lags versus boys in extracurricular activities. Ninth grade boys aren’t known for their future planning skills. “It’s extremely typical for boys to get a slower start when it comes to setting goals and meeting expectations,” says Mandee Heller Adler, Founder of International College Counselors and author of the upcoming “To University and Beyond: Launch Your Career in High Gear ”. “
Most boys catch up in grades 11 and 12, but they’re unlikely to see the value of the yearbook or the grade 8 and 9 debate club. This gives motivated girls a huge advantage to leap forward on the path to leadership roles. “If you get involved in a yearbook or newspaper in grade 9, by the time you’re in grade 12, you could be an editor,” Adler says.
2. Look for male-dominated schools. “Girls are actually getting a pretty big edge at schools like Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Harvey Mudd, Lehigh, Georgia Tech,” says Dave Bergman, director of content at College Transitions and author of “The Enlightened College Candidate”. “In these cases, boys are actually at a great disadvantage – they see much lower acceptance rates in STEM fields, especially computer science and engineering.” The opposite is true in liberal arts schools like Vassar, Wesleyan, and Pomona, where women face stiffer competition.
Stick to schools like Harvey Mudd and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both of which receive over 210% more male applicants than females for roughly the same number of seats. You can find gender breakdowns of applicants for each institution from the Peterson Colleges Search Tool.
3. Choose fields with a high density of males. The easiest way to get started in a softer admissions pool in all coeducational schools is to study male dominated fields and topics. It often means STEM. Only 7% of high school girls are considering a career in STEM, according to a survey by the Ministry of Education. Many colleges that have gender balanced applicant ratios are bombarded with male applicants and can have fairly skewed department-to-department acceptance ratios.
“If you are interested in a STEM field, you will have a big advantage,” says Bergman. Explore the specific programs that interest you and do the math. You want to know the acceptance rates for each program by department and by gender. A fair warning that the toughest competition for women can be found in the humanities departments at slightly less competitive liberal arts schools.
4. Choose jobs and projects that focus on stereotypical male topics. Summer jobs on construction sites, an internship in a truck design department or a summer course in football sports medicine will immediately set you apart from dozens of other applicants. If stereotypical female popular fields like history and English are really your jam, Adler suggests focusing on generally male topics within them.
For example, you can easily differentiate yourself on a public relations internship at an engineering company or an internship at a boys’ mental health clinic paired with an academic essay on adolescent mental health.
5. Don’t forget the data. “Data science is important, but a lot of kids don’t know it,” Adler says. Data is the new STEM – that is, hot – because workplaces desperately need employees who understand both their field and how to analyze big data. The data can be about any topic, so you can do a high school data project on local kitten populations or female birth rates, and then apply to a data science department. May the ratios always be with you.Finally, I have mentioned here some very high level schools. They are expensive. Learn more about negotiating the best price and all about college loans and family finances.
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