12th grade

Welcome to BEAM’s College Prep Panel on Applying to College!

Six rising, current, and former college students from universities across the country joined BEAM's College Prep Week this August to share their experiences applying for college with BEAM rising 11th and 12th graders, currently navigating this process themselves.

Aisha BEAM '13 (Northwestern University) and Edson BEAM '13 (University of Southern California) will both start college this school year. They just recently navigated the confusing world of college applications themselves. Abdel BEAM '12 (NYU Polytechnic), Ana BEAM '12 (Barnard College), and John BEAM '12 (Fordham University) are all rising sophomores and can look back at their college application process with a whole year of college experience under their belt. Finally, Sylvia, BEAM staff and a graduate of SUNY Albany, rounds out our panel with an inside perspective on the SUNY system and the wisdom of several years of work experience.

The panel had a lot to say about their college application process, and answered many important questions: the how’s and the what’s, the in’s and the out’s, the up’s and the downs of getting into college. Our panelists talked about topics like choosing schools and time management skills. If you are applying for college or just want some advice, here are some of the questions and answers of our College Prep Panel!

From left to right: Abdel, Sylvia, Aisha, Edson, John, and Ana address rising 11th and 12th graders during College Prep Week.

From left to right: Abdel, Sylvia, Aisha, Edson, John, and Ana address rising 11th and 12th graders during College Prep Week.

How did you choose which colleges to apply to? What kind of things went into that? 

  • Aisha: I was looking for schools that were well-rounded. And schools that I could switch majors, because I knew I was coming in undecided. And schools that had good financial aid.

  • Abdel: I looked at three things. Money. Location. Major. Location: my parents wanted me to stay close to home. So in the city. In state you get more money, especially since NYU has a HEOP program that covers a lot of costs. In terms of major, engineering.

  • Ana: High school affected a lot. I wanted the opposite of my high school experience [at Brooklyn Tech]. Fewer men. Farther from home.

Can you explain a little bit about the common application? 

Sylvia is a Program Assistant at BEAM and one of her major roles is shepherding the current 12th graders through the college process.

Sylvia is a Program Assistant at BEAM and one of her major roles is shepherding the current 12th graders through the college process.

  • Sylvia: It is like a portal, where you can submit all your applications through this one website.

  • John: So it is very convenient.

In your later years of high school, say 11th and 12 grade, how do you split up your time? 

  • Aisha: It all depends on what your situation is like. For me I kinda figure out how to split up time in November [of twelfth grade]. It all depended on my schedule; if something was due for school I would just get it out of way right then and there because I needed to use all of my time for applications.

  • Sylvia: Something that I prioritized was taking care of myself too. It is important to take care of myself too. Having a planner is important so you can schedule around [taking care of yourself].

  • Ana: Time management is definitely important. That is something that I am still learning to do. It is something that I didn't know how to do in high school so I wasn't taking care of myself. So like keeping a planner I can't stress it enough.

Do you use a paper planner? What do you use? 

  • Sylvia: I had a paper planner that was really helpful for me. Now, at work, I use an app called Evernote.

  • Aisha: I use the reminder app on my phone. Because I procrastinate, I would make a fake deadline that is earlier.

  • Ana: I use a paper planner. I think writing down kinda speaks it into existence. If I don't write it down it's not getting done.

A note from BEAM: rising 11th graders who attend Saturday BEAM Next classes get some swanky planners, donated to us by Passion Planner. We may have extra planners for those not going to Saturday classes and 11th and 12th graders can request those!

How early should you start working on things and what should you focus on? 

  • Abdel: Start asking for recommendation letters. I'd say recommendation letters should be the first on your list to do. Personal statement. Start thinking about what you are going to write the summer before.

  • Sylvia: Just start thinking about your essay in your mind. They have the prompts on common app beforehand. So you can start getting ideas.

  • John: Making a spread sheet about yourself, everything you have done. Also... BEAM does give you a calendar of when things should be done. The earliest we started was January of 11th grade, drafting our essays. That is something you can start on just choosing which days, days you are going to thing about college applications, days you are going to study for SAT.

John starts early! Here he is at BEAM College Prep Week 2016 along with Zereena, also BEAM '12, who attends SUNY Binghamton. They're both working on their essays!

John starts early! Here he is at BEAM College Prep Week 2016 along with Zereena, also BEAM '12, who attends SUNY Binghamton. They're both working on their essays!

Did any of you let average grades discourage you? 

  • Edson: I didn't let it discourage me. Mostly because I am a very optimistic. Even if you are doing good, keep shooting to do better. Because what colleges care about is growth.

  • Aisha: I realized after all the college stuff was done and people started getting acceptances, I realized that grades are important but that isn't all they look at. They aren't just looking for a good grade, they are looking for someone who can bring something extra to their school as a person.

Someone mentioned something about being well-rounded? What if you don't have the time? 

  • Sylvia: There were small clubs that I was part of, and you know being on a club doesn't have to take too much time. So I think it is about finding your own niche, what you can do, what you enjoy and what your school offers.

  • John: Basketball. Cross country. Dancing. You can also list taking care of brothers and sisters at home as an activity.

  • Abdel: Volunteering. Working. It's not just sports.

How do you figure out how many schools to apply to? 

  • Aisha: I applied to too many schools that had a lot of requirements. My case was that 14 of my schools involved writing supplemental essays, sending extra stuff, it was also really expensive.

  • Abdel: There are three types of schools that you can apply too. Safety, reach and target. I would just say balance it out and make sure you are not overdoing it.

  • Sylvia: I think another way to narrow down your list is actually talking to people who went to the school.

What was something that you don't like about your school that you wished you looked at? 

  • Sylvia: How expensive it was.

  • Edson: The diversity of the school. USC is still a great school, but the diversity is kinda unbalanced. I wish I would have looked into it.

  • Ana: I kinda knew what I was getting myself into as far as the student body looked like and even the social life looks like. One thing that I wish I had known was how economically segregated it is.

How did you brainstorm your ideas for your essay? 

  • Aisha: For me, my high school they had for incoming seniors it was mandatory you needed to write two essays about things that you might want to. I didn't want to write about being undecided. But then I heard this song. And it was an awesome song. So I decided to write about being undecided. Because that song was about being undecided. I wrote two sentences and gave it to my teacher and she didn't like it because it was about being undecided. But I liked it so I wrote about that.

  • Edson: My teacher said think of something that is really personal to you. I was like I will write about tacos as a joke. Imagine a donut, a jelly donut, the way to structure your essay is to get down to the jelly. Like why you really want to get an education. So I wrote about how tacos are really personal to me. How such a simple food can be a luxury for people who don't have a lot of money.

Final words of wisdom? 

  • John: I think the thing that helped me the most was, I play a lot of basketball and I met upperclassmen through basketball. Meet people through whatever activities interest you.

  • Aisha: Don't psyche yourself out too much about certain statistics. If you really want to apply for a school then just go for it. For my school, I didn't look at the acceptance rate, and if I had I wouldn't have applied in the first place. And I am really glad that I did.

  • Abdel: Try new stuff.

From left to right: Abdel, Ana, John, Aisha, and Edson, each wearing college gear!

From left to right: Abdel, Ana, John, Aisha, and Edson, each wearing college gear!

BEAM's Pre-Summer Newsletter is Here!

Last Friday, BEAM's quarterly newsletter arrived in the inboxes of all our subscribers! The newsletter featured:

  • An update on BEAM's growth (380 students at BEAM programs this summer!)
  • Congratulations to our 12th graders on their college plans
  • "What We're Reading"
  • Updates on BEAM Los Angeles

Missed the newsletter?  You can always read it online.  And make sure you don't miss the next one!  Sign up for our mailing list. 

12th Grade Graduation Party!

Five years goes by so fast! This Saturday, we gathered together to celebrate the BEAM 7 cohort of 2013 who graduate high school this month!

BEAM staffer Lynn hands Eli their Howard sweatshirt. 

BEAM staffer Lynn hands Eli their Howard sweatshirt. 

The evening kicked off with a ceremony to hand our college swag to the students in attendance. This was followed by dinner followed by two presentations.

First, BEAM staffer Ayinde announced the launch of "BEAM Through College", a new initiative to support students through college, handling topics that may include how to choose classes, how to build relationships with professors, how to declare a major, how to land an internship, and more! Students will also have monthly reminders to, for example, fill out the FAFSA, as well as semesterly check-ins with Ayinde and alumni events during school breaks. The program starts this summer, with advice on what to expect during orientation and how to build a balanced schedule. BEAM Through College will serve these graduating seniors as well as all BEAM alums already in college: the cohorts of 2011, 2012, and 2013. Our aim is that students keep receiving the same tailored, practical advice they have come to expect from BEAM and that they stay on track to finish STEM majors and graduate college. 

Ayinde and Aisha discuss how to choose classes for your first semester when you're undecided. 

Ayinde and Aisha discuss how to choose classes for your first semester when you're undecided. 

Joel attends Wesleyan where he plans to declare a double major in biology and psychology before going on to med school. Angelina attends the University of Rochester where she plans to major in math. 

Joel attends Wesleyan where he plans to declare a double major in biology and psychology before going on to med school. Angelina attends the University of Rochester where she plans to major in math. 

Then, Angelina and Joel (BEAM 7 2012) shared their experiences in college and took questions on highs and lows, academic and social. Both talked about learning how to study and realizing that the skills they came in with hadn't prepared them for science classes where your entire grade might be determined by three, big tests. Angelina recommended studying small amounts every day. Joel suggested going to a professor's office hours to better understand exactly what will be on the test. Angelina gave advice on how to find a roommate; Joel suggested the reasons you might prefer a single. They also both talked about resources on campus to turn to when you're confused. 

After the formal part of the evening was over, students and staff hung out and talked until the building closed. 

Congratulations, 12th graders! We can't wait to see what great things you do next!!

Back Row: James (Marines), Samuel (TBD), Vielka (SUNY ESF), Will (Haverford)  Middle Row: Mona (Barnard), Ariel (Brandeis), Aisha (Northwestern), Edson (USC)  Front Row: Crisleidy (City Year), Eli (Howard)  Not Pictured: Abrahan (BMCC), Aishat (Yale), Aleks (Penn State), Alex (Vanderbilt), Andy (CUNY Baruch), Christian (LaGuardia CC), DeVaune (SUNY New Paltz), Henry (UMass Amherst), Janequa (Cornell), LaRoi (Gettysburg), Malachi (SUNY Binghamton), Michael (CUNY City College), Pamela (Smith), Peter (UMBC), Thalyia (CUNY City Tech), Tia (Delaware State). 

Back Row: James (Marines), Samuel (TBD), Vielka (SUNY ESF), Will (Haverford)

Middle Row: Mona (Barnard), Ariel (Brandeis), Aisha (Northwestern), Edson (USC)

Front Row: Crisleidy (City Year), Eli (Howard)

Not Pictured: Abrahan (BMCC), Aishat (Yale), Aleks (Penn State), Alex (Vanderbilt), Andy (CUNY Baruch), Christian (LaGuardia CC), DeVaune (SUNY New Paltz), Henry (UMass Amherst), Janequa (Cornell), LaRoi (Gettysburg), Malachi (SUNY Binghamton), Michael (CUNY City College), Pamela (Smith), Peter (UMBC), Thalyia (CUNY City Tech), Tia (Delaware State). 

In Their Words: Our 12th graders reflect back on five years with BEAM

This June, we gathered 12 BEAM 12th graders to reflect on their five years with BEAM. Over dinner, we talked about college, and Fatimatou (BEAM 2011) offered advice from her first year of college. Students were presented with college tshirts to celebrate their next step!

We asked these 12 students and another 10 who weren't able to make it about their memories from BEAM 7 back in 2012 and how BEAM helped prepare them for college. Here are some of their words:

My strongest memory of BEAM was the talent show. I started crying 3/4s of the way into it as I realized that after this BEAM would end and I’d have to go back home. BEAM introduced me to ultimate frisbee, foosball, Settlers of Catan, and Pascal’s Triangle. The math that we were introduced to was fun and completely different from what I’d encountered at my middle school. The math I’d been taught felt stiff and rigid in structure while the math taught at BEAM felt liquid; it almost had a flow to it. BEAM math was satisfying to complete. The math relays at the end of each week were also really fun. I remember excitedly dashing across the room to give my answers in and scribbling down equations and numbers as fast as I and my brain could manage. It felt good to see everyone together.
— Amy, headed to Fordham University
Amy
Amy
BEAM was one of the first steps towards me developing skills that would assist me in learning when living away from home. The work ethic imposed upon us to struggle through a BEAM problem set together later helped me in boarding school when I ended up struggling again. I learned how to stick with a problem even when the end was not clearly in sight. I also learned ways to think outside the box and look at a problem through unique lens. Furthermore, BEAM helped me a lot in my search for college. Oftentimes, I returned to BEAM to talk about college, how my classes were going, and life at boarding school. BEAM was an important support system all throughout my high school career.
— Joel, headed to Wesleyan University
Joel
I loved and still love learning. It was an amazing experience to be around people that were like me, who had the same nerdy interests. BEAM allowed me to not only fully embrace learning but also gave me a small college experience that I loved. And even after! I’m so grateful for the amount of support and experience BEAM gave me. I learned to be more ambitious with my goals which ultimately paved the way for summer programs at MIT and more.
— Nicole, headed to NYU
Nicole
BEAM had allowed me to be familiar with difficult math than I had encountered in my early college classes. My strongest memory of BEAM 7 is when we all went out to look at the stars with councelors. As a 12th grader, I received lots of help from Dan and Ruthi, allowing me to determine which college was best for me.
— Quentin, headed to Ithaca College
Quentin
Quentin
Living on a college campus taught me what I want from a college. And of course, BEAM helped me find out more about the college process and be ahead of the game when it came to applying.
— Angelina, headed to University of Rochester
Angelina
BEAM connected me with advanced math and connected me with Bard High School Early College, which is a great school that has given me a great work ethic and time management skills. This will be my second summer working at BEAM 6, which was a job when I needed one, but also an opportunity to mold young minds and connect them to higher math.
— John, headed to Fordham University
John
BEAM prepared me for college, because I got to live on a college campus and befriend people who I least expected. I learned it’s ok to question someone else’s answer. My strongest memory of BEAM is when I proved Dan wrong on a math problem.
— Jamila, headed to Howard University
Jamila
BEAM has connected me with summer programs to have the most impactful summers of my life. Thanks to BEAM, I attended Mathworks Honors Summer Math Camp at Texas State.
— Abdoulaye, headed to George Washington University
Abdoulaye
Abdoulaye
Staying on a college campus changed my decision about going to college from maybe to definitely. BEAM showed me the rigor of college level work and taught me how to work hard and to balance school life with social life.
— Nicy, headed to University of Bridgeport
Nicy
BEAM made me love the college life. I’m excited to meet new people and have awesome experiences in college. Also, thanks to BEAM, I skipped two grades of math while in high school!
— Gustavo, headed to Brooklyn College
Gustavo.jpg
BEAM 2012 along with BEAM Founder and Art of Problem Solving Initiative Executive Director Daniel Zaharopol  Back Row: Kiara (Lehigh University), Kiara (John Jay College), Joel (Wesleyan University), Quentin (Ithaca College), Angelina (University of Rochester), Derek (Colby College), Dominic (Pace University) Front Row: Ana (Barnard College), John (Fordham University), Jahdel (City Tech) Not Pictured: Abdel (New York University), Abdoulaye (George Washington University), Amy (Fordham University), Emalee (Hunter College), Greiny (SUNY Geneseo), Gustavo (Brooklyn College), Isaiah (SUNY Potsdam), Jamila (Howard University), Loquan (SUNY Albany), Nathaniel (Bronx Community College), Nicole (New York University), Shaunicia (University of Bridgeport), Salimatou (Baruch College), Stephanie (SUNY Plattsburgh), Taylor (Allegheny College), Zereena (SUNY Binghamton)

BEAM 2012 along with BEAM Founder and Art of Problem Solving Initiative Executive Director Daniel Zaharopol
Back Row: Kiara (Lehigh University), Kiara (John Jay College), Joel (Wesleyan University), Quentin (Ithaca College), Angelina (University of Rochester), Derek (Colby College), Dominic (Pace University)
Front Row: Ana (Barnard College), John (Fordham University), Jahdel (City Tech)
Not Pictured: Abdel (New York University), Abdoulaye (George Washington University), Amy (Fordham University), Emalee (Hunter College), Greiny (SUNY Geneseo), Gustavo (Brooklyn College), Isaiah (SUNY Potsdam), Jamila (Howard University), Loquan (SUNY Albany), Nathaniel (Bronx Community College), Nicole (New York University), Shaunicia (University of Bridgeport), Salimatou (Baruch College), Stephanie (SUNY Plattsburgh), Taylor (Allegheny College), Zereena (SUNY Binghamton)

They're off to college! Congrats to BEAM 12th Graders

BEAM 2012

Five years ago, these students were 7th graders heading to BEAM for the first time. Today, they are 12th graders who are one month away from high school graduation!

While we haven't yet heard back from all 38 BEAM alumni, we want to take a minute to congratulate these students on their admissions results!  

  • Abdel: New York University

  • Abdoulaye: George Washington University

  • Amy: Fordham University

  • Ana: Barnard College

  • Angelina: University of Rochester

  • Ashlee: SUNY Albany

  • Derek: Colby College

  • Dominic: Pace University

  • Emalee: Hunter College (CUNY)

  • Greiny: SUNY Geneseo

  • Gustavo: Brooklyn College (CUNY)

  • Isaiah: SUNY Potsdam

  • Jahdel: City Tech

  • Jamila: Howard University

  • Joel: Wesleyan University

  • John: Fordham University

  • Kiara D: Lehigh University

  • Kiara J: John Jay College

  • Loquan: SUNY Albany

  • Nathaniel: Bronx Community College

  • Nicole: New York University

  • Quentin: Ithaca College

  • Salimatou: Baruch College (CUNY)

  • Shaunicia: University of Bridgeport

  • Stephanie: SUNY Plattsburgh

  • Taylor: Allegheny College

  • Zereena: SUNY Binghamton

Check back on this post throughout the spring: college decisions will be added as we hear back!