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Undergraduate   Posts: 22

Caltech Essay Prompt - Interest in math, science, or engineering


Mayada 6 / 97  
Aug 16, 2009   #1
Interest in math, science, or engineering manifests itself in many forms. Caltech professor and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman (1918-1988) explained, "I'd make a motor, I'd make a gadget that would go off when something passed a photocell, I'd play around with selenium"; he was exploring his interest in science, as he put it, by "piddling around all the time." In a page, more or less, tell the Admissions Committee how you express your interest, curiosity, or excitement about math, science or engineering.

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I usually fall in love with things I consider easy which I find myself good at. This explains how I can be a writer, an artist, or a dancer.

I am fond of drawing, because my hand skillfully creates magic between the pen and paper that compels them to work together and bring out the best of what could be accomplished by these two. I can see myself in whatever I draw, whether it's a girl, a horse, or simply abstract art that is not understood by anyone but me.

I love writing, because I can better express myself on paper as I can rephrase my message a thousand times in my head before I get out my final piece. I can hear myself speak, scream, and whisper in my writings, sometimes all at once.

I cannot live without dancing, because I cannot stop myself from moving collaboratively with the beats of the exciting tunes of music. I can feel myself through observing my moves working and cooperating with sounds and jingles.

However, that is not why I desire to be an engineer or why I care passionately about science. Science was different. Science challenged me, and I was up for it. I fell in love with something that I actually found challenging.

I am fond of math, because a simple unsolved equation invites me to crack it. I can see myself in whatever I solve; I see a person with problems in her life that is ready to be cracked. When it's free-time at school, I tend to ask my teacher for math questions to compete with my friends in solving them.

I love physics, because it provided me with answers that I found illogical in the most logical way. I can hear myself excited and cheerful about discovering a new answer to a question I have always had. I skip my way to class when we have physics when most of my classmates watch me, surprised.

I cannot live without chemistry, because it is subject that deals with mystery and predictions made by scientists who might have been a lot like me in one stage of their lives. I feel myself in chemistry, and I feel that chemistry is my path to success in my life.

I decided to take my relationship with math, physics, and chemistry to the next level by choosing to major in chemical engineering. I fell in love with chemical engineering because I can see, hear, and feel myself a chemical engineer.

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thank you everyone!! Your feedback is very much appreciated.

Liebe 1 / 584 2  
Aug 16, 2009   #2
I usually fall in love with things I consider easy which I find myself good at. This explains how I can be a writer, an artist, or a dancer.

^Ouch. In your first sentence, do you find yourself good at falling in love with things are things that you consider easy. It would be worrying if things you found easy were things you were not good at. Also, are you complimenting your writing, artistic and dancing skills? Please. Not impressive

I am fond of drawing, because my hand skillfully creates magic between the pen and paper that compels them to work together and bring out the best of what could be accomplished by these two. I can see myself in whatever I draw, whether it's a girl, a horse, or simply abstract art that is not understood by anyone but me.

^Mmmm. The first sentence needs revision in terms of what you are trying to say. The use of language devices has not been used effectively in my opinion.

You can see yourself in a drawing of a horse? And we understand that abstract art may only be understood by you.

I love writing, because I can better express myself on paper as I can rephrase my message a thousand times in my head before I get out my final piece. I can hear myself speak, scream, and whisper in my writings, sometimes all at once.

^Very lame. The first sentence...like what?
Second sentence. Whisper and scream juxtapose each other. You can not possibly hear it all at once.

I cannot live without dancing, because I cannot stop myself from moving collaboratively with the beats of the exciting tunes of music. I can feel myself through observing my moves working and cooperating with sounds and jingles.

^

However, that is not why I desire to be an engineer or why I care passionately about science. Science wasis different. Science challenged me, and I was up for it.This should be in present tense. I fell in love with something that I actually found challenging.

^Well, I must say, that drawing pictures of oneself, writing 'messages', and dancing to music, rarely are the reasons that people 'desire' to be an engineer or care about science.

I am fond of math, because a simple unsolved equation invites me to crack it. I can see myself in whatever I solve; I see a person with problems in her life that is ready to be cracked.

^Poor simile here.

When it's free-time at school, I tend to ask my teacher for math questions to compete with my friends in solving them.
^This may be true. But do realize that CalTech try to find students with a sense of humor, which suggests that it tries to find students that are not constantly being a nerd.

I love physics, because it provided me with answers that I found illogical in the most logical way.
^What?

I can hear myself excited and cheerful about discovering a new answer to a question I have always had. I skip my way to class when we have physics when most of my classmates watch me, surprised.

^Do you skip. Every. Single. Day?
Trust me, I think most people would find that type of behaviour surprising. The first hundred times, people may get used to it. By the hundred and first, surprise will be renewed.

I cannot live without chemistry, because it is subject that deals with mystery and predictions made by scientists who might have been a lot like me in one stage of their lives.

^Can not live without chemistry? Please.
Are you suggesting that these scientists may have been like you, because they skip to class, and dance, write, and produce art? I do not think that any scientist did all of these things.

I feel myself in chemistry, and I feel that chemistry is my path to success in my life.
^Why would you feel yourself in a chemistry lesson?

I decided to take my relationship with math, physics, and chemistry to the next level by choosing to major in chemical engineering. I fell in love with chemical engineering because I can see, hear, and feel myself a chemical engineer.

*Wow. This is not a strong essay. You in NO WAY, tell us as readers, how you EXPRESS YOUR INTEREST in ANY OF THESE SUBJECTS.

Quite frankly, all the stuff about dancing, writing etc, is not even remotely relevant to the essay prompt, yet alone your essay.
Your writing style attempts to be something, but in fact, turns out to be nothing. Stick with simple phrases and sentences than trying to find a flowery one which instead, has a pungent smell (yes. This is an example of poor wordplay, something that I found quite common in your essay)
EF_Simone 2 / 2,036  
Aug 16, 2009   #3
However, that is not why I desire to be an engineer or why I care passionately about science.

Your essay is halfway over and you still haven't begun to answer the prompt, which is not why you like math or science but how you express your interest in those subjects.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,551  
Aug 16, 2009   #4
The second half of your essay doesn't really deal with the "how," either, though it is marginally more relevant. I'd suggest brainstorming answers to the prompt question, and writing a more tightly focused essay that directly addresses it.
Llamapoop123 7 / 482  
Aug 16, 2009   #5
Mayada I read your essay and only after seeing your reply to Liebe did I actually see your attempt at rhetoric. What does this show? It may show that I am just plain dumb or it may show that your valient effort does not spice up your essay whatsoever.

the point of mentioning dancing, writing, and drawing is not to impress the admissions, it's to compare the reasons why I liked these hobbies with why i like science. I liked them bcz they were easy to me, and i liked science bcz it was challenging..

Ok then why the repitition of the stuff you bolded? Why are you comparing them in the first place? That's what I don't understand and possibly the reason that we don't find the first half of your essay to be relevent to the prompt or the essay itself.
OP Mayada 6 / 97  
Aug 17, 2009   #6
Yeah that is totally true.. Relevance..
That is the main problem.. but to be honest Liebe could have commented in a nicer way like the rest of you did, I mean, I did put effort into this and it is an irrelevant essay but she can't say that it isn't strong at all..
Llamapoop123 7 / 482  
Aug 17, 2009   #7
Liebe is like that some of the time but his suggestions are valid. You'll get used to it.
OP Mayada 6 / 97  
Aug 17, 2009   #8
:$
yep, sorry..

Anyways I wrote a whole new essay, hopefully this time it will be relevant ;)

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Interest and curiosity are never satisfied without experimenting, and I wanted to satisfy part of my curiosity and explore my interests. The summer of 2009 was the last summer before I start applying to colleges, making it the best time to enroll myself in a program that would help me rate my interests.

I attended weekly programs for four weeks at Michigan Technological University; Explorations in Engineering (EIE) which I won a scholarship for, Wide World of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Catapults, Rockets, and Robotics. Being from Saudi Arabia, I had to be really wise when I chose this program, for the fact that it is a thirteen-hour flight to New York, and a six-hour flight to Michigan. "It better be worth it!" I thought, waiting for our arrival at Houghton, Michigan.

The first week, which was in EIE, was exploring most different types of engineering. Each day we explored two types, continued working on two-group projects, and had different lectures. The projects I chose were Exploring Renewable Energy and From Imagination to Creation with Computer-Aided Design. Working on computer design and trying to figure out how to work with NX 0.5 caused putting my mind on never majoring in that field. Through projects, I realized what I am really passionate about, renewable energy. We built wind turbines. We discussed the pros and cons of each renewable energy source. Our instructors noticed my serious interest in fuel cells, and by the end of the week, they brought a speaker to introduce us to fuel cells, and that was the first time I saw one in my life. The explorations facilitated and assisted me in my major-choosing process. I discovered that nanotechnology appeals to me, and most importantly, chemical engineering felt right for me.

The weeks that followed confirmed my choice as I enjoyed chemistry and chemical engineering. In chemistry, I got to break a flower, a phrase I wouldn't have understood before I was introduced to liquid nitrogen. We did not only work on experiments, but we also were responsible of conducting one and explaining how it happened. I never took chemistry in English, and being able to explain what I demonstrated made me feel capable. As for chemical engineering, we operated machines manually and from a control room. I enjoyed being what I want to be in the future for a week. The last week, although beneficial, was not that fascinating to me. I am now determined on what I want to be.

At the beginning of the program I was excited about science and engineering. Now, I am passionate about them. At the beginning of the program, I did not understand myself, nor did I identify my interests. Now, I know exactly what I want to be and what my alternatives are. I thought that this program will end my curiosity in science and engineering. Instead, it increased it tremendously, and I understood that it will never end.

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thank you everyone :)
prompter 4 / 18  
Aug 17, 2009   #9
Man this is so much better. Why didn't you talk about this EIE before. Good job. I like this.
Liebe 1 / 584 2  
Aug 17, 2009   #10
but to be honest Liebe could have commented in a nicer way like the rest of you did, I mean, I did put effort into this and it is an irrelevant essay but she can't say that it isn't strong at all.

^Lawl. you said

Your feedback is very much appreciated.

Therefore, I gave my feedback. I have my doubts as to whether you actually 'appreciated' it.
Just so you know, everyone puts in effort in everything, but the amount of effort tends to vary from person to person, and from task to task.

And yes, I can say that this wasn't strong at all. It may be my unqualified opinion, but those were indeed my sentiments at the time. Also, if you went to the Contributor page, ana ismee Faisal, ya3ni I am not a 'she' lol.

Also, seeing as how it is a CalTech essay, expectations do tend to be raised. You did not meet these, and pointing this out seems to have upset you? This is CalTech...

Liebe is like that some of the time but his suggestions are valid. You'll get used to it.

^Thanks. It is good to know that people appreciate the validity of my suggestions. Also Mayada, Universities such as CalTech are there for strongly academic and studious people. You should be able to deal with harsh feedback and learn from it, rather than be affected from it.

Also, I skim read your newest essay. I still feel you do not answer the prompt directly. You are supposed to be discussing 'HOW'
tal105 7 / 161  
Aug 17, 2009   #11
Mayada:
but to be honest Liebe could have commented in a nicer way like the rest of you did, I mean, I did put effort into this and it is an irrelevant essay but she can't say that it isn't strong at all.

^^ trust me dude, its for the best.
you want your essay to be as strong as possible. as long as its not overly mean and stuff, i think its all good =]
OP Mayada 6 / 97  
Aug 17, 2009   #12
I did appreciate your feedback,but you could have said it in a nicer way.. and I'm sorry for assuming that ur a she, Faisal.

Hmm, can you tell me how I can make it more of a relevant essay? Seems like I have a problem with that.. It's hard to write about how u "express" things, and that last essay is as close as I can get..
Notoman 20 / 432  
Aug 17, 2009   #13
Yeah, Liebe is opinionated, but his opinions are almost always right on target. I sometimes miss the forest for the trees; Liebe is good at seeing both. The corrections may be strongly worded, but try to get past the personal and see what he is really saying.

Sometimes it is hard for writers to see how their words are read and interpreted by others. The comments on this site tend to take three different routes (and all three can be included by the same responder) ... grammar corrections, content feedback, and rubber stamping/affirmation. Responders can point out the grammar mistakes and no one seems to take offense. Responders can also tell the essay writer what a wonderful job they have done and no one's feelings get hurt. It is when people comment on the content that emotions come into play. But those kinds of comments are *so* valuable! If a writer is coming across as timid, arrogant, idiotic, or dysfunctional to the readers, it can be of great benefit to know that BEFORE an essay is sent off. If an author ignores the prompt, throws about thesaurus words, or uses a simile that falls flat, they ought to know that as well.

Next time I have an essay to post, there's a list of people who I hope respond because I have so much respect for them. Liebe is on that list.
Liebe 1 / 584 2  
Aug 18, 2009   #14
Yeah, Liebe is opinionated, but his opinions are almost always right on target. I sometimes miss the forest for the trees; Liebe is good at seeing both. The corrections may be strongly worded, but try to get past the personal and see what he is really saying.

^I saw on another thread that you have returned Noto. Welcome back. And thanks for the warm words :)

I did appreciate your feedback,but you could have said it in a nicer way.. and I'm sorry for assuming that ur a she, Faisal.

Hmm, can you tell me how I can make it more of a relevant essay? Seems like I have a problem with that.. It's hard to write about how u "express" things, and that last essay is as close as I can get..

^Nice feedback is not necessarily the most useful. If that is what you want, me to tailor my feedback so that it is 'nice', then I may just have to do that for you then.

To make it relevant, as Sean on this thread suggested, why dont you try brainstorming. If you can not come up with anything, then maybe, you need to realize that perhaps you never really expressed interest in any of those subjects.

I hope that is not the case.
If that is the case however, whilst you may not like what I am going to say, maybe CalTech is not for you. Afterall, CalTech has asked this question because these are the type of students that it is looking for; students that have expressed an interest in those academic disciplines and have expressed an interest, because they are naturally fascinated by these academic discipline.

I know that CalTech sounds great. It is in California, and it is prestigious in the sense of it's academic programs and commitment to research and publications.

Cali, and prestige. What more can one ask for?
People, (I am not saying you), may forget just how hard working and academic CalTech students are. These are students that have genuine interests in what they study, and go to CalTech because they are academically motivated and hope to learn something new and learn more. These students do not necessarily go to CalTech because of the beach and because they identify CalTech as a University with a prestigious name. They are most probably the ones who identify CalTech as an institute to work and challenge themselves and others academically and are interested in the prestige of studying at a University with well equipped research facilities that can help them learn more about their interests.

If you do not know how you have expressed interest, it is likely that maybe you never did. Or maybe you do not understand the essay question?

Well, if I had to apply to CalTech, and I had to understand this question, I would say that I expressed my interest in certain parts of Biology. I have studied research on muscle fibres, macronutrient intake and supplementation. I evaluate which of these are most applicable to me, and I implement what I have learnt in my diet and training program.

Ive never been required to know any of this stuff. It was just personal study and I wanted to learn more because I thought it was interesting, especially when I applied this information to my program and diet. I expressed an interest in this part of science by reading, considering, evaluating and implementing it on myself. I doubt that that in itself is a great answer, but that is how I have expressed an interest in..'biology'.
OP Mayada 6 / 97  
Aug 19, 2009   #15
Well obviously my problem is not a lack of interest in science. I am truly interested and I am willing to do the impossible to achieve more in those fields.

The thing is about "expressing" interest is my problem. Expressing means showing, and I show interest to myself rather than showing it to others, because it's something that involves me personally. The reason why I chose that program was because it was all about engineering, and this is how I expressed my interest, by choosing this program to spend my summer on instead of a really neat Harvard leadership program that I really want to attend. I show interest by reading about fuel cells and renewable energy; the things I really like. This is how I showed interest, by actually doing something about it.

You, Faisal, have said that you would have spoke about your interest in biology, and "what" you did because you had this interest.. The problem is it's a tricky question, and it's really hard to keep on track in the whole essay, that's why I need help.

Thanks for ur help btw :)
Liebe 1 / 584 2  
Aug 19, 2009   #16
Well obviously my problem is not a lack of interest in science. I am truly interested and I am willing to do the impossible to achieve more in those fields.

^I never said that you have a lack of interest in science.
It is interesting to see your ambitions, even though I was always under the impression that scientists were interested in overcoming and finding solutions to impossibilities rather than doing them. Perhaps I was wrong, which may also suggest my relative ignorance regarding science and the science field in general.

Expressing means showing, and I show interest to myself rather than showing it to others, because it's something that involves me personally.

^Well either way, that is an expression. Expressions do not have to be shown to the public.

The reason why I chose that program was because it was all about engineering, and this is how I expressed my interest, by choosing this program to spend my summer on instead of a really neat Harvard leadership program that I really want to attend.

^I reread the question. You do not only have to discuss interest.
'interest, curiosity, or excitement'
Well, saying that you have expressed an interest in Engineering just by applying to a program, may be an interesting card. I am not sure if this is what CalTech is looking for, but then again, it may be enough to surprise the Admissions board. Do not take my word for it. I would have assumed that CalTech is asking this question because they want to know how interest has been expressed in the past and I believe that the answers read will help them decide which candidates are eligible to pursue their interests at a research based University such as CalTech. My opinion however.

Also, your example, does not really show an interest in my opinion. It just shows a choice you made.

I show interest by reading about fuel cells and renewable energy; the things I really like. This is how I showed interest, by actually doing something about it.

^This should be the main point of your essay. I see that by discussing with me, we seem to have come up with a form of a 'brain storm'.

You, Faisal, have said that you would have spoke about your interest in biology, and "what" you did because you had this interest..

^That was just an example lol. I thought Id give a realistic example, that perhaps you can relate to. If I really was applying to CalTech, Id discuss Math. I relate to it a lot more since a lot of what I do, and buy, revolves around Math.

The problem is it's a tricky question, and it's really hard to keep on track in the whole essay, that's why I need help.

^Well, I will have to disagree with you that it is a tricky question. That is because of my definition of what a 'tricky question' is. Tricky questions, to me, are those that require a train of thought, but can include other trains of thought, to calculate the right answer. This essay question does require a train of thought, and can include other trains, but there is no right answer. CalTech is not looking for a 'right' answer, and a 'wrong answer'. They are looking for an answer that can communicate effectively. What you did before, was not even answer the question. That is not a wrong answer. It is just not an answer.
OP Mayada 6 / 97  
Aug 19, 2009   #17
^I reread the question. You do not only have to discuss interest.
'interest, curiosity, or excitement'

there's an or.. so I can base it on any or all ;)

But whatever.. since I was having problems with the topic, I asked the assistant director of admissions , using an e-mail i DEFINITELY won't use when I apply to Caltech, lol, and she said:

"It's fine to explain how you satisfy your interest."

Anyways..

I wrote another one.

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"Yes, I am positively sure." I said, determinedly. That was one of the few times I replied that way after giving it thought. My mom wanted to make sure that she wasn't talking to the stubborn me again. I can't deny that I was confused at first, but after thinking about it, I am certain that I have made the right choice.

Never did I try so hard to exploit my summer. When I did in the past, it was unintentional, but this time it was different. It's the last summer before I start applying for colleges. I was confused between two programs, unfortunately, I couldn't attend both. A leadership program in Harvard sounded very appealing to me. I could even get myself the sweatshirt I have always wanted. Yet, I chose to go to Michigan Tech.

I have known science; I have had a general idea about its topics and applications. I have always wanted to be an engineer, but apparently, my thought of engineering was totally different than it really is. I thought engineering was trying to fit science into real-life, and since I was curious about how that happened, I chose to apply for a scholarship to experience the Explorations in Engineering program. I enrolled myself in chemistry, chemical engineering, and how stuff works for the weeks that followed.

In the engineering week, I realized the misconceptions I had about engineering. I have always wanted to be something I was ignorant about. Now that I have not only found out what an engineer was, but also tried to be one for a couple of weeks, I became more eager to solve problems. It turned out that chemists and biologists are the ones who apply science to life, not engineers as I assumed.

I was grateful that I chose Michigan. I even tried to make the best of it, since, unlike most; I came a long way to the US. I was specifically interested in fuel cells. Usually, I bore people with questions and get a not-so-good response. In America, asking to many questions got me a speaker by the end of the week. Dennis Meny, who studied fuel cells, showed us a fuel cell. He showed us the parts and briefly explained how it worked. "Do you prefer hydrogen fuel cells of methane?" I asked. He preferred methane saying that we lose energy trying to store hydrogen, while methane is easier to deal with, even if the process produced carbon dioxide, it could be taken advantage of by making use of the carbon dioxide's pressure to keep it running. In another week, the chemical engineering instructors hosted another speaker. That one preferred hydrogen claiming that the carbon dioxide from the methane fuel cells is going to end up affecting the environment anyway. I knew about both almost enough to have my own opinion by then.

Since I am willing to become an engineer, I asked about the obstacles in the way of proliferation of fuel cells. Identifying the problem is halfway through solving it. The membrane of a fuel cell is costly, for the metal used is rare. "Hmm, since it's rare and we're running out of it, we need to find other metals to use. They'd be cheaper too!" I offered. "We're actually doing some research about it." Dennis replied. Maybe one day I will be a member of that research team, hopefully not too far.

I sat comfortably on the chair by the aisle, and asked for water. I kept wondering what would have been if I chose that leadership program. I recalled how my mother preferred us going to Cambridge. I giggled. Mostly, my mother isn't easy at all, neither is my brother. "Well I am a leader alright." I thought. "I did drag my mom and brother all the way to Houghton."


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Llamapoop123 7 / 482  
Aug 19, 2009   #18
It turned out that chemists and biologists are the ones who apply science to life, not engineers as I assumed.

What? Although I am uninformed on the subject of engineers I would think that people like chemical engineers apply science to life. One example of this is the creation of artificial smells.

I have always wanted to be something I was ignorant about.

This idea is confusing to me.

I enrolled myself in chemistry, chemical engineering, and how stuff works for the weeks that followed.

You enrolled in a class called "How stuff works"?

In America, asking to many questions got me a speaker by the end of the week.

You got a speaker? What does that mean?

Your new essay is a little confusing to me. There are many sentences that are unnecessary and disturb the flow of your essay.

When I did in the past, it was unintentional, but this time it was different. It's the last summer before I start applying for colleges. I was confused between two programs, unfortunately, I couldn't attend both. A leadership program in Harvard sounded very appealing to me. I could even get myself the sweatshirt I have always wanted. Yet, I chose to go to Michigan Tech.

This sentence makes it sound as if you were choosing which one to attend after they both accepted you.

I have known science; I have had a general idea about its topics and applications. I have always wanted to be an engineer, but apparently, my thought of engineering was totally different than it really is.

Tense issues. These two sentences are also confusing to me.

Your essay tells me that you want to become an engineer because you've always wanted to become something that your ignorant about. I think that there is something wrong with this concept.

Mostly, my mother isn't easy at all, neither is my brother. "Well I am a leader alright." I thought. "I did drag my mom and brother all the way to Houghton."

Huh?

The fuel cell thing pops out of nowhere. I guess that it is supposed to show how you're interested in engineering?

Why do you even talk about your difficult choice between Harvard and Mich Tech?
OP Mayada 6 / 97  
Aug 19, 2009   #19
You enrolled in a class called "How stuff works"?

yeah, should I quote the names of the classes?

You got a speaker? What does that mean?

A person to speak about something.. how can I say it then?

This sentence makes it sound as if you were choosing which one to attend after they both accepted you.

They both don't require acceptance. The one in Michigan had the scholarship program for one week.. otherwise it we paid for it, the 3 remaining weeks.

Why do you even talk about your difficult choice between Harvard and Mich Tech?

hmm.. harvard wasn't about science.. but I guess ur right, my point of it isn't clear.. maybe I should omit that part and try to relate the essay more to fuel cells?..

or should I relate the question about the two programs by saying that i had to make a choice between science and self development..?
Llamapoop123 7 / 482  
Aug 19, 2009   #20
They both don't require acceptance. The one in Michigan had the scholarship program for one week.. otherwise it we paid for it, the 3 remaining weeks.

Ohhh I see. Sorry misunderstanding there.

I would omit the harvard mich tech conflict.
Focus on how you aspire to study fuel cells.
OP Mayada 6 / 97  
Aug 19, 2009   #21
thanks ;)

btw, how do we edit posts? Cz i realized that there are 3 essays in one thread.. i wanned to delete the old 2 ;p
Llamapoop123 7 / 482  
Aug 19, 2009   #22
The moderators will do that for you every now and then.


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