Should colleges recruit FIRST students


#43

The data points I am interested in are:

*the pass rates of Physics 1/2
*the pass rates of Calculus 1/2/3
*the pass rates of CS 101/102
% who completed their degree within 5 years

Then compare these rates to non FRC alumni in STEM.

I have been collecting data on the last data point for about 6 months now by reaching out to various local team alumni.

*These are (some of) the highest fail rate classes across the board in US universities.


#44

Same story here. My GPA was below average, my test scores were only slightly above average, and I got into the engineering program at Berkeley (I believe largely because of my essays, all 4 of which were about robotics). I can see why admissions officers might get sick of the same formula, like the robot breaking example in the OP, and because of that it’s important to make clear to prospective college students to delve more into the secondary aspects of robotics in the essays and not focus on the obvious things. Maybe some college students might be willing to anonymously (or not) share their essays to help incoming alumni.


#45

I reached out, converted your questions to the university’s class numbers and expanded to include intro classes for ME and EE as well.

I also expanded it to 6 year completion, in part because that’s a more standard number I’d heard used but also because the university in question is a 4.5 year university because of the way it is structured.


#46

Alrighty, you guys have proven your point. I’m wrong. I still think wgorgen has a point, even if the 50% number is misguided.


#47

half the room would raise their hand when the admissions officer asked if they had played football in high school? Probably not.

Would they expect her to rely solely on their essays to tell her about the football skills of the candidates? Probably not.

What high school did you go to where over half of the students were on the football team? Even if we narrow this down to the subset of students interested in college, I’d be shocked to see half of them raise their hand. Roughly 0% of girls play high school football. Unless you believe somewhere close to 100% of boys do, you’re suggesting there’s a very skewed male:female ratio. I’d expect far less than half the room to raise their hand. It certainly wouldn’t be more than 50% to the point “only” should receive emphasis there.[/quote]

I’m sorry, I was not clear. I was trying to describe a situation where the admissions officer was standing in front of a room full of students applying to be on the university football team. Since the situation I was trying to create an analogy to was a room full of prospective engineering students that I had experienced on that campus tour, I had to create an absurd situation where the room was full of prospective football players.

It was in this absurd situation where one would reasonably assume that significantly more than 50% of the students would raise their hand as having played high school football. Certainly there may be a Rudy or two in the room that were hoping for a spot on the team despite not having played in high school, but most, if not all, of the prospective football players would have been expected to have played football prior to applying for the team and probably would be expected to have already demonstrated their talent.

Which led to my first and third constructions of this absurd analogy - 1st, that the admissions officers would be the one selecting the football team (rather than the football coaches) and 3rd, that the admissions officers would select the football team based on their essays (rather than based on try-outs, scouting their games, and various other direct measures of their skills).

At the end of the day, what I am wondering is whether engineering aptitude is better measured by using demonstrated talent rather than by essays and better measured by engineering faculty (experts in these skills).


#48

If you talk to the admissions offices for the three colleges that come to the Dean’s List dinner at championships each year (Yale, WPI, MIT), they will tell you that they are looking for top FIRST students. We’re a small team, and a couple of our students have gotten into WPI and another into MIT. However, I’ve also seen colleges that don’t really know or understand FIRST or probably just write it off as yet another science competition equivalent to a science fair. So it’s kind of all over the place with college admissions impact.

As someone who leads a research team at a university (as non-teaching faculty), though, I encourage FIRST students to look for opportunities to work on-campus or near-campus in a job related to your field. If we ever had former FIRST students who were really involved on their team apply to our jobs, we would probably snap them up. Having followed my daughter through the admissions / scholarships process this year as well, I observed that the professors she spoke with at the various universities she visited were really intrigued with her FIRST-based skill set, whether or not they knew about FIRST. She ended up with several informal and a couple of official job offers from those visits that helped influence her college choice as well as a cool internship in the summer before becoming a freshman. And she’s not the only one – two of our other students are in similar situations, and another took a gap year but got a good job at a tech company that will help him pay for college next year, fully because of his experience wiring FIRST robots.


#49

I love this topic. As a lead mentor I can’t express how much I believe this organization does to get students excited about STEM and future opportunities. However, like with all organizations not all experiences are created equal. I have students that have been in FIRST since 5th grade to graduation and those that joined their senior year (still they got a lot out of the experience).

I am experiencing a challenge in my professional career that can also be applied to FIRST. As an analytics professional and leader, I am overwhelmed with professionals claiming to be “Data Scientists”. At this point, I need a third party to provide certification and validation of skills (like PMP and PEs) to help me sort through the masses.

Colleges of course use the SAT and ACT to look at academic skills, but Engineering schools don’t have anything to really judge engineering aptitude. I would like to see FIRST work with top engineering institutions to have some kind of test/certification that we as FIRST mentors could help our students achieve and set them apart from the pure book-smart kids going into some of these top schools (I have had some brilliant kids that didn’t have the top grades, but i would hire in a minute because of their intelligence!)


#50

In this entirely broken analogy, I’d expect a similar response to the one you received.

If we accept the following conditions:

  • everyone in the room is trying out for the football team
  • the admissions officers are selecting the team, in part due to the essay
  • typical application essays discuss involvement in a football team

Then, you’d have the same exact problem. Writing an essay that shows you’re just like every applicant would be entirely useless to help you stand out. Any officer doing their job would suggest writing something else that helps you stand out.

Here is where I think you have a misconception. You crafted the awkward analogy purely to ask this question. (You should have just asked the question). At the end of the day, admissions look at a wide range of metrics. Consider the time it takes to read every essay. Going back to my school as an example, the year I graduated there were something in the range of 50k applications (making me glad I applied when I had instead) for a class of 13k students. If each essay was read in exactly one minute, you’re looking at over 833 hours of time spent just on reading essays.

Yes, essays are a consideration. But, the amount of time consumed to read all of those essays is likely something handled at a smaller sample.

Let’s approach this from an engineering mindset. It’s likely there is an algorithm designed to rank these applications. Once it’s complete, I’d expect three ranges of applications: definitely in, definitely out, evaluate. This would cut things down considerably. If the process is ANYTHING like this, essays become a tiebreaker. You’ve got someone looking at a group of students that may, or may not, get in based purely on their demonstrated talent. This someone has to make the tough decision on which candidates get the remaining spots with mostly negligible differences in resumes. At this point, the ones that stand out have the best chance of being noticed. Do you want to sound like the other applicants in this scenario?

At no point is the essay the sole factor in the admissions process. I don’t know why you think it is nor why you’d be offended your child was in a room of exceptional people and was given advice to show what makes them different from the exceptional people next to them. This wasn’t insulting. It wasn’t ignoring the impact it had. It was just showing it wasn’t unique among this group of people. I’m sure there are countless things that make your child unique. Applaud those.


#51

Forget about engineering for a minute. How do you judge entrance to art school based on an essay? Or business school? Or med school? Or law school?

Lets face it - essays are really only ideally suited to judge applicants for degrees that are focused on writing. Once you accept that, why single out engineering? Someone going for law school could be judged based on how they handled themselves on a debate team. Someone going for med school should be judged by how they did on dissections in biology. Someone going to business school should be judged by how well they ran the student council. Art school should be judged based on a portfolio from both in and outside of class. You can come up with an example of activities that college admissions should go out and view and investigate more closely for every degree program.

But they don’t have the time or manpower to do that. Imagine a college with 50,000 applicants. If an admissions officer goes out to visit each applicant for exactly one day (during the week, we’ll give them weekends off, but make them work on holidays so the math is easy), that’s 5 days a week for 52 weeks, for a grand total of 260 students each officer can visit. Lets be assume they have 2 students at each school they visit, so about 500 students by a single admissions officer. That school would need 100 people whose sole job was to go out and visit applicants every day just to keep up - and that assumes there’s a 1-year period between application and acceptance, which there isn’t.

So instead, school admissions have gone to the next best thing. They challenge the applicants to prove to them that they’re worthy. They give them an avenue to express themselves and make them stand out. They’re still dealing with a system of imperfect information, and making the best decisions they can with the information they have, yes.

As an applicant, its your job to make yourself stand out from the crowd. At the point where you’re applying, your essay is how you can do that. But there are other ways as well. Call the admissions office and schedule a campus visit. Let them know what field you’re interested in, and ask to speak with someone from that department while you’re there. Bring a portfolio of your work - CAD drawings, code, pictures, video, etc. Walk into the room with confidence, highlight your strengths, and impress the person you meet with. They’ll turn around and give a recommendation to the admissions office, and you’ll be one step closer. While I can’t know for sure, I like to think doing so helped me get accepted to every single undergrad and grad school I applied to back in the day.


#52

What if college is good at getting kids disinterested in engineering, but bad at preparing kids for careers in engineering?


#53

That is also a possibility.


#54

I’ve read most of this thread and this post resonated because I think it tries to tackle the idea from the perspective of the people in the admissions office.

On that note - this is a worthy read and I’m genuinely shocked it hasn’t been brought up in this thread yet:

The executive summary is here:

The full report is here:

and because you people are lazy - this is what it all boils down to:

  1. Promoting more meaningful contributions to others, community service and engagement with the public good.
  2. Assessing students’ ethical engagement and contributions to others in ways that reflect varying types of family and community contributions across race, culture and class.
  3. Redefining achievement in ways that both level the playing field for economically diverse students and reduce excessive achievement pressure.

and these are the people who said it:

MARTHA BLEVINS ALLMAN, DEAN OF ADMISSIONS, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY | DIANE ANCI, DEAN OF ADMISSION & VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT, KENYON COLLEGE | CINDY BABINGTON, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ADMISSION & FINANCIAL AID, DEPAUW UNIVERSITY | PHILLIP BALLINGER, ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT AND UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON | MICHAEL BESEDA, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT AND UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS, WILLAMETTE UNIVERSITY | TODD BLAND, HEADMASTER, MILTON ACADEMY | JIM BOCK, VICE PRESIDENT AND DEAN OF ADMISSIONS, SWARTHMORE COLLEGE | JULIE BROWNING, DEAN FOR UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT, RICE UNIVERSITY | FLORA Z. CHAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF STUDENT LIFE FOR DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY, AMHERST COLLEGE | DEBRA J. CHERMONTE, VICE PRESIDENT AND DEAN OF ADMISSIONS AND FINANCIAL AID, OBERLIN COLLEGE | JONATHAN COHEN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL SCHOOL CLIMATE CENTER | KC COHEN, MIDDLE AND UPPER SCHOOL COUNSELOR, RIVERDALE COUNTRY SCHOOL | SUSAN DILENO, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT, OHIO WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY | ZINA EVANS, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT, ASSOCIATE VICE PROVOST, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA | STEPHEN M. FARMER, VICE PROVOST FOR ENROLLMENT AND UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL | MATTHEW X. FISSINGER, DIRECTOR OF UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY | WILLIAM R. FITZSIMMONS, DEAN OF ADMISSIONS AND FINANCIAL AID, HARVARD UNIVERSITY | ANDREW FLAGEL, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR STUDENTS AND ENROLLMENT, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY | KATIE FRETWELL, DEAN OF ADMISSION AND FINANCIAL AID, AMHERST COLLEGE | SCOTT FRIEDHOFF, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT AND COLLEGE RELATIONS, COLLEGE OF WOOSTER | ERIC J. FURDA, DEAN OF ADMISSIONS, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA | HOWARD GARDNER, PROFESSOR, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION | BARBARA GILL, ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND | DONALD HELLER, DEAN, COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY | MICHAEL S. HILLS, DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS, DENISON UNIVERSITY | REV. DENNIS H. HOLTSCHNEIDER, CM, PRESIDENT, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY | HORACE MANN SCHOOL | DONALD HOSSLER, SENIOR SCHOLAR, CENTER FOR ENROLLMENT RESEARCH, POLICY, AND PRACTICE, ROSSIER SCHOOL OF EDUCATION, USC | INDEPENDENT SCHOOL HEALTH ASSOCIATION | KEDRA ISHOP, PHD, ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN | BILL JACKSON, FOUNDER, PRESIDENT, CEO, GREATSCHOOLS | STEPHANIE JONES, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION | STEVE KLEIN, VICE PRESIDENT, ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT, ALBION COLLEGE | MARIA LASKARIS, DEAN OF ADMISSIONS AND FINANCIAL AID, DARTMOUTH COLLEGE | JOHN F. LATTING, ASSISTANT VICE PROVOST FOR UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT, DEAN OF ADMISSION, EMORY UNIVERSITY | CORNELL LESANE, DEAN OF ADMISSIONS, ALLEGHENY COLLEGE | JASON C. LOCKE, ASSOCIATE VICE PROVOST FOR ENROLLMENT, CORNELL UNIVERSITY | JESSICA MARINACCIO, DEAN OF UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS AND FINANCIAL AID, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY | JOHN MAHONEY, DIRECTOR OF UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS, BOSTON COLLEGE | ROBERT MASSA, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT ENROLLMENT & INSTITUTIONAL PLANNING, DREW UNIVERSITY | KATHLEEN MCCARTNEY, PRESIDENT, SMITH COLLEGE | ANN BOWE MCDERMOTT, DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS, COLLEGE OF THE HOLY CROSS | JUDITH MCLAUGHLIN, SENIOR LECTURER, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION | SCOTT MEIKLEJOHN, DEAN OF ADMISSION AND FINANCIAL AID, BOWDOIN COLLEGE | JAMES MILLER, DEAN OF ADMISSION, BROWN UNIVERSITY | COURTNEY MINDEN,DEAN OF UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS, BABSON COLLEGE | MACKENZIE MORITZ, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS, FRANKLIN PROJECT AT THE ASPEN INSTITUTE | ERIC MONHEIM, DIRECTOR OF COLLEGE COUNSELING, ST. MARK’S SCHOOL | JACOB MURRAY, FACULTY DIRECTOR FOR PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION, BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF EDUCATION | NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS | JAMES NONDORF, VICE PRESIDENT, DEAN OF ADMISSION AND FINANCIAL AID, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO | ANGEL B. PEREZ, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT AND STUDENT SUCCESS, TRINITY COLLEGE | DENISE POPE, SENIOR LECTURER, STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION AND CO-FOUNDER, CHALLENGE SUCCESS | JEREMIAH QUINLAN, DEAN OF UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION, YALE UNIVERSITY | JANET LAVIN RAPELYE, DEAN OF ADMISSION, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY | GREGORY WARREN ROBERTS, DEAN OF ADMISSION, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA | WALTER ANTHONY ROBINSON, ASSOCIATE VICE CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA DAVIS | MICHAEL JOHN ROE, ED.D., PRINCIPAL,POLY HIGH SCHOOL | JAMES RYAN, DEAN, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION | MANDY SAVITZ-ROMER, PHD, SENIOR LECTURER AND DIRECTOR, PREVENTION SCIENCE AND PRACTICE AND CAS IN COUNSELING PROGRAMS, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION | STUART SCHMILL, DEAN OF ADMISSIONS, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY | FALONE SERNA, DIRECTOR OF ADMISSION, REED COLLEGE | MIKE SEXTON, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT, SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY | AUDREY SMITH, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT, SMITH COLLEGE | ROD SKINNER, DIRECTOR OF COLLEGE COUNSELING, MILTON ACADEMY | JOSEPH A SOARES, CHAIR, DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY | ERIC STAAB, DEAN OF ADMISSION AND FINANCIAL AID, KALAMAZOO COLLEGE | ANDREW K. STRICKLER, DEAN OF ADMISSION & FINANCIAL AID, CONNECTICUT COLLEGE | JONATHAN M. STROUD, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ENROLLMENT & COMMUNICATIONS, EARLHAM COLLEGE | LLOYD THACKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EDUCATION CONSERVANCY | J. CAREY THOMPSON, VICE PRESIDENT OF ENROLLMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS, RHODES COLLEGE | MICHAEL THORPE, DEAN FOR ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT, WABASH COLLEGE | KRISTIN R. TICHENOR, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE | WILLIAM VANDERBILT, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ADMISSIONS, HOPE COLLEGE | KELLY WALTER, ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ADMISSIONS, BOSTON UNIVERSITY | MITCH WARREN, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF ADMISSIONS, PURDUE UNIVERSITY | ROGER P. WEISSBERG, BOARD VICE CHAIR AND CHIEF KNOWLEDGE OFFICER, CASEL; PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO | RICHARD WEISSBOURD, SENIOR LECTURER, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION | HAROLD WINGOOD, INTERIM DEAN OF ADMISSION AND FINANCIAL AID, ANTIOCH COLLEGE | JAMES YOUNISS, WYLMA R. & JAMES R. CURTIN PROFESSOR EMERITUS, THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA | JEFF YOUNG, SUPERINTENDENT, CAMBRIDGE PUBLIC SCHOOLS | VICKI ZAKRZEWSKI, EDUCATION DIRECTOR, GREATER GOOD SCIENCE CENTER AT UC BERKELEY

I give FIRST and Frank and everyone involved in this program more crap than just about anyone. I’m a constant persnickety pain in the rear. That being said - this report makes a case for a program like FIRST and I feel like FIRST does a lot to try and be the kind of program that this report is desperately calling out for.


#55

After reading marshall’s attached report (‘Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions’), I resonated with these ideas:

Far too often there is a perception that high-profile, brief forms of service tend to count in admissions, while these far more consistent, demanding, and deeper family contributions are overlooked.

For lower income applicants, the hours they spend caring for family or working to supplement the family income should be regarded as highly as the ‘brief, high profile’ service the richer often engage in.

"* Some students seek to “game” service by taking up high-profile or exotic forms of community service, sometimes in faraway places, that have little meaning to them but appear to demonstrate their entrepreneurial spirit and leadership. The admissions process should clearly convey that what counts is not whether service occurred locally or in some distant place or whether students were leaders, but whether students immersed themselves in an experience and the emotional and ethical awareness and skills generated by that experience.* "

Once again, that mission trip to Malaysia isn’t as important as the sustained commitment to impactful service in your own community.

Does the type of service and its impact matter? The report continues:

" Too often, current forms of service are patronizing to recipients and don’t spark in those providing service a deeper understanding of social structures and inequalities. "

The impact of one’s service is as important as the service itself. Colleges should concern themselves with the meaningful impact of your service, not just the list of ‘community service participation hours’.

The report gives this recommendation:

Assessing students’ ethical engagement and contributions to others in ways that reflect varying types of family and community contributions across race, culture and class.

I think FIRST is a meaningful answer to this recommendation. This sustained level of community service, with clear positive impact, can be shown not only by the ‘chairman’s level’ teams and their many outreach events but also by the second year team actively working in their school to change perception of STEM fields and bring awareness to their school community. I think that FIRST demonstrates these positive values at every level of outreach, from local to global. As for diversity, FIRST can’t create diversity in its programs.Diversity and a ‘deeper understanding of social structures and inequalities
is created by individuals and teams passionate about their mission and engaged in their communities.

I love this program.


#56

The point of the analogy was not to try to come up with a strategy for football players to stand out in their essays. The point of my analogy was to suggest that, just like with football, there might be a better way to select engineering students other than essays.

I certainly never suggested that the essay is the sole factor in the admissions process. In fact, I think I stated that essays pretty much only factored in at the end of the process after you were down-selected based on your grades and your standardized test scores and were in the middle ‘further evaluation’ pile of applicants. But, with the current admissions process, the essay is pretty much the only place you can showcase the engineering skills and expertise that you learned through participation in FIRST.

What I am suggesting is that if you are applying to engineering school, then engineering skills might be more important than your grades. And that maybe an admissions system that considers this factor last, rather than first (pun intended) is flawed.

Of course, if, as others have suggested, engineering colleges are not particularly good at preparing students for careers in engineering, but are, instead looking for students who will be able to perform well in the classroom at their university, then your grades may be a better measure of your potential for than your engineering skills.

Last night, HBOSports ran a story on FIRST Robotics. Here is the preview:

At the end of the story, back in the studio, Bryant Gumble (the host) asked Soledad O’Brien (the reporter) whether companies were recruiting kids at these events. At the time I thought “ah ha! Someone has validated my proposal!” But now, I realize that he said “companies” and not “colleges”. Maybe Bryant was onto something. Maybe the skill these kids are learning in FIRST are applicable to companies, but not necessarily to colleges. While colleges may like the fact that the students were involved in an intensive activity outside the classroom, ultimately it may be the soft skills (leadership, teamwork, etc.) that they are most interested in rather than the specific engineering skills and therefore would rather read about it in an essay rather than measure it with direct evaluations.

I, however, will continue to believe that these students are learning valuable engineering skills through programs like FIRST and that even though some colleges don’t have a good way to directly measure these skills in the admissions process, that these skills will help them in college as well as in their careers after college.


#57

Soapbox time… This sort of thing drives me nuts.

Most obviously, it’s a cramped view of public service. STEM people serve the public constantly. Without STEM, there would be no life saving drugs. There would be no car safety systems. Alternative energy wouldn’t exist. Roads and bridges would be gone. STEM improves lives, frequently far better than unpaid “public service” volunteer work.

But, worse, these admissions people have colluded to push that cramped view onto students. Effectively, they’re saying “If you don’t agree with our worldview, then you have no place in any of these elite colleges.”

And, annoyingly, this goes against the message that college admissions people have been giving for decades: “We don’t want diverse students, we want a diverse class.” The idea has always been that, once a student has crossed over the academic hurdles to show that they can succeed at a school, the school then tries to fill the class with students who have a variety of different backgrounds and interests. But, NOW, they’re saying “Oh, yes, we do want a variety of different interests, as long as those interests include public service, as we narrowly define it.”

Finally, I’m repulsed that the Harvard admissions people are pushing anything to do with “ethics.” They’re currently on the receiving end of a lawsuit about their using these sort of “soft” requirements to limit the number of Asian students who are admitted. ( see, e.g., https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/15/us/harvard-asian-enrollment-applicants.html )


#58

There is no bloody way you read that report in its entirety and walked away with this impression. Sorry, I ain’t buying the phony outrage.

College admissions is a flawed process - that’s literally what this report is trying to say. It’s an attempt by many to correct for some of the obvious issues.

EDIT:

Let me go further for those who just can’t be bothered to read this report:

Sustained service to a community? Sounds pretty similar to a FIRST program and the kind of outreach that teams might do… hmm… interesting.

Hmm… Collective Action to tackle Community Challenges and activities that develop emotional and ethical capacities… that sounds like teamwork and gracious professionalism to me. I wonder…

Diversity - hmm, that sounds a whole like what FIRST encourages from teams and why we see events in NC like the Doyenne Inspiration event.

This sounds a WHOLE lot like a FIRST team that might be around for a while and have been built on prior students and continue to help future students.

I can go on and keep beating this drum. I’ve actually read the entirety of this report. I even handed it to the Chancellor at NCSSM and I’m pretty sure he passed it along to their admissions office and the guidance counselors.

I’ve shared it with loads of people. It’s a worthy read.

Gee Marshall - you sure seem like a smart guy for knowing about this…

I’m not that smart - but I pay close attention and learn from others. I learned about this report in 2016 at the FIRST Championship when an admissions officer from some big school got on stage and mentioned it to a collective group of mentors and mentioned FIRST by name as the kind of program that this was trying to encourage.

If you read this report and walk away with anything less than the idea that the admissions process for most universities is flawed then you haven’t read it.

If you read this report and walk away with the idea that they aren’t promoting programs like FIRST and want to know about how students used them to do awesome things to help improve the world then you haven’t read it.


And as for outrage - I’m ROYALLY ANNOYED at the existence of this thread and the fact that students are reading about how colleges don’t like FIRST or don’t want to hear about robotics and need to do more to recruit students explicitly. Absolutely none of these things are true.

When I have to spend time talking to scared students because they made the mistake of reading this thread - that’s when I get annoyed. Students shouldn’t read this garbage and think they are doomed for being on an FRC team.

Colleges are tired of reading lame essays written by students who didn’t apply themselves when writing them. Students need to learn how to write and communicate effectively. The cards aren’t stacked against them and the process isn’t random. Good grades and being on a robotics team aren’t differentiators.

I literally get to work shoulder to shoulder with some of the best students in North Carolina and I know how much time most of them spend on their essays and it isn’t enough.

Engineering is useless without effective communication. Writing an essay is an extension of that.

Ask yourselves what you, as a mentor, have done to help YOUR students prepare for having to write these essays that will shape their future? How many students have asked you to read their essays and you’ve given feedback on?

Or you know - keep complaining about a rigged system and teach students to do that. Seems to work well for some world leaders.

EDIT 2:

Mic drop… I’m out of this thread now. I will not reply any further.


#59

Hold on. You can’t go making that accusation and then say “I’m not going to pay attention to your response.”

I read the executive summary. (Why not the whole thing? I’m on vacation in the mountains with internet coming through a flaky directional wifi antenna.)

We also recommend that students undertake at least a year of sustained service or community engagement (see below for description of “community engagement”).

community engagement, includ[es] working in groups on community problems, whether the problem is a local park that needs attention, bullying in their schools or communities or some form of environmental degradation.

We encourage students to take up forms of community engagement, service and reflection that help them appreciate the contributions of the generations before them …] Working within a tradition, whether religious or secular, such as 4H clubs, can help generate this kind of gratitude and responsibility.

Let’s postulate two scenarios:

A. Student gets a part-time job at a engineering company that is developing a way to remove algae from lake water. Student gets paid $10 an hour for the work. She learns a lot about algae and how it affects water supplies. She learns something about engineering and helps with field tests. The technology is ultimately successful and cleans freshwater sources globally.

B. Student volunteers for a year with an environmental group to oppose construction projects that lead to increases in algae in the local drinking water supply.

As described by the recommendations, which activity most meets the description above?

I’m not suggesting that Activity A won’t help her application – I’m just pointing out that A is less likely to be seen as “community engagement” or “public service” by the admissions people. And, that’s an undeserved bias.

And as for outrage - I’m ROYALLY ANNOYED at the existence of this thread and the fact that students are reading about how colleges don’t like FIRST or don’t want to hear about robotics and need to do more to recruit students explicitly. Absolutely none of these things are true.

I agree that the premise of this thread is incorrect. “Don’t write about exactly the same thing that every other robotics student writes about” does not mean “don’t write about robotics at all” or, worse, “Don’t do robotics.”


#60

it all depends on how she presents each of them. In scenario A, she can talk about her effort to help develop a universal solution for cleaning fresh water in third world countries. Sounds like public service to me. In scenario B, she can talk about protesting at a construction site. Doesn’t really sound like public service to me, sounds more like a radical element that schools may not want on their campus.

There was a girl I wanted on our team a couple of years ago (she ultimately decided not to do robotics, as it conflicted with her competitive skiing). She developed a therapy device for arthritis while in middle school and was in the process of putting it through real clinical trials in coordination with the University of Minnesota. If she wrote an essay about that for her college admissions, it could go two ways. She could talk about the technical challenges and the clinical trial process. Or she can talk about working directly with patients to test the device and seeing the impact it has on their daily lives.

When it comes to college essays, it’s not so much about what you do (although you need to do something so you can write about it), it’s about how you present it and how you talk about what it means.


#61

I hope very few students are reading this thread, as it is mostly just plainly incorrect information.

To imply that putting FRC on your app is somehow harmful to you is absolutely silly and ridiculous. FRC (and any other FIRST program) is an incredible opportunity for the people involved and you should absolutely mention it somewhere on your application. I know that there is a spot on the common app for it, because I did it.

The point people are trying to make is that an essay consisting of “I used a drill to fix this and then I CNCed another part which made the robot move” isn’t a good essay. It points out that you know how to use these tools, but that’s not the entire engineering process. It also does not exhibit your ability to problem solve (were you the one who designed the CNCed part, or was it a mentor who told you what to make?) and does not show any interpersonal skills that are so necessary in STEM. Instead, an essay consisting of “we were faced with this problem and I stepped up and led the team to success by doing ___” or “we were faced with this problem and I stepped up and failed but I learned ____” shows a LOT more character, problem solving skills, and personal development than “I cut holes and robot go zoom.” Engineering is NOT "well we CADded this intake and I used a 80:1 gear ratio on this other thing and we had ball shifters so the drive train could shift … ". It’s way more than that. Do you hate calculus? Tough luck, you’ll be doing a lot of it (at least in school). Do you hate working with other people? More tough luck, you’ll be doing even more of that than anything else.

College admissions are not an either-or on good grades & good extracurriculars. You can get away with only having one at some schools, but if you don’t have the grades then you’re going to struggle. At higher tier schools like Ivies, having just one isn’t enough. You need to have both. You need to be a leader in extracurriculars and you need to have good grades. I’m sorry that this is the reality, but if you weren’t admitted to a school, that’s on you. It’s not rigged against FRC students, and it would be genuinely wrong to attempt to imply that. (Now, there is an entire separate discussion to be had about “affirmative action acceptances,” but those are not common enough to have any real impact on people here.)

FRC is not a get into school free card. FRC is an opportunity to grow as a person and exhibit leadership skills that you can use to create more opportunities for yourself. Whether you choose to take the opportunities is your choice, but don’t expect to be met with sympathy when you didn’t.


#62

As written, I’m pretty sure I’d yawn at both and respond with “who the [expletive] cares?” [1]

Expanding on what Jon said… Which is more impressive:

I built robits, I fixed our auto during quarterfinals once…

OR

I built robits, specifically, I worked with engineers from local companies to learn about motion profiling, here is a link to the white paper I’m a coauthor on and the talk I gave.

One gets a yawn the other has my interest. Why? Because for the most part I don’t want another anti social engineer, I need someone who can come in, communicate with a customer, understand their needs, articulate what we’re going to do to meet them, then show them and communicate with them. FIRST gives you these skills in spades but if all students ever talk about is “well we got beat by these nasa engineers” I’m gonna stop giving a crap pretty quick. [2]

Being able to communicate what you did is frequently MORE important than being able to do it.

[1] I am not subtle.

[2] Also, this applies to talking to judging too, or really selling yourself in anything.