alumni events

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 High School Students Focus on College

What is college really like? How much work is it, and can you have fun while still doing well academically? On Saturday, March 10, BEAM high school students spent the day focusing on college: the experience, the application process, and the next steps for each student. During the morning, five former BEAM 6 and 7 camp counselors spoke about their college experiences. Raul, Oksana, Marquia, John, and Rachel shared from their time at MIT, City College, SUNY Oswego, Fordham, and Bard College.

They addressed the challenges of being students of color on predominately white campuses. "Often in class I will get an attitude, like 'You don't get an opinion because you're Black'" said John. "You have to get used to being the only person of color in classes." Marquia shared that even though the student body at Oswego was more diverse, there was still little diversity among the faculty. In contrast, Oksana enjoyed the great diversity at City College, but she faced other challenges. "Because my high school did not prepare me well, I noticed that I had to work harder than other students. I had to put my best foot forward."

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Counselor Panel

In the afternoon BEAM students focused on the college admissions process. They played the role of admissions officers, selecting only two out five applicants to admit. This led into a discussion of what steps they could take now to better prepare themselves for college. The day ended with breakout groups by grade, with specific advice for 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students. The 11th grade students also heard from current BEAM 12th graders about how college admissions went for them.

BEAM 8th Grade Visits Hudson River Trading

On Wednesday, February 21, 13 BEAM 8th grade students had the chance to visit Hudson River Trading's (HRT) Manhattan office. The afternoon began with a pizza lunch, and a chance to talk with HRT employees about their work. 

Afterwards, BEAM students heard from an employee panel about their experiences working at HRT. They also saw a demonstration of using math and programming together to calculate the Fibonacci series. Three different ways of calculating the series resulted in drastically different computational times.

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After the presentation, the students toured the office, including the gym and playroom, and took pictures on the terrace overlooking the Hudson. Everyone enjoyed the warm weather and great views! The day ended with games in the playroom and some awesome HRT swag. Afterwards, Porter said "It was cool!" "The had great views, and it was fun," said L.

BEAM would like to thank everyone at HRT for organizing and hosting an amazing trip. 

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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
Angelina
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!

AMC 8 Results

As you may recall, students took the AMC 8 contest back in November, and we wanted to report on how they did!

The AMC 8 is a 25 question contest, and it's quite challenging.  This year, 108,295 students nationwide took the contest.  The median (middle) student scored 9 -- just over a third of the questions answered correctly!  To score in the top 25% percentile, students had to score at least 12.  Only 90 students across the world got a perfect score. 

Of the 11 BEAM students who took the contest, seven scored above 9 questions correct, putting them above the nationwide average.  Good work, everyone!  We are particularly impressed by Agata, whose score of 20 puts her the top 5% nationwide, and one question away from making the honor roll. BEAM is sure this a sign of future success yet to come.  

Agata

Winter Party 2016

Each year, we invite all BEAM alumni and staff back together for a winter party of board games, pizza, music, and time together. It's so nice to have our BEAM family back in the same place, spending time together. 

This year, as a fun extra treat, we also set up a photo booth for alumni and staff. Check out all the portraits we captured!

From all the BEAM staff, we wish you a happy holiday season and a happy new year!

Applying to High School: "It wasn't this hard when I was in 8th grade!"

It's that time again!  Every quarter, we recap recent news and upcoming events for our followers.  The most recent newsletter featured information about how 8th grade BEAM students apply to high school, an invitation to our upcoming trivia night, our inaugural "what we're reading section", and a recap of our recent essay writing workshop (because the growth mindset applies to writing just as much as it does to math!). 

To read the full newsletter, click here.  Sign up for future BEAM announcements at the bottom of this page. 

Getting on track for 8th grade: High School Information Session

This Saturday, 45 8th graders and their families joined BEAM to hear about high schools, how to apply, and also to hear the perspectives of BEAM students now in high school.  At the end of the event, students went home with personalized recommendations for which high schools to apply to as well as a calendar of next steps. 

High School Information Session

Missed the event?  Here's some information and advice from our high school BEAM students. 

BEAM suggested that I apply to NEST+m because I was studying for the SHSAT and the exams are similar. I ended up not getting into any specialized schools, but I did get into NEST+m. I have just finished two weeks there and I like it. Everyone is friendly. You can go up to an 11th grader and ask a question and they will help you.
— Adrianne, 9th grade, NEST+m
Adrianne
I first studied for the SHSAT during my summer at BEAM. I ended up being accepted into Bronx Science and Bard High School Early College and chose Bronx Science. There was some culture shock when I first arrived, but it’s absolutely the right school for me.
— Andy, 11th grade, Bronx Science
Andy
BEAM exposed me to high schools I had never heard of. I went to visit Bard High School Early College (BHSEC) with BEAM. In the end, I got into both Brooklyn Tech and BHSEC. BEAM helped me make a decision and I went with BHSEC, which is the best choice I ever made.
— Lennin, 10th grade, BHSEC
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I went to the Citywide High School Fair with BEAM. They taught me how to shake hands and introduce myself. While there, I talked with the Assistant Principal of the Academy for Software Engineering (AFSE). I really liked her and the school, so I went to an Open House to learn more. I ended up ranking it first and got in. I like the school because of its community environment.
— Mona, 11th grade, AFSE
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You can read more about each of their high schools on InsideSchools:

8th graders?  Interested in attending one of these schools?

  • Next step for Academy for Software Engineering: sign up for their mailing list; then, attend an Open House
  • Next step for Bard High School Early College: come to the essay writing workshop on October 1; then, take the admissions assessment with us on October 25
  • Next step for Bronx Science: keep studying for the SHSAT and ask BEAM for help with that
  • Next step for NEST+m: sign up for the entrance exam; we recommend the October 29 date, as it's exactly one week after the SHSAT

BEAM is here to help with high school!  Please reach out if you have any questions. 

Winter Party

With all of our important academic events, it's great to also make time for BEAM students to come together and just hang out!  Every December and June, BEAM hosts a party for students in grades 8-12 to get together with their friends, eat, and play games. 

Students and staff play Blokus

It was wonderful to see old friends and new get together!  Enjoy some photos of students and staff having a great time together: