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Applicable Creativity: Exploring STEM Subjects Early Unlocks More Doors of Opportunity

happy boy working at computer smiling

When you think of the word “app” or “application” – what does it mean to you? If you’re in high school, it’s likely this brings college applications to mind with looming fall deadlines. If you’re thinking technologically, maybe you just realized you haven’t played Angry Birds in about an hour and you’re having withdrawals. It wasn’t until recently that this word took on so many different meanings. For our students at iD Tech Camps and iD Teen Academies, the definition goes further and the question subsequently becomes: “What app am I going to create today?”

Apps are multiplying – with college applications leading the way. Both public and private university campuses across the U.S. had record-breaking application numbers for the Fall 2011 term. One report shows that UCLA received the largest number of applications among all UC campuses with a record 81,235 total applicants – a 6.4 percent increase from last year. Although always a popular choice, Harvard also broke records and saw their Class of 2015 applicant numbers hit nearly 35,000; approximately 15 percent more than last year.

While admission competition remains fierce for many of the most notable universities, state schools like those in the California State University system saw overall admissions increase significantly, despite state budget cuts bringing schools down to funding levels circa 1999-2000. The CSU system is now serving 70,000 more students than were attending in the year 2000, according to one press release. While it’s admirable that state schools pride themselves on being accessible to the masses, are these soaring admission rates doing more harm than good? Upon entry, students face limited course offerings, mandatory furlough days and fee hikes. Students often have to make up for this by taking unavailable courses during a later term in order to fulfill degree requirements. It’s no wonder competition for a spot at the top-tier and ivy-league universities is so stiff!

So what does all of this mean? The college degree has become the new high school diploma in terms of being competitive in the job market – and even that isn’t a sure bet without marketable skills. With more awareness comes more competition and if current trends continue, the college application numbers definitely aren’t tapering off anytime soon. This inevitably places more emphasis on student skills, extracurricular activities and academic promise. Popular and prestigious universities can afford to be even more picky; they want applicants who are driven to succeed and can prove that they’re ready to do something big if granted entrance.

This is no small feat and there’s more and more pressure on young people to tangibly show how they are stronger candidates for admission. It now goes beyond passing AP Exams and earning high SAT scores (although there’s no denying that these factors help). Students need to tap their creative potential early. Being great at science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is a giant step in the right direction – but it’s what a person is capable of doing with these skills that will charm a university or a potential employer. What problem is being solved? What level of creativity is shining through?

How do you stand out in your school?

Maybe your daughter is developing major digital photography skills and honed her craft at the iD Visual Arts Academy over the summer. Now she has a portfolio to accompany her college applications that she developed with professional equipment and direction from industry professionals at camp. Or perhaps your son has taken several iD Tech Camps programming courses, then went on to attend the iD Programming Academy where he utilized his advanced computer science and application development skills. Now he’s publishing his own iPhone® and iPad® apps. College admission boards are likely to take notice when he expands on this in his admissions essay. It also doesn’t hurt to have a few Accredited Continuing Education Units from Stanford Continuing Studies or Villanova University to add that extra little sparkle to a college app (both of which can be attained at iD Tech Camps and iD Teen Academies).

There’s no denying it: Apps are here to stay – in every applicable sense of the word. Apprehension can be avoided if the right steps are taken to prepare for what’s next. Students at iD Tech Camps stay ahead of the curve by exploring their STEM-based creative potential at an early age in a fun, engaging environment. What sets your student apart from the crowd? Let’s discover it together. Mark your calendar: Registration for the 2012 season goes live on November 1, 2011.