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NYU's Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) - Our Review

If you’re thinking about a potential career in STEM fields, developing your knowledge and skills early can significantly improve your ability to think critically, problem solve, and innovate. Many top U.S. universities recognize the importance of building such skills and offer programs that introduce students to different career possibilities in STEM, while allowing them to explore subjects they’re interested in. Extracurricular programs like this are a great way to show demonstrated interest in your college application!


If you’re a middle or high school student interested in pursuing STEM, you can check out New York University’s Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP)


What is NYU’s STEP? 

NYU’s STEP is a non-credit, state-funded pre-college program for high-achieving New York State students. It is aimed at students who belong to communities underrepresented in STEM and who meet the financial need criteria. NYU faculty and students conduct the program, during which students engage in college-level coursework, project-based learning, workshops, mentorship, and research opportunities. Students in grades 11 and 12 who are part of the program can undertake a research project and present their findings at the annual STEP State Conference in Albany, NY.  


How is the program structured?

The STEP program is split into four main areas of study: English, math, research, and college preparation.

  • English: The program includes an English seminar to help develop critical thinking and written communication skills.

  • Math: Students take classes in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus AB, and calculus BC, with coursework adjusted for students of different grade levels.

  • Research: Grade 11 and 12 students undertake a research program under the guidance of STEP teaching staff and present their findings at the annual STEP conference in Albany, NY. 

  • College preparation: Grade 11 and 12 students attend classes designed to prepare them for the college application, including test preparation, career guidance, and interactions with industry professionals. College-level academic tutors also counsel high school students with admission advice and any problems that may arise during their college journey.


A typical day for a student participating in the program would include:

  • Mornings devoted to enrichment classes in math and English

  • Afternoons spent diving into project-based learning exploring interdisciplinary themes in Internet technologies, art and design, engineering, publishing, clinical medicine, and more.


Fees: The program fees for the summer semester are $350. STEP also holds fall and spring semester classes that cost $100 each. Financially deserving students can avail of a fee waiver. 


Eligibility:  All middle and high school students (grades 7-12) who are New York State residents can apply for the program. Additionally, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Have an 80 average in Math, Science, and English

  • Must be economically disadvantaged (annual household income must be less than $55,500 for a family of four). You can check the income eligibility here.

  • Must be from an ethnic minority group underrepresented in STEM. These could include African American, Native American, Alaskan Native, Hispanic or Latino, and South American natives with tribal attachments.  


Dates: The 2024 summer STEP program will run from July 5 to August 4. Applications for the 2024 cohort will open sometime in mid to end February. 


Is it prestigious?

The program is moderately prestigious and selective. While the program fee is basic and you must have good grades, it is only open to economically disadvantaged students in New York State who belong to underrepresented communities. This can limit the number of applicants. Additionally, NYU does not provide housing, which could deter students outside New York City from applying for the program, given the high cost of living in the city. 



Let’s look at some of the program’s pros and cons:

Pros:

  1. Early exposure to STEM subjects: STEP is open to all middle and high school students (grades 7-12). This gives students the opportunity to experience college life and concepts in STEM subjects at an early age, especially if you’re in grades 7-10, allowing you to make informed decisions when you plan your future studies. 

  2. College prep for high school juniors and seniors: STEP includes a college prep component for students in grades 11 and 12 in the program. This includes test preparation (such as SAT and ACT), college essay writing workshops, career counseling, and facilitating interactions with professionals and experts to give you solid insight into the practical applications of your subject of interest.

  3. Glimpse of college life at NYU: The program is held on the NYU campus and students will be taught by faculty members and college students, with plenty of opportunities to interact with them and gain unique insights. You also have access to NYU facilities like laboratories, libraries, and more.

  4. Complete a research project: If you’re a grade 11 or 12 student in the program, you can complete a research project under the guidance of NYU faculty and teaching assistants. A project like this would be a valuable addition to your college portfolio. You would also present your findings at the annual STEP Conference in Albany, New York, which could be a considerable learning experience!

  5. Affordable, with financial aid options: Despite its high-quality offerings, the program maintains an affordable cost, making it accessible to students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Additionally, financial aid options are available for eligible students, reducing the financial barrier to participation.

  6. Mentorship and holistic support: Students receive mentorship and support throughout the program, both academically and personally. This holistic approach ensures that students receive the guidance and resources they need to thrive inside and outside the classroom.


Cons:

  1. No college credit: STEP offers you the opportunity to study at a top U.S. university at a nominal cost. However, if you’re an ambitious student, you may want to consider alternative pre-college programs that offer the chance to earn college credit, giving you a headstart on your college academics.

  2. Stringent eligibility criteria: STEP is specifically aimed at economically disadvantaged students belonging to ethnic minorities in the U.S. You will have to apply to other pre-college programs if you do not meet this criteria, which may be more competitive and expensive. 

  3. No housing arrangements: NYU’s STEP program does not provide housing for students, which could deter some from participating in the program. Average rent in NYC in 2023 was $5,588 in 2023, which could be unaffordable for many eligible students. NYU offers limited housing and dining services to precollege students for $3,900 (2023 rates) for the duration of their program.

Our review — should you apply?

STEP  is a solid initiative to make STEM fields more accessible to young students, and especially to those who come from backgrounds underrepresented in these fields. The program fees are minimal ($350) and you get to study at a top U.S. university! You get to participate in a research project during the project, which is a valuable skill to pick up before college, and can boost your college portfolio. However, you do not receive a college credit, even if you complete a research project, the eligibility criteria limits the number of students who can apply, and you have to make your own housing arrangements, which can be quite expensive in NYC.  



One Other Option

If you’re looking for similarly valuable learning and research opportunities in STEM subjects, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Tenzing Dolma is a master's student specializing in research following the Nechung Oracle and the historical, religious, and cognitive approaches to its presence. She has a bachelor's in Neuroscience from Loyola University Chicago and is completing her graduate studies at Columbia University. She hopes to help students find their passions through access to programs and organizations the same way she found hers!


Image Source: NYU logo


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