The Best STEM Competitions for High School Students

Every season we talk to students who are curious about the best STEM competitions for high school students. It’s not a surprise to anyone that STEM majors are becoming increasingly more popular. But, this does mean that standing out as a STEM major is getting more complex as well. If you or your child are considering a STEM major, this post is going to be invaluable to you as you navigate building a competitive profile for top STEM schools. If you have additional questions about being a STEM applicant, please reach out to us!

4 Ways you Can Stand Out as a STEM Applicant on your Applications

  1. Pursue rigorous science and math coursework.
    If you are interested in studying at the top STEM schools, it’s imperative that you show admissions officers that you can handle the tough academic rigor. When reviewing your application, admissions officers will evaluate the courses you took against the courses available to you. In just about every scenario, they will want to see that you took the most challenging courses. And, they will want to see that you excelled in them. No AP’s offered at your school? Can you pursue dual enrollment? Competitive summer programs? They’ll look to see that you sought out academic challenges if you didn’t have them offered as part of your high school curriculum.
  2. Excel on standardized tests.
    This also seems a bit like a no-brainer, but we want to share some stats with you. According to The College Board, the 78th percentile for the Math II SAT Subject test is a perfect 800. Yes, you read that correctly. STEM students are scoring so well on that exam, that a perfect score is the 78th percentile. It’s much higher than every other SAT Subject Test, which shows how imperative it is to excel on standardized tests, especially the Math II test. And, as a reminder, all Engineering majors should consider taking Math II and either Bio/Physics/Chem. Check the admissions website for the schools on your list to see their specific requirements.

3. Pursue learning for the sake of learning.
Highly selective schools love students who pursue learning outside the classroom, simply because they are pursuing something they love. This could look different for every student, but generally we advise STEM students to seek learning outside the classroom. This could be an internship, research, reading Reddit threads, volunteer work, job shadowing, following YouTube channels… Admissions committees will look to see that you have gone above and beyond in your STEM interests, so this is not to be overlooked!

4. Compete in STEM Competitions.
And this takes us to the point of this post. If you’re a serious STEM student, you’re likely looking for ways to get involved in STEM competitions. See below for our list of the best STEM competitions!

STEM COMPETITIONS: Robotics & Engineering Design

First Competitions
Combining the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology.
Elementary, middle & high school

“Educational Robotics Program that engages middle and high school students in a team-oriented robotics competition.”
Middle & high school

Vex Robotics Competition
The largest and fastest growing middle and high school robotics program globally with over 20,000 teams from 50 countries playing in over 1700 competitions worldwide.”
Middle & high school

Zero Robotics
A robotics programming competition where the robots are SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) inside the International Space Station.
Middle & high school

STEM COMPETITIONS: Apps, Coding & Video Game Development

Congressional App Challenge
The Congressional App Challenge is transforming how Congress views computer science and STEM.”
High school

STEM Video Game Challenge
“The challenge was launched in September of 2010 at the White House by President Obama.”
Middle & high school

Quiz Bowls & Knowledge Competitions

Science Olympiad
“Science Olympiad competitions are like academic track meets, consisting of a series of 23 team events in each division.”
Elementary, middle & high school students

Genius Olympiad
“GENIUS Olympiad promotes a global understanding of environmental issues and the achievement of sustainability through basic science, arts, creative writing, engineering, design, and business development.”
High school

National Ocean Sciences Bowl
“The NOSB is an academic competition and program that addresses a national gap in environmental and earth sciences in public education by introducing high school students to and engaging them in ocean science, preparing them for ocean science-related and other STEM careers, and helping them become knowledgeable citizens and environmental stewards.
High school

Science Fairs & Research Competitions

Google Science Fair
“Students submit a project in which science is used to help change the world. “
Middle & high school

Junior Science and Humanities Symposium
“Students compete for scholarships and recognition by presenting results of their STEM projects to a panel of judges.”
High school

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
“Through a global network of local, regional and national science fairs, top students are selected from millions, all who have demonstrated their knowledge of science and engineering to further their understanding of the world and improve the way we work and live.”
High school

Krithik Ramesh, 16, of of Greenwood Village, Colorado, received top honors with the Gordon E. Moore Award of $75,000 on Friday, May 17, 2019, at the 2019 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public and the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. He used augmented reality, machine learning and computer vision to help orthopedic surgeons achieve greater accuracy for screw placement during spinal surgery. (Credit: Chris Ayers/Society for Science & the Public)

Other Competitions

Modeling the Future Challenge
“To compete, students conduct their own research project modeling real-world data to analyze risks and make recommendations to companies, industry groups, governments, or organizations.”
High school

Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament
“Founded in 1998, HMMT is one of the largest and most prestigious high school competitions in the world. Each tournament draws close to 1000 students from around the globe, including top scorers at national and international olympiads.”
High school

We hope this list is helpful as you look to build your STEM candidacy! If you need additional guidance on how to stand out as a STEM applicant, please connect with us! We look forward to supporting you in pursuing your goals in STEM!





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