When I received a thick white envelope in the mail with the navy words “Bergen County Academies” printed on it in late April, my first thought was, Not only is the technology above and beyond in BCA, the mail manages to be high-quality too. If I get rejected, at least I still get a fancy piece of paper to treasure forever. Heart pounding, I tore open the envelope without a second thought and took out the first page, scanning the letter for any clues of rejection or acceptance.
I finally found the words I was looking for at the bottom of the letter: “Congratulations”. For a minute, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I reread the letter. The words were still there, printed neatly on the paper. The moment felt like a dream. While so many people I knew applied and were rejected, I was accepted into one of the top high schools in the nation. After hearing about so many students at Bergen Academies who later on became successful, I could only imagine what opportunities the school could give me. I had a smile on my face for the rest of the week.
However, as the Orientation Day drew closer, I grew increasingly apprehensive. I would be meeting my new classmates, guidance counselor, and potentially a few teachers for the first time. The transition into high school would be something new and take time getting used to; now, I was in a completely different environment with peers who went through the same application process as I did, teachers who would definitely teach at a much faster pace, and the almost overwhelming workload that would unquestionably be a change from what I was used to. I had thousands of thoughts and questions running through my mind. What if these people looked down on me? What if they were too smart? Would I be able to keep up in class?
Orientation Day finally came at the end of August. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Aside from a friendly letter written by my SPARK leader, I didn’t know anyone in my group. However, immediately after stepping off the bus, I was greeted with a cacophony of noise makers by SPARK students: bells, rattles, drums, and cheering. Despite being embarrassed by all the noise, the enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself smiling. The rest of the day was just as interesting: My SPARK leader and teachers did their best to help my peers and me get to know each other, and I was able to meet other students from different academies. Everyone was so friendly and eager to meet new people as well, and by the end of the two days, I had made some friends and was already sort of familiar with the layout of the building. I felt my worries start to dissipate.
Nonetheless, the first weeks of school brought its own challenges. Although I was starting to get used to the new environment, I was starting to experience the heavy workload at BCA. A few days into the start of the school year, I already felt like a truckload of work had suddenly been pushed on me. There were harder courses, more assessments to study for, and more homework. Additionally, I was starting to get assigned papers from various teachers, something I had never done before in middle school. There were multiple times when I didn’t understand what was taught, so I would catch up the night of. I also had poor time management skills from eighth grade. I would procrastinate and waste a lot of time until I started my homework. The bad habits were hard to break at first, and often, I wasn’t able to go to bed until eleven or later.
I realized within those first few weeks that I had to change my study habits. I began to utilize my free mods to go to teachers for extra help, and I asked more questions. Unlike what I had imagined, my teachers were all willing to help me. I also got better at managing my time to make the most out of studying for assessments. As I gradually got better at studying, I found that my performance at school improved as well.
Although Bergen Academies is academically challenging, it has given me a sense of belonging that I’ve never felt before in my previous schools. Looking back, there wasn’t any reason for me to be worried. The community in BCA is so helpful and supportive that with time, I’m sure I’ll be able to adapt and fit into the new environment.