Parent/Student Perceptions of STEM Preparedness, Inspiration

Microsoft has released STEM Perceptions:  Student and Parent Survey (PDF), reporting the results of two Harris Interactive surveys — one of college students pursuing STEM degrees, and one of parents of K-12 students  The goal was to gain insight into how to better prepare and inspire students to pursue STEM in college and STEM careers.  The PDF linked above is a 20-page Powerpoint of charts, stats, and insights.  Its summary findings:

Parent Perceptions

  • While most parents of K–12 students (93%) believe that STEM education should be a priority in the U.S., only half (49%) agree that it actually is a top priority for this country.
  • Parents who feel that STEM should be a priority feel this way because they want to ensure the U.S. remains competitive in the global marketplace (53%) and to produce the next generation of innovators (51%); fewer say it’s to enable students to have well-paying (36%) or fulfilling careers (30%).
  • Even though many parents (50%) would like to see their children pursue a STEM career, only 24% are extremely willing to spend extra money helping their children be successful in their math and science classes.

Student Perceptions

Importance of K–12 Education

  • For many, the decision to study STEM starts before college.
  • Nearly 4 in 5 STEM college students (78%) say that they decided to study STEM in high school or earlier. One in five (21%) decide in middle school or earlier.
  • More than half (57%) of STEM college students say that, before going to college, a teacher or class got them interested in STEM.
    • This is especially true of female students (68% vs. 51% males), who give “a teacher or class” as the top factor that sparked their interest.


  • Only 1 in 5 STEM college students feel that their K–12 education prepared them extremely well for their college courses in STEM.
  • Students who felt less prepared for STEM college courses said that offering more STEM courses and having better/more challenging courses would have helped to better prepare them — and for students who felt extremely/very well-prepared, it was the challenging, college-prep courses that helped to prepare them.
  • Females in STEM are more likely than males to say they were extremely/very well-prepared (64% vs. 49%) by their K–12 education, and they are slightly more likely than their male counterparts to say that preparing students for STEM should be a top priority in K–12 schools (92% vs. 84%).


  • Based on the college student survey findings, the motivation to pursue STEM studies did not originate from their parents telling them to select that subject area or even because they know the U.S. is in need of STEM graduates.
  • Rather, students indicate they are selecting a STEM path to secure their own futures.
    • –68% say they want a good salary.
    • –66% say it’s the job potential.
    • –68% say they find their degree program subject intellectually stimulating and challenging.

Gender Differences

  • The inspiration for choosing STEM varied quite a bit between males and females.
    • Male students are more likely to pursue STEM because they have always enjoyed games/toys, reading books, and/or participating in clubs that are focused on their chosen subject area (51% vs. 35% females).
    • Female students are more likely to say that they chose STEM to make a difference (49% vs. 34% males).