Advice from BCA Upperclassmen Mentors
High school can feel like an intimidating four-year ordeal, full of unknowns.
At one of our recent events, we invited a group of MEK alumni, who are now upperclassmen students attending Bergen County Academies (BCA) — one of the top high schools across the U.S. — to share their best advice for succeeding in high school and beyond.
What did they wish they knew about high school before starting? What would they tell their younger selves?
Here are the questions we asked — and this is what they told us!
Q1: What are some of the most challenging issues you faced in high school?
A: Creating priorities for myself.
“I realized that I would often have to make decisions about what was more important to me. In most cases, personally, that was school, so a lot of social aspects had to take a back seat as I prioritized my school work.
Also, I realized that even with good time management, sometimes, it was still incredibly hard to manage all the work. I would push through and get everything done, but it was hard, being a perfectionist, realizing that with so much work, not everything can be perfect.”
Q2: How did you manage your time efficiently?
Schedule your time. Eliminate distractions.
“To be honest, I did not always (manage time efficiently).
But the key is planning how much time you are giving yourself for each assignment and blocking out all distractions and social media. For example, maybe you will give yourself 6-8pm to get an essay done, so you will sit there and just write for 2 hours before you give yourself a break.
You will be more motivated to get it done, as opposed to just sitting down at 6pm thinking you have an infinite amount of time before bedtime to complete an assignment.
Turn off Netflix and social media. Get it done first, and then you can reward yourself with a bit of relaxation. In other words, try not to procrastinate!
#3: How did you choose your college track?
A: Pay attention to what you enjoy.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do freshman year.
However, after an internship in a biology lab and a science honors program outside of school, I quickly realized that the medical and research path wasn’t for me. I began to notice that I enjoyed presenting, writing, math, and a combination of analytical and creative activities.
In addition, being in the business academy and taking part in different school activities, like competing in DECA, running the school store, and participating in debate, all made me realize that I was really interested in the field of business. I wasn’t sure about the econ or business track until I made my final decision about where to apply to college.”
Q4: Do you have a bad memory or story from high school? How did you overcome this experience?
A: This too shall pass.
“It was one of those junior year weeks with no sleep and no end to the work. I was running on caffeine essentially. I also was getting sick due to all the stress. In the moment, it seemed like it would never end. I got through it by reminding myself that it was only a bump in the road and would not always be like this.”
Q5: Is there anything you wish you had known before starting high school?
A: Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
“Get to know your teachers and guidance counselors. They want to help, so even if you are unsure about something small, go ask! They are experienced and will only want to help you succeed. It doesn’t mean you aren’t smart if you ask them for help.
In fact, I did the best on assessments for which I went for extra help. Additionally, they often understand your high school experience and can just be nice people to hear advice from.”
Q6: Is there any other advice you’d like to give incoming freshmen?
A: Grades are not enough.
“When it comes time for college applications, grades, test scores, and numbers are important, but it is certainly not everything. A lot of people have good statistics.
You have to go beyond that. You don’t have to do a million things, but you need to have a few things that you have significantly contributed your time to and have achieved something in.
You have to remind yourself that while school work is important, an important part of high schools is finding what you are passionate about. Devote yourself to those interests.”
Last year, 1 in 6 incoming freshmen at Bergen County Academies were also MEK Review students or alumni!
For over 20 years, we’ve successfully coached students on developing the right skills and discipline to thrive at BCA and other rigorous schools, as well as during the tough college admissions process!
If you’re interested in taking the next step, here’s what we recommend:
- For 7th Graders: Explore Pre-BCA. Build early momentum for BCA or top high schools.
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