Thank you to the hundreds of attendees for our Bergen County Academies Prep Webinar on April 10, 2021!
We were thrilled to share our expert knowledge with so many parents and students on preparing for BCA, Bergen County Technical High School, and Academies @ Englewood admissions.
If you were unable to attend, don’t worry! We’ve compiled the most commonly asked questions and provided answers below. Plus, we’ll be offering an additional webinar on June 5th, so look out for the upcoming sign-up form on our Events page.
Q: How did COVID-19 affect the admissions process in 2020-2021?
Historically, BCA and Bergen Tech have required students to complete the following:
- an application and application essay
- entrance exam
- send their school transcript
- submit letters of recommendation
- complete an interview process (if selected)
- submit a portfolio or audition (for their visual performing arts programs)
However, in 2020, the pandemic caused BCA & BT to make 3 major changes.
#1. Virtual Open House
The first big change was the open house. In years past, the open house was held on-site, and it included a presentation by the academy students, a live Q&A session, and a campus tour. In 2020, however, open house presentations were pre-recorded and posted onto the open house websites. This matters for a few different reasons.
First, the open house was always a great way for students to find out whether they actually wanted to apply to the academy they chose. But this year, open houses were just not as engaging, and students couldn’t ask the questions they had about the academy and school life.
Second, without the firsthand exposure to the different facilities that the schools offer, students had more difficulty writing about why they wanted to go to the schools in their application essays.
And finally, without any sign-up form or roster of who tuned in, students were not able to demonstrate their interest, a small but important factor in admissions.
#2. Computer-based Entrance Exam
A second major change was the entrance exam. Traditionally the BCA/BT test is held on-site over the course of two days in January. In 2020-2021, it was transferred to a virtual platform, with a virtual proctor.
Students who were not prepared for the online exam definitely had difficulty with this new and foreign format. Fortunately, our MEK students were prepared within our BCA Prep program to master computer-based testing.
#3. Interview Changes
Finally, the interview procedure was different. First off, Academies @Englewood gave all applicants an opportunity to interview with them before the entrance exam, as opposed to inviting them based on their entrance exam scores. For BCA, all students received a one-on-one interview, and was given 7 to 8 minutes, as opposed to the customary 15 to 30 minutes. Plus, Visual and Performing Arts students were required to prepare a resume to present to their interviewer.
Q: Will these COVID-19 related changes stay the same this year?
It’s unclear yet whether Bergen County magnet schools will continue with these 2020-2021 changes, revert back to their pre-COVID norms, or use some combination of the two possibilities. However, as BCA announces their intentions throughout the coming months, MEK will continue to inform our MEK families.
Q: Are BCA, BT, and A@E’s application process all different?
BCA and Bergen Tech have the same admissions test, and students complete the application for both schools through the same application portal. However, when completing the application, they must select their program/academy choices for each school and complete a separate application essay for each school.
Furthermore, the admissions committee for BCA and Bergen Tech is different.
Historically, it is possible to be accepted to both programs, although it is not that common.
Academies @ Englewood have a completely separate application process, application essay, and entrance exam. However, the entrance exam has many overlapping skill requirements with the BCA/BT admissions test.
Q: What courses should we take to maximize our chances of getting accepted? What if my school doesn’t offer advanced math and English courses?
Over the past four years, we have compared our students who were taking higher level math classes such as Algebra II or Geometry with our students who were taking regular math classes. We discovered that close to the same percentage of students were accepted from both higher level and regular level math classes.
What does this mean?
It means that while taking higher level classes can boost your resume, many applicants apply to BCA with higher level math classes. So it won’t greatly increase your chances.
BCA really looks at students holistically. So it’s important that rather than just focusing on the courses your children take, you make sure that in their classes they are thriving. Then they can receive strong letters of recommendation from their teachers. It’s also important that they have a strong resume and application essay.
Also, they need to focus on completing actual test prep, since the entrance exam (which only tests math up to a pre-Algebra level) is very challenging even for the most advanced students.
If your school doesn’t offer advanced courses, don’t sweat it! This is why Bergen County offers an admission tests – so your child can showcase their talents and skill-level regardless of what his/her school district offers.
Q: How does school district or town factor into admissions?
A@E accepts 50% of their students from the Englewood school district, and 50% from non-Englewood public school districts.
Bergen Tech requires your child be a resident of Bergen County. They do not take into consideration what town you live in or your school district, but review the individual child’s portfolio.
Bergen County Academies selects students from school districts. However, it is not possible to determine any quotas or formulas for how this weighs into admissions. They want to have a diverse freshmen body by accepting applications from many different areas of Bergen County. So they will take into consideration the size of a school district, how many applicants applied from that district, as well as the strength of the applicants.
Since there is no way to know specifically how your child’s school district will affect their application, we encourage parents to categorize this as “something I have no control over.” And instead, focus on the parts of the application that is within your child’s control like their grades, essay, and entrance exam.
Q: What’s on the entrance exam?
Historically, the entrance exam has had a 60 minute math section and 45 minute English section. The math section is a challenging multiple-choice test that doesn’t allow calculators and tests students on a variety of challenging, mentally taxing, and lengthy problems.
The English section consists of a short fiction or non-fiction text with a corresponding essay prompt. Students must read the passage and then write a 5 paragraph literary analysis essay about the text.
Q: Can you apply to multiple academies/programs at BCA/BT and do you rank your choices?
Yes and yes. When applying to BCA you select a first choice and second choice academy. When applying to Bergen Tech, you select a first choice and second choice program.
MEK’s BCA Prep Program
Q: How do students get started preparing for BCA admissions?
We have all our students begin with a BCA evaluation test. This exam tests students’ skill level in math and English and aligns with the BCA/BT admission test. It also helps us determine which program level in BCA Prep to place your child. When you student signs up for a virtual BCA evaluation test, we will notify you of their results, what those results mean, and what we recommend for next steps.
After students take the evaluation, we usually recommend 7th graders begin with our Pre-High School Prep or Spring Clinic 7 courses to build a solid foundation for high school admission tests.
In the summer before 8th grade, we recommend our proven and hugely effective Exam Prep 8 course.
Then, in the fall students begin intensive test-training with our BCA Prep program.
Q: Can my student still sign-up for a BCA evaluation test?
Q: What will your BCA program look like this year? Will it be virtual or on-site?
Our Summer Exam Prep 8 class will be held through virtual classes from July 6th to August 27th. This course focuses on building up a strong skillset in problem-solving, writing, and critical reading.
Our fall BCA Prep program will be in-person. It is 18 weeks long and divided into two phases, each 9 sessions long. During Phase I we focus with students on building up core skills, breaking bad habits, and learning test-taking techniques.
During Phase II, we focus on creating an even more intensive, competitive environment to prepare them for not only the admissions test but BCA classes in general.
Q: How successful is your BCA Program?
Over the past 20 years, we’ve build an extremely effective BCA Prep program. Over the past few years, MEK students have consistently made up 20% of the BCA freshmen class. That means 1 in 5 students are MEK students!
Furthermore, our BCA Prep course doesn’t just help students gain admission to prestigious magnet schools. It has a lasting impact on our students’ ability to thrive in rigorous high school courses and on college admission tests.
For examples, our 2016 BCA Prep students, who are graduating high school this year, earned an average of 1540 on the SAT and 34 on the ACT. These results reinforce that the BCA program isn’t just about about the here and now, but also preparing for the future.
Q: What do students learn in BCA Prep?
Students have an English and Math class. Each class builds up their higher learning problem-solving and critical thinking skills, so they can thrive on the BCA admissions test.
Students take many full-length simulation tests on-site and receive expert lecture from MEK teachers in virtual classes.
In math, students will build up their mental stamina, calculation skills, and mindset so they can tackle the very challenging math entrance exam.
In English, students will build up read comprehension, inference, grammar, writing, and analysis skills to write high school level literary analysis essays. They will also receive expert application essay help.
Our course sets students up for success by teaching them study habits, mindset, and skills they will need to be successful in an advanced and competitive high school environment.
Q: Does your program help with the actual application or the application essay?
Yes! We offer expert application guidance from our academic counselors. Plus, our English teachers offer a special workshop to show students how to write a stellar application essay. Then we let students submit a draft of the application essay and our teachers provide expert feedback!
Q: What do teachers recommend to help students improve their focus or motivation when working from home virtually?
In a virtual setting, students have to be more motivated and committed than in a physical classroom. Otherwise, it is much easier for them to become distracted.
To get the most out of virtual classes, help your child set up a quiet environment conducive to learning. Find a place in the house where there is little traffic. Let them sit in an upright chair in front of a table or desk. Make sure they have plenty of space to take notes.
Encourage your child to participate, ask questions, and actively engage with the class. Our teachers will do the same. Have them put their phone in another room, so they reduce distractions.
Finally, as their parent, honor their virtual class time as actual class. Don’t interrupt their class to talk to them or ask them to complete a chore. If you treat it like a real class, so will they.