Deciding Which High School to Attend

Eighth-graders citywide received the results for next year’s high school placement on March 1st.  Of the high schools these eighth-graders applied to, many placed their hopes on being accepted by some of New York’s specialized high schools. After they took an admission test to these specialized high schools in October, a select few will be attending Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, and LaGuardia next year. Students were overcome with either glee, grief, or a mixture of both to be leaving or staying next year.
When asked about why these students chose to depart from BSGE, the most common answer was because of our school’s lack of amenities and clubs. BSGE offers some clubs, but nowhere near as many as the amount of clubs specialized high schools–and bigger high schools in general–offer. Being a small school, it’s understandable why BSGE does not receive as much funding to pay for tons of clubs. However, some students feel like it’s not just a minor setback that should be looked over; says eighth-grader Tracy Zheng, “Clubs are important in school because they help with your college application. I wish BSGE had more sports clubs to help with scholarships for people who aren’t doing well academically here.” BSGE also does not have lockers in hallways because of the limited space, not enough trips and parties, and the small things seem to add up.
However, a bonus of being a small school is the level of familiarity. Walking through the same narrow hallways that cannot store lockers, a student may bump into someone they know on more than one occasion. It could be their best friend or a stranger seen walking the same way on A days, but the recognition is there. BSGE has around 430 students; compared to a school like Stuyvesant, where there are approximately 3300 students, their hallways are broad and filled with torrents of people, and there is only a slight chance of bumping into someone familiar among the mass of thousands. Comments eighth-grader Bishal Das, “At schools like Stuyvesant, it might be harder to be well-known.” At BSGE, a first-name basis exists among peers and even some teachers, and that brings a sense of security when a student needs more attention or help. “You know the teachers, you can connect with the teachers a lot, and you can ask them questions without acting shy around teachers and just all other people, like Peter,” says Rene Kokoszka, a student with his second year at BSGE.
Eighth-graders also looked at the difficulty of the specialized high schools compared to their own when they were deciding whether or not they wanted to transfer. When the quality of education comes to question, some students believe that specialized high schools offer vigorous classes that are far more challenging and difficult than the classes offered at BSGE. “At BSGE, they do push you to do your best, but I heard that specialized high schools push you to go beyond your best,” comments eighth-grader Elbert Savinon. Other students beg to differ, like eighth-grader Natalia Belchikov who says, “BSGE is a good school–it’s not a bad school; they actually push you to get the IB program and I think our school deserves more recognition.” Being a small school that recently opened in 2002, BSGE is not as heard of as specialized high schools like Stuyvesant, founded in 1904 with almost a century-wide gap. Since specialized high schools are generally more recognized and they have a reputation for selecting the cream of the crop of students, some students believe that colleges would lean in favor towards someone who graduated from a specialized high school as opposed to a graduate of a small and new school, even if the quality of education proves to be alike. BSGE has become more established over the short span of being open, and it is nationally ranked number 21on the best high schools list according to US News. Bronx Science and Stuyvesant are behind BSGE. Being a school that offers the International Baccalaureate program, the quality of education at BSGE proves to be competent; there was a record number of IB diplomas last year. Unlike the AP program offered at specialized high schools, the IB requires more thorough research and insight, while the AP comes down to a multiple-choice test of knowing the short answer but not the explanation.
The teachers at BSGE seem to push the students to be more driven, delivering personal attention after school when needed, whereas the teachers at specialized high schools would be less motivated for all of their students–every single one, including the ones that just barely made the cutoff score in the admission test–to exceed. The massive body of students themselves at specialized high schools push themselves to do well, stepping over their peers in the meantime in the cut-throat competition to be crowned the valedictorian. Although, these specialized high school students often have a choice to which classes they take, while students at BSGE do not. They hope their efforts of at least surviving these specialized high schools with a passing grade reflects in their college admissions. It becomes a question of where you go versus what you do, and how well you perform in a school that is more difficult or easy. Despite some of the pointers of  BSGE being a school producing capable students, some are still leaving to specialized high schools like Brooklyn Tech, even when they are ranked lower by US News than BSGE.
It seems like what BSGE has a shortage of, the small things that persuade students to leave to lower ranked specialized high schools, such as space and clubs, can be achieved through a bigger budget, but it is easier said than done because all schools in New York are dealing with shortages in money. Maybe in the near future, there might be more promising students reserving their seat at BSGE and rejecting their offers from other high schools. Eighth-grader Ashley Wang is not waving goodbye to BSGE anytime soon, and she is confident with her decision. “BSGE is kind of small, a lot of people say we don’t have a lot of money, it’s not as famous as schools like Stuy. But if my friends asked about what school I go to, they would know BSGE, because this school isn’t that bad… It’s getting better. I’m staying and I like BSGE.”

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