We asked Hala Yaish-Salah, Director of University Counseling and Testing at King’s Academy in Jordan, for her best advice on applying to study STEM at university.
Start early. Although the number of students following a liberal arts path has increased over the years, engineering is still probably one of the most competitive fields of study today, particularly in the Middle East. So in order to gain admission to the best STEM programs (a broader field, which tends to integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics), you need a plan, and you need to work it out as soon as you can. Grade 10 is an ideal time to map out courses for the next two years, and assess your academic strengths and weaknesses.
Study hard. Students should have a strong foundation in math and the sciences to study in STEM. If you can, take advanced classes in subjects such as calculus, physics and chemistry as that will give you an edge when it comes to applying to top-tier institutions in the Middle East, and around the world. Overall grade point average and standardized test scores, in addition to performance in these specific subjects, are all factors taken into consideration in the admissions process. And even at less competitive institutions, students would be expected to have at least higher-level knowledge of physics and have studied math through the pre-calculus level.
Do your research. Although rankings are not the only factor to consider when searching for programs, they can provide a starting point. Online you’ll be able to find lists of the universities that grant the largest proportion of bachelor's degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. You’ll also be able to find out which universities have the best reputation in the region, and beyond. It’s also worth noting during this research stage, where students are placed in the workforce upon graduation, and in what fields.
Accreditation is important. It’s crucial to consider accreditation when applying to any university program. After all, you don’t want to spend all those years studying if your qualifications don’t then allow you to work in the country of your choosing. For example accreditation of engineering degrees in the US is optional, but in Jordan the Ministry of Higher Education requires that programs are four years and are recognized by the accreditation body known as ABET (the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), to ensure certain standards are met. Check to see if your country has any specific requirements for your line of work.
Get involved. You can learn by doing, as well as listening. Keep an eye out for research opportunities, co-op programs (co-op programs allow you to alternate between studying and working), and internships. Integrating what you learn in the classroom with real-life work opportunities not only builds your CV while still in college, making you more employable upon graduation, but it also allows you to use those skills in the practical world and take what you’ve learned even further. It’s never too soon to start changing the world.