Blackstone Valley Prep champions diversity and embraces the uniqueness of every scholar, so it’s no surprise that the process of applying to college can look different, sometimes remarkably so, from one scholar to the next – a reality our College and Career team understands well.
We recently introduced you to Mariela Cadena Hernandez, an aspiring pediatrician who recounted her experience applying to 12 schools. She explained, “I don’t have a dream school; I just want [to attend] a good school that will allow me to explore my interests.” Now, meet Bella Magee, a Cumberland resident and Scholar Ambassador, who, thus far, has solely applied to one school under Restrictive Early Action, a non-binding early application option for students who have completed a thorough college search and are confident in their first choice.
BVP: What motivated you to apply Restrictive Early Action to Yale University?
BM: Yale recently removed their Early Decision option from their application and replaced it with a “Restrictive Early Action” option. Although the decision is not binding, I am not allowed to apply early to any other colleges. Any other school I apply to must be regular decision. When I toured Yale back in September, I was so excited by the collaborative academic atmosphere and the beautiful campus, and I knew that my best chance of acceptance would be applying early, so I took a chance and applied Restrictive Early Action. The choice was risky because now I must apply to all my other schools regular decision, but I decided that it was worth it because I loved it so much.
BVP: What was it like preparing to apply to Yale? Talk a little about your essay process.
BM: Yale’s application had eight – yes, eight – supplemental questions, ranging from 200 characters to 250 words. I have had my personal statement written since last June, and Yale was the only school I could apply to early, so thankfully I was able to focus all of my attention on those eight prompts. I read the question carefully and brainstormed a couple of responses; sometimes I would come up with one right away that I loved, but sometimes it took me weeks to finalize one sentence.
Yale came up with some very unique prompts that really made me think; for example, one question was “You’re teaching a Yale course: what is it called?” (See image below.) For these types of questions, I usually wrote my response without the word count in mind, and often I wrote it again, because I found that writing the response twice allowed me to better condense my thoughts. Then, I focused on the word count. I also think it’s incredibly important to have other people read your responses, both teachers and peers. The main people I had reading my essays were Mr. Jose, dean of college and careers, and Mr. Sinha, my former science teacher and mentor. They were able to see things in my writing that I could not as the writer, which is extremely helpful.
BVP: What do you look for in a school?
BM: Commitment to diversity. Coming from such a diverse student body at BVP, I knew that I wanted the college I attended to value all different kinds of people; Yale meets 100% of demonstrated financial need, and the houses that students live in are specifically designed to promote diversity, whether that be in terms of race, socioeconomic status, interests, or majors. Additionally, I loved Yale’s academic culture, centered around an extremely cooperative environment. Most of Yale’s classes, besides their small seminars, have no size limit, meaning that if I am truly interested in a class, or there is a guest lecturer I am set on seeing, I am always able to sign up for it, which I think is something that all schools should have.
“I’ve watched, often times in awe, of the pure academic, intellectual, and leadership capacity that she has consistently demonstrated in our community since her first day at the high school.”
– David Jose, Dean of College and Careers
BVP: What will the next 30 days look like for you?
BM: I should hear back from Yale in mid-December, but because this is so close to January’s Regular Decision deadlines, I have started to work on some other college applications. It’s definitely a challenge to balance applications, schoolwork, and extracurricular activities, so my time management skills have definitely been put to the test. Senioritis is real, but I’m so proud of how hard all the seniors are working.
BVP: Speaking of schoolwork, how is your senior year going? What classes are you taking?
BM: This year, I decided to take four AP classes: English Literature, Government, Calculus, and Statistics, mainly because I wanted to have taken eight AP classes throughout my four years of high school. Originally, I was not taking AP Statistics, but I knew that majoring in a science and pursuing a pre-med track in college would require me to take a similar class, and I thought I would prepare myself for that early on and maybe even be able to move up to a higher level class in college. In addition to my AP classes, I am taking Anatomy and Physiology, the required Physical Education, and Chorus, which is a new class this year that I’m really excited about. Overall, the material in all my classes is super interesting this year, and I am so thankful to have some really great teachers who love the material they’re teaching.
BVP: How do you think BVP is preparing you for college and the world beyond?
BVP has the most incredible College and Career team that has been supporting all of us endlessly. They make sure that any time I’m struggling with the college process, or even just need to talk, I am welcome to set up a meeting or even just stop in for a while, and I think this is something that many schools don’t have that could really help a lot of students manage both time and stress. They know each of us individually and know what we’re looking for in a school, and are constantly emailing us with new summer programs, scholarships, or college information sessions. They are what makes BVP’s college process so successful and so unique, and I am so grateful for our whole team.
I also think that BVP does a good job of preparing each grade for their role in their own college preparation process. For example, at the beginning of each year, the College and Career team meets with the freshmen to explain to them how much their grades in that first year really count, and bring in graduates who tell stories of how their freshman grades affected their GPA and college process later on. Then, once we become juniors and seniors, we have that foundation that allows us to stay focused and keep growing.
I think in general, the Summit Personalized Learning Plan has taught us all a lot about time management and being independent, which is a skill that many high school students struggle with in college. Having this platform has set us ahead from other college students and other adults, even if we don’t realize it yet.
BVP: Have you been given any advice throughout this process that has really resonated with you?
BM: Back in the beginning of this year, I was honestly very conflicted in choosing a top school to apply early decision or early action to. I was ultimately worried that I would choose the wrong school for me and end up regretting my decision. I decided to meet with Mr. Jose and the advice he gave me is something I think is incredibly important. He told me to tour all my top schools, and if I come back and I say I liked one school better than the rest, then I won’t regret applying to it because… well, I liked it best. I was definitely overthinking my choices, and I think a lot of students get caught up in these “what if” situations where they can’t think rationally. It was so important for me that someone just straight up told me “Whatever you choose, you’ll be happy and you’ll be okay.”
“She is a foundational leader in her class and in our community; her genuine empathetic nature, coupled with her strong desire to create positive community change, is what separates her from her peers across the country.”
– David Jose, Dean of College and Careers
BVP: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
BM: I know that many people end up changing their majors or their careers throughout their life, but I hope that in college, my love of science only continues to grow. Medicine has always fascinated me, and 10 years from now, I hope to be both a college graduate and a medical school graduate.
BVP: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share or think we should know?
BM: I know many parents and even students were nervous that BVP high school seniors would have a tough time getting into college because, until last year, colleges didn’t know who we were and didn’t know if we would be successful students, but I think that this past graduating class has showed us that BVP has set us all up for success in the world beyond. I know my college process would be much more challenging and my options would be much more narrow had I not had the opportunity to attend BVP High School and work with so many talented people.