BEAM Alumni Focus Group

How do we help BEAM alumni?  How can we do better?

BEAM has been running for 6+ years, long enough to have alumni in college and to have grown enormously as a program. As we move past our first 5 years and well into our first decade, we want to know what our students value about BEAM and what else we can do for them.

This month, we convened our first in a series of focus groups of alumni (with separate parent series coming later).

Here's what they had to say!

The best part of BEAM is Office Hours! I had a new teacher for English, and I needed to learn how to write better. And I was in a way harder math class than before. And I felt more comfortable asking “stupid” questions here at BEAM than I did in school.
I wish I had more help knowing how to study.
— Aishat, 11th grade, Brooklyn Friends School
Last summer, I attended BEAM College Prep, which was so helpful. I didn’t really understand financial aid. I took notes on financial aid and I didn’t understand them but then I would refer back to these notes when I did my paperwork. And I heard about special circumstances for undocumented students, how they apply, and I was able to turn around and help my friends. At BEAM College Prep, we picked target, reach, safety schools. Starting my essay during the summer also really helped, being able to brainstorm and refine my ideas. My essay turned out bomb.
— Angelina, 12th grade, East Side Community High School
BEAM was the first time I was away from home. Getting to live at Bard College in BEAM 2013 made college feel real for me.
— Christian, 11th grade, Bard High School Early College
My high school has had one graduating class, so they don’t always know how to help us with college applications. Teachers try to help, but it’s not enough. Last year, students didn’t get the financial aid forms in on time because no one told them what to do. This year, there are 12th graders who were told to apply to only CUNYs and that’s it.
BEAM helped me apply to all kinds of programs that will enable me to navigate college applications: Questbridge, F&M College Prep, LEDA. And then I take that information back and help my classmates.
— Faith, 11th grade, Comprehensive Model School Project
I screwed up in 8th grade and didn’t put Bard on my list (HS application, Round 1 form), so Bard wanted to accept me but the Department of Education couldn’t match me with my dream high school. BEAM took me to a family enrollment center to get a form and fix it.
— Felix, 10th grade, Bard High School Early College
I knew nothing about high school, and neither did my mom because she’s not from here. I had trouble knowing which HS was right for me and BEAM helped.
— Mariam, 8th grade, IS 77
In my HS, there is only 1 guidance counselor for 150 students. She has to write all the letters of recommendations for all the 12th graders and she doesn’t know us because she’s the guidance counselor for 12th graders only.
BEAM knows me and is able to give college advice that’s just right for me. BEAM helped me refine my college list, figuring out what was best for me strategically, which one would give the most money, or where you’re likely to get accepted.
— Taylor, 12th grade, Manhattan/Hunter Science High School

Students also gave feedback on their favorite and least favorite events, how to stay in touch, and what help they still need. 

Aishat: you're in luck. We are adding a week-long HS transition class in August to teach study skills before students start 9th and 10th grade. Mariam already said she will be there!  And thanks to Angelina and Taylor who agreed to form a 12th grade committee to plan our graduation party. 

We can't wait to see what other focus groups will turn up!