Retaining College STEM Majors

In a recent article by Christopher Drew in the New York Times, Mr. Drew points out that 40 to 60 percent of students “planning engineering and science majors end up switching to other subjects or failing to get any degree,” depending on how one tallies the data.

One reason for this unacceptably high attrition rate is that schools do not, generally, prepare students appropriately for the demands of the college STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors. One student he interviewed left his STEM major despite having had strong SAT scores and multiple AP courses under his belt. This was not an isolated incident. When I taught at MIT and Harvard, I witnessed many students abandoning their mathematical aspiration even though they had taken everything their high schools had to offer in mathematics.

At Girls’ Angle we have designed a program where girls can get the kind of preparation they need in order to thrive in a STEM major at the best universities in the country. Our program begins with a careful selection of our mentors. We recruit mentors who are at various stages of the STEM career path, including undergraduates, graduate students, and at least one mentor with a doctoral degree in math at every meet, and we select only those who show an aptitude for nurturing the girls to develop their thinking skills and confidence. These mentors know what it takes to surmount their respective rung of the ladder. Collectively, the Girls’ Angle community is like a human chain from Middle School all the way up to the highest levels of the mathematics profession.

Preparing students for a STEM career is a long and gradual process that continues beyond school through college into graduate school and even at the postdoctoral level. The process cannot be forced lest it becomes an unpleasant experience. So we take a very long view on our member’s education. That’s why Girls’ Angle is open to girls all the way through High School. (It’s also why one cannot get any sense of the possibilities at Girls’ Angle by attending just a few meets.)

Of course, not everybody will enjoy the STEM subjects, and if you discover that about yourself there’s no use in forcing yourself to pursue one. But for those students who do enjoy STEM subjects it would be unfortunate if they were forced to abandon a STEM career because of inappropriate preparation. At Girls’ Angle, our goal is to provide girls who have the STEM dream with the necessary ability, skills, confidence, and mindset so that the STEM career becomes a choice that they make for themselves. It is this long term goal of empowerment to make one’s own choices that guides our every move at Girls’ Angle.

Girls, learn to think well, think for yourself, and make your own choice!


About girlsangle

We're a math club for girls.
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