How BCA Prepared Me For College

How BCA Prepared Me For College

The end of BCA Prep is finally here! Our students, who have worked so diligently for almost an entire year, are taking their entrance exams today and tomorrow (January 8th and 9th), and we could not be more proud of their progress and their future accomplishments.

As we wait to hear results, we interviewed BCA graduate Alex Wei, Class of 2020, as he shared his thoughts on how BCA prepared him for college and what you can expect from as a prospective BCA student.

What academy were you in during your time at BCA, and when did you graduate?

I was in the Science Academy (AAST) and graduated last June (Class of 2020). 

What are you currently studying in college?

My four years at BCA really enhanced my interest in STEM. I plan to major in Engineering Physics at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. I’m also looking to minor in Math and Computer Science. 

What was your favorite and least favorite parts about high school at BCA?

My favorite parts of BCA were the global exchange trips. During my four years, I was lucky enough to visit Finland and Singapore — two vastly different countries in terms of climate, culture, and cuisine, but both spectacular in their own way! Over the course of these trips, we enjoyed taking part in learning experiences, touring amazing places and landmarks, meeting the local people, and immersing ourselves in an entirely new culture. 

My least favorite part about BCA was how the learning environment could sometimes become toxic. Think of BCA as an academic gladiator arena, where everyone is competing against each other to be on top and will use virtually every means necessary to do so. 

My only advice would be to follow your conscience.

Looking back, what aspect of BCA do you think most prepared you for college?

Definitely the coursework — in terms of both volume and difficulty. So many of my friends from local high schools have had some trouble adjusting to the college workload this past semester. But as a BCA graduate, I was much better prepared. Of course, balancing schoolwork, activities, and social life can be stressful at times. There will most definitely be nights when you’ll have to stay up late to finish hefty projects and study for difficult exams. But when the dust settles, you’ll take away some invaluable lessons from your high school experience.

Thanks to my time at BCA, I drastically improved my work ethic and learned to avoid procrastinating (for the most part). I also learned how to more effectively deal with academic challenges. Unlike middle school, most classes at BCA are not easy “A’s” and require a great deal of effort on your part in order to succeed. Over the course of such challenges, I discovered the importance of and seeking help from teachers and peers instead of always trying to figure things out on your own. After all, hearing a concept or solution explained from a different perspective can oftentimes be enlightening. 

Don’t go at it alone, and don’t be afraid to ask questions — most people are more than willing to help! 

Apart from the academic ones, what are the most important lessons you learned at BCA?

The most valuable lesson that BCA taught me was how to deal with failure. As the top student in my middle school with perfect grades all the time, receiving my first “B” on an exam during freshman year came as somewhat of a shock. 

Your time at BCA will be filled with highs and lows. In all likelihood, you won’t ace every exam or essay, and might even receive less-than-ideal results from time to time, as was often the case with myself. But the key is learning how to become more resilient and bounce back after difficulties by staying dedicated and working even harder. 

Don’t let failure knock you down — the key to success, in high school and beyond, is having a relentless mindset. 

BCA will also provide you with some important reality checks. At one of the nation’s top magnet schools, surrounded by some of the brightest students in the entire county, you’ll realize that you’re no longer a big fish in a small pond. You won’t always be “the best” or at the “top of the class” in certain areas. You won’t always receive the best grades in class and highest scores on competitions. And that’s okay. Focus on finding your unique niche or passion, and strive to improve yourself instead of constantly comparing yourself to others. 

We all know that hindsight is 20/20. What do you think you could have done better to be better prepared for college and beyond?

I think I could have been wiser in choosing my classes during junior and senior year. When it came time to select AP and IB courses, I made the mistake of over-challenging myself and literally picked all the most difficult ones, which left me with much unnecessary stress and a slight dip in my GPA. Looking back, I don’t regret choosing challenging courses within my intended field of study such as AP Physics C and AP Calculus BC, but perhaps taking easier humanities courses such as the SL version of IB French instead of HL would have made my schedule more manageable. 

I also wish I had a better understanding of the college admissions process and didn’t set my expectations so high. Honestly, that would have saved me a great deal of disappointment upon receiving my results. I should have known that as a middle-class Asian male with no legacy or hooks applying for a STEM major from an ultra-competitive magnet school, I had virtually no chance of getting into any elite school in the first place, regardless of any objective qualifications. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself, as well as my friends, to not be so caught up in the game of “Ivy-chasing.” Only later did I realize that what really matters isn’t the name of your college — it’s what you do there that counts. 

What advice do you have to students who are preparing for admissions to or are currently attending BCA?

If you’re ultimately admitted to BCA, congrats! Now it’s time to make the most of the next four years! Academically, you’ll be challenged and pushed to the limit, but ultimately rewarded. You’ll have the chance to learn from brilliant and passionate teachers, and even more importantly, meet like-minded individuals with whom you’ll share friendships that last a lifetime. 

If you’ve been rejected from BCA, don’t worry at all. I mean it. Here’s a secret: if you continue to work hard and become a top student at your local high school, then you might actually have a better chance of getting into top colleges than your BCA peers, since the intra-school competition is not as fierce. And ultimately, use your rejection as motivation to prove BCA wrong for not having accepted you. 

If you’re currently attending BCA, chances are you’re thinking about college admissions. My advice would be to try your best, but not set your expectations too high. 

The hard truth is that even if you’re objectively qualified and deserving in virtually every area that matters, you still might get rejected by your desired schools. It’s just how the system works. The college admissions process is not at all a meritocracy. Some of the universally-recognized top students in my class, with perfect grades, stellar extracurriculars, and national-level awards ended up going to schools like Northeastern, Georgia Tech, and UC Berkeley. On the other hand, many of those who no one expected to be admitted to Ivy League colleges and Top 20s ended up actually getting in.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what college you attend — successful people will be successful wherever they go! 

Next Steps

To our 7th graders want to start as soon as possible on preparing for admissions to BCA: get started today by signing up for a Free Student Evaluation and registering for Pre-H.S. Prep–the first step to admissions success!

To our 8th graders who just finished their entrance exams and are already thinking ahead, build a strong foundation of Math and Science concepts before you take that first step into high school! Enroll in our H.S. Honors courses to not only fill gaps in understanding, but to get ahead.

Contact us here today!

Alex W.

Alex W. is an alumni of MEK Review's BCA Prep and SAT Prep programs. He also graduated from the prestigious Bergen County Academies in the Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology (AAST). Currently, he is pursing a STEM degree at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor.

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