Four Reasons to Enter an Academic Competition

Often what’s learned in the classroom isn’t enough to help students develop the skills they’ll really need in the professional world. Academic competitions can help fill the gap by giving students valuable experiences and skills that will make them more attractive to employers and more confident in the workplace. Following are some of the benefits that students can gain through academic competitions. 

Identify your strengths and weaknesses

While competitions often involve teams battling it out, on a certain level, they are a personal challenge for each participant. As a student in a competition, you’ll have the opportunity to identify your strongest abilities, weaknesses, limits, and fears. And once you come to know these, you’ll have the opportunity for personal and professional growth. In addition to revealing more about how you approach certain problems and scenarios, competitions can test your academic strengths and provide new knowledge. One good example is AIChE’s ChemE Jeopardy Competition. In general, competitions are a great chance for self-exploration and a taste of the working world.

Gain professional, interpersonal, and economic know-how

Competitions also provide a dose of working-world reality, with opportunities to develop skills in teamwork and leadership, and the opportunity to take on complex problems in group situations. In addition, they often help develop economic understanding, since limited funds and resources require careful budgeting—a valuable skill for chemical engineers in any professional situation. 

Expand and apply your scientific knowledge 

When you take part in a competition, you have the chance to dive into a subject in a new way, allowing you to immerse yourself in a subject that you might have only known on the surface through classroom study. Participants are often encouraged to seek and learn new techniques and concepts, sharing knowledge among themselves. And when theory is finally applied to real-world situations and problems, it can be very exciting. New talents and areas of interest are often discovered in these situations. Take, for example, AIChE’s Chem-E-Car Competition®, which exposes students to in-depth study and understanding of a variety of chemical engineering concepts and to complex problem solving.

Earn financial rewards

In many competitions, there is a monetary reward. While a cash award isn’t the main focus, it does provide real and meaningful motivation, much like the professional world. It’s important to define your goals well so that you can search out competitions that best match your interests. Some of the possibilities at AIChE that include a cash award are the ScaleUp Student Essay Contest, with a $500 scholarship, the Regional Student Paper Competition, with an award of $200, and the Student Technical Presentation Competition, with a $500 prize. 

Like all education, traditional chemical engineering classes have limitations, but students can better their chances of finding a satisfying and meaningful position in the working world if they seek experiences such as competitions to supplement what they learn in the classroom. Seek out what opportunities are available to you through your AIChE Student Chapter or learn more about some of AIChE’s student awards and competitions