Is FIRST becoming more Pedestrian on college apps?

Hey everyone.

This is something that came across my mind as I’m doing my apps and searching around the web to find out more about apps, colleges, and what other people are up to.

With the rate that FIRST has grown and the number of FRC/FTC/FLL teams that exist, does anyone think FIRST is becoming more pedestrian on college apps?

It used to be that the applicants to a college where 5, 10, or 20% involved in FIRST, whereas at some colleges this has risen to 50% or beyond to the point that it’s hard to differentiate applicants simply based on their participation in FIRST.

Of course, I, as we all do, believe that FIRST is a huge asset and that any applicant with a FIRST background is a great one, but with the number of applicants having a background in FIRST, is it becoming less glamorous?

A similar question was discussed in this thread; more specifically on FIRST mentioning various prestigious colleges being interested in Dean’s List Finalists, but I think in some ways it applies to your question/topic too.

In my opinion, simply saying you were involved in your FIRST team on a college application means absolutely nothing/is just another bullet point to admissions counselors. What matters is what you do with your FIRST experience to “boost” your college application. Do you have strong recommendations from your FIRST mentors and teachers? Do you “sell” the value of your FIRST experience well in your interview with a college? It’s these things that matter; anyone can say they were involved with a FIRST team, and college applications (aside from essays and recommendations and all that stuff) don’t offer a direct means to ‘sell’ FIRST. You have to find ways to show the value you gained in FIRST.

So yes, FIRST is, in some ways, becoming more “pedestrian” on college apps, but in my opinion, that’s perfectly fine. It matters when you can use your experiences in order to better sell yourself to the college.

*I use the term ‘sell’ a lot, because that’s basically what a college application is: you trying to market yourself to that college or university

It’s an interesting point you make, and I’m not sure I have the answer. However, I have some relevant data:

Roughly 18,000 students graduated from FRC last year plus ~5,000 from FTC (from here and assuming equal distribution throughout the grades). That’s 23,000 FIRST students graduating each year.*

According to this site, 3.3 million students graduated high school in 2013. Combined, the two numbers tell me that .69% of all applicants have participated in FIRST in high school. That’s not a lot.

Based solely on that, I would say that FIRST has not become pedestrian. However, I do realize that many FIRST students are applying to the same schools (MIT, Stanford, etc.). I’m not sure where you got your 50% from, but that seems unrealistically high except maybe for MIT.

If you want to go to those top-level schools, though, you can’t set yourself apart on only one thing–you have to have many strengths and successes across the board. Take a look outside the lab–there’s a world of awesome stuff out there. :slight_smile:

*I’m not counting FLL because it’s not as impressive, nor are you doing it as you apply to colleges (unless you’re a genius, in which case there are different things to be writing about).

I was kind of spitballing with some numbers, but to my understanding WPI has a pretty huge percentage of FIRSTers

There are very few things that you can do in high school that “sell themselves.” FIRST is not and will never be one of those things. There’s simply too much variation between the 3000 teams out there for any reasonable college to look at FIRST on an application and say “I want that person just because they were in FIRST.” Thus, it’s up to students to tell colleges and anybody else who says “So what?” exactly why FIRST is such a huge deal for you, specifically.

That being said, for anybody familiar with the program, I’d have to guess that seeing two applicants with all other things equal, but one did FIRST and is enthusiastic about STEM while the other one did, I don’t know, Bingo Club, the enthusiastic robotics kid is probably more likely to get in. But that’s just as much for the passion as the robotics.

I’m sure there are some pretty passionate Bingo players out there.

As a FRC Amumnus, and WPI student, let me throw some info around to try to dispell the roumors:

Yes, there are a lot of FIRST alums at WPI, specifically in the Robotics Engineering (RBE) program. It might have something to do with the fact that WPI is the only accredited RBE program in existence…:rolleyes:
Also, WPI markets to FIRST, specifically FRC. You know that FRC 190 team that keeps popping up? There is a lot of marketing going on there. The WPI District, Battlecry, etc? More marketing. WPI wants FIRSTers, and markets itself to them, so it makes sense that there are quite a few FIRSTers at WPI.

Once you get to college, remember that FRC is not your life anymore (or at least it doesn’t have to be). Don’t be afraid to try new things, and branch away from the things you swear by in high school

FIRST absolutly help me with getting accepted to college! I have a 2.81 GPA and every school i have appied to has at least a 3.2 GPA average. My resume and essay screamed FIRST (ive had alot of leadership roles) and so far every school has accepted me (still waiting on many). 2/3 have even given me scholarship money. Hofstra university even stuck a sticky note on my acceptance letter stating robotics was the biggest reason for acceptance and scholarship offer.

I have to say that FIRST has been great in the college process. Actually got a miter saw and drill press donated to our team because of my Princeton interview.

It’s not about “being a student in a FIRST program”. It’s about what you as an individual contributing to the program when given the opportunity.

If you demonstrate experience and a desire to learn skills relevant to your major of interest, demonstrate strong leadership skills in the program, and take advantage of opportunities provided to you by FRC (business development, usage of engineering tools, the ability to apply your skills learned from robotics to similar projects), these are the things you should be promoting in college apps (not just saying “I was in FIRST”).

I work for a major aerospace company and know for a fact we look for interns specifically based on efforts and contributions made towards engineering projects (GPA barely matters at all, so long as it passes a minimum). You’ll get more opportunities in college (Formula SAE, Design-Build-Fly, high powered rocketry, solar cars, etc) but FIRST is one of the best starts you can have to becoming a great college/internship candidate.

Moral of the story – promote what YOU did in Robotics, not just that you were in robotics.

You get out of it what you put into it. This goes for resumes as well.

The weight FIRST has will depend entirely on what YOU did in it. That won’t change.

If you do FIRST just to pad a resume and have little interest in it you’ll not give it 100% of what you can.

If you don’t give it 100% of what you can because you don’t see the point you probably will not get far putting this on your college resume.

You won’t be able to communicate with the vigor and energy that will sell your intentions. It’s not about selling FIRST it’s about selling yourself and what you do with the opportunities presented to you. Like that college education on which you plan on embarking.

FIRST is an opportunity to be motivated about something, get inexpensive education and mentoring in it and get to actually try your hand at it in a very compressed amount of time. You won’t get told by FIRST you can’t build a robot without a Master’s degree. You won’t get told you can not contribute because of a false barrier. FIRST is not really a vocational program either it is much bigger than that.

To blatantly abuse a quote from John F. Kennedy:
Ask not what FIRST can do for you, ask what you can do with FIRST.