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How to Apply for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing High School Awards

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Female student typing in her laptop.

How to Apply for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing High School Awards

Highlighting future leaders, the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing (AiC) Awards celebrate young women making big changes in technology.

Learn about the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing (AiC) Awards, which recognize talented young women who are shaping the future of technology. This initiative is part of the broader efforts by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) to address the gender imbalance in the tech industry.

The AiC Awards are a significant part of NCWIT’s mission. They support and celebrate young women who are making strides in technology fields. This blog post will explain the importance of these awards, their impact, and how they help mold the tech industry’s future.

What is the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Awards?

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a leading network dedicated to addressing underrepresentation in computing. It encourages innovation through a system of programs that aim to engage all girls and women across different backgrounds including race, ethnicity, class, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability status. 

From K-12 to career levels, NCWIT emphasizes inclusion as a means to broaden participation and make sure that future tech innovations reflect the diversity of society.

Categories

The NCWIT AiC Awards are divided into three main categories, each designed to recognize and celebrate different groups of individuals contributing to the growth of diversity in technology:

  • The Aspirations in Computing High School Award

This award honors high school women who demonstrate outstanding aptitude and interest in information technology and computing, exhibit solid leadership skills, and excel academically. Recipients are selected based on their computing achievements, aspirations, and community involvement.

  • The Collegiate Award

The NCWIT AiC Collegiate Award celebrates the exceptional computing achievements of undergraduate and graduate women, genderqueer, and non-binary students. Given out each year, this award acknowledges students who have made significant technical contributions to projects that show great innovation and potential for impact. 

The Collegiate Award is available to all AiC Community members who are enrolled in post-secondary education (like community college, college, or university) and are majoring or minoring in computing or engineering disciplines, and who have significantly contributed to a computing or IT project.

  • The Educator Award

The AiC Educator Award honors outstanding teachers and mentors who significantly encourage 9th-12th grade women, genderqueer, and non-binary students to pursue interests in computing and technology. 

This award acknowledges their commitment to promoting gender equality in computing fields. Since 2011, over 500 educators have received this recognition and have been granted more than $225,000 in funds to enhance their skills in computing education.

a female student standing in the middle of a hallway

What are the eligibility criteria for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing High School Awards?

As an applicant, you should understand the academic requirements and qualifications necessary to stand out in the selection process. Let’s explore these criteria and we’ll provide tips on how to leverage your academic achievements when applying for the AiC Awards.

  • Women, genderqueer, and non-binary high school students (grades 9-12) are invited to apply for the National and Regional Affiliate Awards. 
  • They must be at least 13 years old when they create their account. Applicants under 18 need parental or guardian approval to apply.
  • They need approval from a parent or guardian by the deadline, or they must be 18 or older when they submit their application.
  • They must attend a school in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or on a U.S. overseas military base.
  • They cannot be an employee of NCWIT or be closely related to any NCWIT employees, extended staff, contractors, or board members. This includes spouses, siblings, children, grandchildren, and those living in the same household.

A woman holding a book.

Additional Criteria for National Awards

To be eligible for a National Award (either as a National Winner or National Honorable Mention), applicants must also:

  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or meet the substantial presence test requirements.
  • Have a U.S. Tax Identification or Social Security Number.

Restrictions

  • Applicants can apply each year, but National Award Winners are not eligible to win a National Award again.
  • Regional Affiliate Award programs may allow repeat recipients at their discretion.

Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for the Aspirations in Computing High School Award

First, set up or update your account at aspirations.org.

Step 1: Create Your Account

  • Account Type: High School Student
  • Choose a username and password, and remember your email and password for future logins.
  • Agree to the Terms & Conditions, which include the Consent and Release form, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

Step 2: Secure Your Account

  • After creating your account, add multi-factor authentication for enhanced security:
  • You can choose SMS authentication, email authentication, or answer a security question.
  • Complete the setup by clicking ‘Finish’ to access your dashboard.

Step 3: Complete Your Profile

  • Fill in your personal and contact information.
  • If you’re under 18, proceed to request Parent/Guardian approval through your dashboard.
  • Choose your school by state and name. If homeschooled or your school isn’t listed, select ‘Can’t find your school?’ to add it manually.

Step 4: Parent/Guardian Approval

  • You don’t need approval to start your application, but it is required for final submission.
  • Request consent through your dashboard; this sends an email to your parent/guardian.
  • If there are email issues, resend the link or upload approval documents directly.

Step 5: Create & Complete a New Application

  • Once open, start your application via your dashboard.
  • Save progress frequently and you can complete the sections in any order.

Step 6: Submit Your Application

  • Once satisfied with your application, submit it for review. Note that after submission, edits are not possible.

Step 7: Educator Endorsement

  • After submitting, request an endorsement from an educator via their email.
  • Inform your educator ahead of time to expect the request and consider using a non-school email to avoid spam filters.

Encourage Your Educator! Recommend that your educator applies for the NCWIT Educator Award to recognize their support.

This guide should help streamline your application process for the Aspirations in Computing High School Award. Good luck!

View of a woman standing next to an audience.

How to Prepare for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing High School Awards

If you’re really aiming to win an NCWIT Aspirations in Computing High School Award, preparing effectively can significantly boost your chances. This section will guide you through tips to strengthen your application and showcase your computing skills and achievements.

Advanced Courses and Electives

Taking advanced courses and electives in computing-related subjects can demonstrate your commitment to the field and enhance your knowledge and skills. Examples of relevant courses include:

Emphasize your involvement in advanced courses and electives and highlight any exceptional achievements or grades you’ve earned in these subjects.

Extracurricular Activities and Academic Competitions

In addition to strong academic performance, participation in extracurricular activities and academic competitions related to computing can help you stand out as an AiC Awards applicant. Examples of such activities and competitions include:

Provide details about your involvement in these activities and competitions to emphasize the accomplishments and the skills you’ve developed through your participation.

Research and Independent Studies

Engaging in research projects or independent studies on computing-related topics can further demonstrate your passion for the field. Collaborate with teachers, professors, or mentors on research projects, or explore a topic of interest independently. Describe your research experiences and the knowledge you’ve gained through these endeavors.

Awards and Honors

Receiving awards or honors for your academic achievements or computing-related pursuits can help showcase your dedication to the field. Examples of such awards or honors include:

Highlight any awards or honors you’ve received, as these achievements can further strengthen your application.

Letters of Recommendation

Strong letters of recommendation from teachers, mentors, or supervisors can provide value into your academic achievements and potential in the field of computing.

Request testimonials from individuals who can speak to your dedication, accomplishments, and academic excellence. When applying for the AiC Awards, submit compelling letters of recommendation that attest to your scholastic aptitude and passion for computing.

What are the benefits of winning the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing High School Awards?

Winning the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Awards offers a range of benefits that enhance both personal and professional growth. Here’s how being a recipient of this prestigious award can impact you:

Winning an AiC Award sets you apart in the tech community. It signals your skills, achievements, and passion for computing to peers, educators, and potential employers, highlighting your standout qualities in a competitive field.

You will join a great network of peers, mentors, and industry leaders. This community is a good source of networking opportunities, potentially leading to career advancements and long-lasting professional relationships. The mentorship provided can offer crucial guidance as you navigate your career and academic paths.

The award grants access to exclusive resources such as scholarships and internships provided by NCWIT partners. These can reduce the financial burden of education and offer practical experience, which is essential for building a robust professional network and enhancing your resume.

Achieving an AiC Award affirms your hard work and success, boosting your confidence. This recognition empowers you to pursue further challenges, break new ground in technology, and inspire other young women to explore computing fields.

a female student being interviewed

Prizes

Prizes National Award Winner National Honorable Mention Regional Affiliate Award Winner Regional Affiliate Honorable Mention Regional Affiliate Rising Star
Cash and a trip to National Award for AiC Celebration, hosted by Bank of America
Recognition at a Regional Affiliate Award event (at the discretion of the Regional Affiliate Award program)
An engraved award for the recipient
A customized medal
A personalized award certificate
Scholarship and internship opportunities
Automatic induction into the AiC Community—a national network of peers, supported by professionals and volunteers
Various prizes, such as computing resources, gadgets, swag, and more

Definition of Award Designations

Applicants have the opportunity to win awards at both the National and Regional Affiliate levels. The award categories for the 2023-24 period are as follows:

National Awards

  • Winner: This is given to the highest-achieving students who showcase the diversity of the applicant pool. Previous winners of the National Award cannot win this category more than once.
  • Honorable Mention: Awarded to high-achieving students who also represent the diverse backgrounds of the applicants.

Regional Affiliate Awards

  • Winner: This award goes to students who have shown significant interest and skill in computing.
  • Honorable Mention: Given to students who have demonstrated their interest and ability in computing.
  • Rising Star: This designation is for students who are computing beginners. Rising Stars are recognized for their potential and are encouraged to further explore the field.

University students checking something in a notebook.

Key Dates for the 2024 Aspirations in Computing High School Award

  • For those interested in the 2024 Aspirations in Computing High School Award, the application period starts at 12:00 a.m. ET on Friday, September 1, 2023.
  • Make sure to submit your applications by the deadline of 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, November 6, 2023.
  • Applicants will receive notifications about the National Award in January, and those for the Regional Affiliate Award by the end of February. Award recipients will get further details about the ceremony from their Regional Affiliate Coordinator. The award ceremonies are scheduled for the spring, typically between March and June.

The Importance of Aspirations in Computing (AiC) Programs

Computing and computational thinking are important skills in the 21st century, leading to innovative solutions for both global and local issues. As technology becomes a fundamental part of every industry, skills in computing are increasingly in demand.

Career Opportunities in Computing

For those studying computing, job prospects are promising. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2026, there will be 3.5 million job openings in computing-related fields. These roles typically offer job security, high salaries—with a median annual wage of about $76,000—and the opportunity to work on meaningful and creative projects. Technology professionals often lead efforts to solve critical issues in health, environmental protection, and connectivity.

Challenges in Computing Education

However, not everyone is benefiting equally from opportunities in computing. Students with disabilities, girls, and many youths of color often receive less encouragement and fewer opportunities to engage with computing, both formally and informally. This is evident as only 34 states and the District of Columbia recognize computer science as a graduation requirement in math or science. Moreover, women represent only 28% of the test-takers for the Computer Science Advanced Placement (AP) exams, despite being 56% of all AP test-takers.

Transforming Technology

The NCWIT Aspirations in Computing (AiC) initiative aims to transform the landscape of technology by promoting diversity. Technologies should be developed by a workforce as diverse as the people who use them, yet this isn’t currently the case. AiC tackles this issue by providing awards, scholarships, internships, and a supportive community that builds leadership, technical, and entrepreneurial skills among women.

Closing the Diversity Gap

AiC also offers practical advice for bridging the diversity gap through the NCWIT resources library, which contains hundreds of free tools useful for K-12 education, higher education, and corporate environments. These resources help increase awareness, knowledge, and action to make sure every voice is heard in technology development.

Final Thoughts

The NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Awards provide a great opportunity for young women, genderqueer, and non-binary students interested in computing. This award will connect you to a supportive network that can help you grow, give valuable resources, advice, and recognition that can boost your career and educational opportunities. Getting the highly coveted AiC Awards is a step towards exciting opportunities in the tech world that prioritizes a diverse and inclusive environment where new ideas flourish. Use this guide to apply and make the most of the Aspirations in Computing Awards. Good luck, and make your mark in the world of computing!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I apply for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing High School Awards?

To apply, you must first create or update your account at aspirations.org. After setting up your account, you can fill out and submit your application through the website starting September 1, with all applications due by November 6.

2. What are the eligibility criteria for the NCWIT AiC High School Awards?

Applicants must be women, genderqueer, or non-binary students in grades 9-12. They need to be at least 13 years old, not employees or close relatives of NCWIT staff, and attend a U.S. school or a U.S. overseas military base. Those under 18 must have parental or guardian approval.

3. What types of awards can I win through the NCWIT AiC program?

There are three levels of awards: National Awards, Regional Affiliate Awards, and the Rising Star designation. Each recognizes students at different stages of their computing journey, from proven skills to emerging potential.

4. What benefits do award recipients receive?

Winners gain recognition within the tech community, access to scholarships, internships, and a network of peers and mentors. These resources provide significant support for educational and career development in technology fields.

5. When and how will I be notified about the award decision?

Notification for the National Award is sent out in January and for the Regional Affiliate Award by the end of February. All communication is done via email, and further details about award ceremonies and next steps are provided to the recipients.

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