alumni voices

BEAM's Post-Summer Newsletter is Here!

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

  • Information about the first summer of BEAM Los Angeles

  • An invite to join BEAM for an upcoming fast-paced night of slightly-mathy trivia, 10/29 in NYC and 11/13 in LA!

  • What our alumni did this summer

  • "What We're Reading"

Missed it? You can read the newsletter now.

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Make sure you don't miss the next one! Sign up for our mailing list.

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!

Advice for Your First Summer at BEAM

Recently, we sat down with some of our older BEAM students to ask them what advice they would give to new students entering BEAM for the first time.  Here's what they had to say!

Zavier at All Star Code, 2015. 

Zavier at All Star Code, 2015. 

Zavier just finished his sophomore year at SUNY Albany where he has declared a major in computer science and a minor in art. He was a member of BEAM's first ever summer cohort: 2011. He was a Junior Counselor at BEAM 6's first summer (2016) and became of the first two BEAM alumni to work for us as full Counselors in 2017 (counselors must have completed a year of college). In 2018, he's flying to Los Angeles to staff the first summer of BEAM 6 LA. Beyond BEAM, Zavier was a member of the first ever cohort at All Star Code and he has extensive experience in coding, maker spaces, and teaching tech skills. Lots of firsts for Zavier! 

What should students expect from BEAM?

Students should expect to be encouraged to learn and be challenged by the questions they're given. They should expect to have people around them willing to help them through problems whether those problems have to do with math or not. Most importantly, students should expect to have a good time. BEAM is where I met some of the good friends I have today and I still look back on that summer remembering some of the fun times that I had.

Zavier plays tennis at BEAM 7 in 2011. 

Zavier plays tennis at BEAM 7 in 2011. 

What advice would you give to a student starting BEAM?   

The advice that I would give to a student starting BEAM is: don't feel discouraged by hard problems and don't be afraid to ask for help. BEAM helped me realize that as we grow, things become more difficult and problems seem to require more thought. Practicing patience and deeper thinking is all part of the process.

Why do you keep coming back to BEAM?

I keep coming back to BEAM because of the supportive staff. BEAM has opened the door to a lot of opportunities for me. They helped me when I was applying to high schools, they helped me when I was looking for summer programs, they helped me apply to college, and they even helped me find a job. It feels good to know that I have people who are always willing to help me out and it motivates me to do my best!

Zavier teaches Javascript to Elvis at BEAM 6 in 2017. 

Zavier teaches Javascript to Elvis at BEAM 6 in 2017. 

Tanasia at College Decision Day, 2018

Tanasia at College Decision Day, 2018

Tanasia, 12th grade, will be attending the University of Rochester in the fall where she plans to major in math. She has spent three summers at BEAM, as a 7th grade student in 2013, and then as a Junior Counselor at BEAM 6 in 2016 and 2017. During the school year, she coaches two math teams at BEAM partner middle schools, including one at her own alma mater!

What should students expect from BEAM?

The math will be difficult; you won't get it right away. You might even struggle for the first two weeks! But you'll expand how you look at math. You'll make friendships and connections that will last for a long time. It's a new, fun experience. 

What advice would you give to a student starting BEAM?

Don't be afraid to ask the staff for help! Also: even with math, the counselors don't know everything. That's normal in math, not to know everything. 

Why do you keep coming back to BEAM?

I love to see where the students start and where they end. They evolve as mathematicians and they can solve problems they couldn't do before. It's amazing. 

Tanasia plays chess with Jack, BEAM 6 (2016)

Tanasia plays chess with Jack, BEAM 6 (2016)

John showing his school pride! 

John showing his school pride! 

John just finished his freshman year at Fordham University, where he plans to declare a major in chemistry. He is also taking pre-med coursework and aims to be a surgeon. John attended Bard High School Early College and graduated with both a high school diploma and an Associate's Degree. He attended BEAM 7 in 2012, and has contributed to BEAM in so many ways since! He was a junior counselor at BEAM 6 in 2016 and 2017, he is the TA for our 8th grade Algebra class, and he works in the BEAM office as an part-time assistant during the school year. In summer 2018, he and two friends who also attended BEAM 7 in 2012 (Joel and Quentin), will be counselors at BEAM 7 Bard College. They are the first BEAM alumni to go back as staff to the exact same program they attended as students!

What should students expect from BEAM? 

I was expecting math all day and not much fun. But you should expect to be in a community of math lovers. For me, the community was the thing. I enjoyed being in a space where everyone loved math, shared my interests. Expect to be in a loving, math community. Expect to be challenged. Expect to make amazing friends you'll keep for a century. Expect to have fun: trips are amazing, the food is good, activities. It's not just math all the time; it's something immersive. 

What advice would you give to a student starting BEAM?   

Keep an open mind. It may seem tedious to lose your summer, but you'll have fun. I was afraid the first day. So, be open. Step a little outside your comfort zone. Those might be your friends for the rest of your life. 

Quentin (left, red cap), John (next to him), and members of the BEAM 7 community in 2012 during a karaoke activity. 

Quentin (left, red cap), John (next to him), and members of the BEAM 7 community in 2012 during a karaoke activity. 

When you spent that first summer with us, did you ever think you would end up being such good friends with Quentin?

He came up to me. I don't remember what he said. But ever since then, we became friends, playing basketball. BEAM helped us stay friends because they introduced us to the same high school. So I've stayed friends with him ever since. Derek, too! I didn't get to know Derek much that summer, but we became friends during high school and we still talk. 

Why do you keep coming back to BEAM?

Honestly? I want to stay part of a community that's so supportive, loves math. I want to give back. BEAM helped me move in the direction I'm moving in now. I want to influence the next generation as they figure out their path. It's an amazing program, amazing community that should continue to exist and I want to help that. 

The BEAM 6 group photo from 2017! Quentin (white jacket) is in the front row and John is all the way in the back. Mona, Zavier, Tanasia, and Rashik are here, too: Mona is in the front, on the left, Zavier is wearing a black cap in the middle on the right, Tanasia is in the middle, near the back, and Rashik is in the center, left with a baseball cap on. 

The BEAM 6 group photo from 2017! Quentin (white jacket) is in the front row and John is all the way in the back. Mona, Zavier, Tanasia, and Rashik are here, too: Mona is in the front, on the left, Zavier is wearing a black cap in the middle on the right, Tanasia is in the middle, near the back, and Rashik is in the center, left with a baseball cap on. 

Crisleidy at the Moth City Slam, spring 2018. 

Crisleidy at the Moth City Slam, spring 2018. 

Crisleidy is graduating from Brooklyn Tech this June. She's taking a gap year next year, working at City Year (an Americorps program). During the year, she volunteers at BEAM Next, our program for 9th and 10th graders, teaching life skills (like study skills). This summer, she will be a Junior Counselor at BEAM 6 in NYC. 

What should students expect from BEAM? 

To step out of your comfort zone. There's a lot of new stuff. I didn't know any math, puzzle, logic games before the summer and then I got really into them. 

What advice would you give to a student starting BEAM?  

Learn how to play chess! There's people at the program who know and they'll teach you. Try everything once! There might be something you enjoy. But you don't have to try anything you're not comfortable with. 
 
Why do you keep coming back to BEAM?

It's fun. I love the people. A nice community, a family. I can't get enough! Plus, I appreciate all the help I've gotten.

Crisleidy plays her favorite board game, Ricochet Robots, at BEAM 7 in 2013. 

Crisleidy plays her favorite board game, Ricochet Robots, at BEAM 7 in 2013. 

Rashik, volunteer math grading in 2018.

Rashik, volunteer math grading in 2018.

Rashik is an 11th grader at Bard High School Early College, which means he's currently dual-enrolled in "Year 1", the first year of his Associate's Degree. Rashik attended BEAM 7 in 2014. He was a Junior Counselor in 2017 and will be returning to that role in summer 2018. During the school year, he coaches math teams at two BEAM partner middle schools. 

What should students expect from BEAM? 

I think students should expect it to be an uncomfortable environment at first but once they're in the flow of things they'll love what they're learning and that they're surrounded by people that who also love what they're learning. Also, students should expect work they've never seen before: they may be confused by it, or it might take them longer than their normal math questions.

Rashik presents the solution to a challenge problem at BEAM 7 in 2014. 

Rashik presents the solution to a challenge problem at BEAM 7 in 2014. 

What advice would you give to a student starting BEAM? 

The most important advice I'd give is that you have to persevere and keep working even when it gets really frustrating. There's no feeling worse than being stuck on a problem forever, but there's also no feeling better than finally solving that problem. In terms of social advice, I'd tell the kids to be themselves. There are other amazing kids at BEAM, so be brave and try to make new friends and have new experiences.

Why do you keep coming back to BEAM?

I keep coming back to BEAM partly because I made some amazing friends and that small circle still exists today. But also because the open environment that BEAM has established makes me always feel welcomed; I feel like I can go to them for any problem. I always feel like I have a community outside of school or home that I can go to for help. Plus, BEAM also takes me to Yale every year which is pretty cool. 

Rashik, Eli, Tanasia, and Andy in January 2018 at our MATHCOUNTS prep event. All four of these high school students coach math teams at our partner middle schools!

Rashik, Eli, Tanasia, and Andy in January 2018 at our MATHCOUNTS prep event. All four of these high school students coach math teams at our partner middle schools!

Mona at BEAM College Day, fall 2016. 

Mona at BEAM College Day, fall 2016. 

Mona is graduating from the Academy for Software Engineering this June. She'll be attending Barnard College as a HEOP Scholar this fall. She plans to major in mathematics with a computer science concentration. During the year, Mona is the TA for BEAM's Saturday programming class (for 9th and 10th graders). She was also been a Junior Counselor at BEAM 6 in 2017. 

What should students expect from BEAM? 

To have a lot of fun. Honestly. You might not expect that. Maybe your parents pushed you to do it. But it's not like school, it's fun. At the same time, expect it to be challenging.

What advice would you give to a student starting BEAM?  

Be open minded. Lots of activities you might not be sure about. Don't say: I'm not good at this, I don't want to try it. Check it out!
 
Why do you keep coming back to BEAM?

It's a family! It's relationships. The people are easy to talk to, they make you feel comfortable. That sounds cheesy but it's true. 

Mona (front) with a dozen BEAM students at our annual Slightly Mathy Trivia Night, fall 2017. Crisleidy, John, and Rashik are also pictured!

Mona (front) with a dozen BEAM students at our annual Slightly Mathy Trivia Night, fall 2017. Crisleidy, John, and Rashik are also pictured!

The Joy of Math

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Everything was just amazing... I learned to love math’s beauty.
— Andy, 12th grade, Bronx Science, speaking about his experience at BEAM in summer 2013

Think back to 7th grade: what did you know or think about math? Each year, we ask graduates of BEAM 7 to talk about their three weeks with us on a college campus, doing math. One of the most interesting questions is: "What is math to you?"  Here are a few of our favorite answers from over the years!

"Math is thinking and trying your best. Math is everything."  -- Aishat, now in 12th grade, has been admitted to Yale, Pomona, Wesleyan, Swarthmore, Vassar, Macalaster, UVA, and SUNY Geneseo, and has decided to attend Yale. She has also been awarded the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship. 

"Math is thinking and trying your best. Math is everything."

-- Aishat, now in 12th grade, has been admitted to Yale, Pomona, Wesleyan, Swarthmore, Vassar, Macalaster, UVA, and SUNY Geneseo, and has decided to attend Yale. She has also been awarded the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship. 

"It is not just numbers and a bunch of variables; it's something that actually is fun and exciting."  -- Aleks, now in 12th grade, has been admitted to Syracuse, St. John's Penn State, and four campuses of the City University of New York (CUNY). She will be attending St. John's. 

"It is not just numbers and a bunch of variables; it's something that actually is fun and exciting."

-- Aleks, now in 12th grade, has been admitted to Syracuse, St. John's Penn State, and four campuses of the City University of New York (CUNY). She will be attending St. John's. 

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" A way I can express my thoughts and talk with and engage in fun arguments with my friends."  -- Alex, now in 9th grade, attends the Cate School on full scholarship. 

" A way I can express my thoughts and talk with and engage in fun arguments with my friends."

-- Alex, now in 9th grade, attends the Cate School on full scholarship. 

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"Math is the ability to understand the world around you using numbers and ideas."  -- Camila, now in 8th grade, has been admitted to Bard High School Early College. She is also a Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholar. 

"Math is the ability to understand the world around you using numbers and ideas."

-- Camila, now in 8th grade, has been admitted to Bard High School Early College. She is also a Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholar. 

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"My favorite subject. The structure of building and thinking."  -- Edgar, now in 8th grade, has been admitted to both Brooklyn Latin and Bard High School Early College. 

"My favorite subject. The structure of building and thinking."

-- Edgar, now in 8th grade, has been admitted to both Brooklyn Latin and Bard High School Early College. 

"The best subject in the world and the most interesting one."  -- Eli, now in 12th grade, has been admitted to Howard, SUNY Binghamton, UConn, University of Kentucky, Syracuse, College of Staten Island, and Lehman College, and will be attending Howard, planning to study engineering. They were also a Questbridge College Prep Scholar. They have worked as a Junior Counselor at BEAM 6, an Algebra TA for our 8th grade class, and a math team coach for two middle school teams. 

"The best subject in the world and the most interesting one."

-- Eli, now in 12th grade, has been admitted to Howard, SUNY Binghamton, UConn, University of Kentucky, Syracuse, College of Staten Island, and Lehman College, and will be attending Howard, planning to study engineering. They were also a Questbridge College Prep Scholar. They have worked as a Junior Counselor at BEAM 6, an Algebra TA for our 8th grade class, and a math team coach for two middle school teams. 

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"Math is life. Math is a book that never ends and you want to keep learning about."  -- Pamela, now in 12th grade, will be attending Smith College in the fall. She was also a Questbridge National College Match Finalist. 

"Math is life. Math is a book that never ends and you want to keep learning about."

-- Pamela, now in 12th grade, will be attending Smith College in the fall. She was also a Questbridge National College Match Finalist. 

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"Math is something that you can learn that will open up doors to new opportunities."  -- Zeñia, now in 11th grade, attends St. Mark's School. After three summers at the Center for Talented Youth (CTY), this summer she will attend Cooper Union's Summer STEM Program on a full scholarship. 

"Math is something that you can learn that will open up doors to new opportunities."

-- Zeñia, now in 11th grade, attends St. Mark's School. After three summers at the Center for Talented Youth (CTY), this summer she will attend Cooper Union's Summer STEM Program on a full scholarship. 

Finally, we want to take a second to call out Lismary's quote (below). Lismary, who goes by "L" after her favorite anime character, is currently in 8th grade. She attended BEAM 6 and then BEAM 7, where she fell in love in math. Next year, she will attend Bard High School Early College. She currently aims to get a PhD in number theory and to go on to become a professor of mathematics. 

Here's what she had to say:

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"Math is an amazing collection of curiosity, conjectures, and theorems. It's the language of the universe. It's something that brings us together. I want to study math because I know that I will always have questions about the universe. I want to be part of a team of mathematicians who answer those questions."

"Math is an amazing collection of curiosity, conjectures, and theorems. It's the language of the universe. It's something that brings us together. I want to study math because I know that I will always have questions about the universe. I want to be part of a team of mathematicians who answer those questions."