by Bryan Nelson
Relatively often, people have asked me why I chose to go to college in New York instead of Massachusetts, where there are a lot of great options for college, giving up all of my Massachusetts-specific scholarships. Putting aside any external factors, like my own interests to live in New York City or Courant’s reputation for applied mathematics, the main factor that made me choose to go out of state was the fact that I felt New York University valued me more than any of the other schools I was accepted by.
I firmly believe that STEM majors face the toughest grading of any major. In my own program, I see tough curves (like 5 kids out of 35 getting an A, for example) and have often heard people from other departments say “it’s a great program but they make it so unnecessarily difficult.” The reason for this is probably to keep a small class size in order to make sure that the students accessing the resources are really committed to studying math. So, if we assume other schools make classes tough to keep departments at an acceptable size by making people drop the classes, then the determining factor in if you are one of the successful STEM majors or not is how willing you are to stick with it. It’s hard for someone that’s been a good student his/her entire life to suddenly feel average in his/her major, especially when his/her friends in other majors have much higher GPAs.
As I mentioned, NYU made it very apparent to me that they valued me, and despite having such a large applicant pool, had been in contact with me since I was fifteen. They also financed my education for me. I’ve found that even among classmates of mine, the personal interest NYU made me feel was not standard, but it should be. If we want to help Massachusetts to continue to be at the forefront of science and mathematics, we need to make students feel that it is worth their while to study STEM and help attract even more applicants to STEM-based programs in higher education.