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What makes an Intel finalist ?

with_one_voicewith_one_voice Posts: 1,384Registered User Senior Member
edited May 2010 in College Admissions
I was browsing the Intel STS website, and some of the bios of the finalists, and it made me wonder -- what criteria do the judges use to select the 40 finalists? I've heard that it isn't solely about the caliber of the project submitted. For example, most of the finalists are accomplished in other areas (e.g. athletics, music, math), and many are valedictorians. So do one's other activities/ECs, grades, and possibly Intel application essays play a considerable role in being selected for finalist status?

I had thought that having been successful in previous science fairs would make it likely for one to become a finalist. For example, the top three Intel STS winners this year had all been to ISEF multiple times (every year - 9, 10, 11 - I believe), and Siemens semifinalists multiple times, I think. Yet, someone that I know this year was named an Intel semifinalist, had been to ISEF twice, was a Siemens semifinalist as a junior, and yet wasn't named a finalist. Perhaps the project she submitted to Intel was simply not of a high enough caliber?

Then there are some people who are named finalists who had never been to ISEF before or even named a Siemens semifinalist. Guess they just had a great project? For example, a boy I know (valedictorian of his class) had no previous awards in science research, yet was named a finalist this year... So I wondered why. I would think Intel wants to choose the kids who've demonstrated the most interest and success in the field throughout their high school years?

I'm not sure if anyone would even know the answer to my (now protracted) question, but just thought I'd ask out of curiosity!
Post edited by with_one_voice on

Replies to: What makes an Intel finalist ?

  • mab2011mab2011 Posts: 10Registered User New Member
    As I understand it Intel Science Talent Search or “STS “ is more holistic - looking at the transcripts, personal essays, recommendations and the project, etc. Siemens looks at the project paper in the initial semi-finalist/finalist selection phase and then adds a project presentation component for finalists. Intel ISEF is about the project, oral presentation skills, and sometimes the paper. My guess is that in some cases state and regional science fairs spend little, if any, time studying the paper. I don’t mean to say that you can win ISEF and never have anyone look at your paper, but for some finalists the ISEF competition may be the first time a judge really gives your paper a hard look.
  • nadsnads Posts: 12Registered User New Member
    what i've heard is that intel sts looks for the people who they consider to have great potential in the future in the field of science. honestly it is a bit random. i remember our valedictorian 3 years ago (outstanding student who was accepted to MIT and princeton) was not selected as a semifinalist but his peer, who was equally smart but with much fewer distinctions and awards was selected.
    also speaking as an intel semifinalist this year, i dont think i really stood out in regards with my previous experience. i had never won any great science awards and my paper was not selected for Siemens and i had never gotten to ISEF. however i believe my paper was written very well, well enough for the STS commitee to select me as an semifinalist.
  • with_one_voicewith_one_voice Posts: 1,384Registered User Senior Member
    what i've heard is that intel sts looks for the people who they consider to have great potential in the future in the field of science. honestly it is a bit random. i remember our valedictorian 3 years ago (outstanding student who was accepted to MIT and princeton) was not selected as a semifinalist but his peer, who was equally smart but with much fewer distinctions and awards was selected.
    also speaking as an intel semifinalist this year, i dont think i really stood out in regards with my previous experience. i had never won any great science awards and my paper was not selected for Siemens and i had never gotten to ISEF. however i believe my paper was written very well, well enough for the STS commitee to select me as an semifinalist.

    In regards to being selected a SEMI-finalist, I think a lot has to do with your actual research paper; this would explain why your friend, a valedictorian and recipient of numerous awards (were they for previous science research?) was not awarded semi-finalist status, while a student with poorer grades but a better research paper was chosen. I also think that a background of having won many awards in the field of science research can help you become a semi-finalist.

    However, my question was primarily regarding selection as a *finalist*. I think the previous poster was correct, in that it is very holistic -- they take into account your grades, essays, and I think also your accomplishments (even in other fields, such as music, athletics, etc). Sometimes it seems quite arbitrary though, when students with no previous science research awards and decent (but not amazing) extracurriculars are selected as finalists, over others (such as the girl I mentioned in my original post) who don't get chosen as finalists, despite having a pretty significant background (2x ISEF, 1x Siemens) in science research, and quite good grades, too, I imagine (good enough to get into Harvard, at least).
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