Student Perspective: Pooja Sheth

Transitioning to high school is more than just moving to another school, it is a time for young students to build a foundation upon which they will develop their work ethic, career goals, and knowledge. Attending The Middlesex County Academy was instrumental in shaping those important years for me.

The academy aims to create an environment in which bright students can still be challenged. I found this to be crucial in my development because I realized that growth in any field comes from constantly challenging oneself. At The Academy, I was repeatedly made to step outside my comfort zone so that I could better myself in a variety of ways. Moving forward in life, I took with me the desire to challenge myself into college. I observed that many of my colleagues in college followed the curriculum and completed their requirements to make it to the other side with a degree. Thanks to the proactive attitude I developed at The Academy, I was able to seek out unique opportunities in college that helped me stand out from the crowd and gain the maximum from my college years. I was able to accomplish things like becoming an inventor on two patents and taking part in main stage theatrical productions on campus. Since leaving, I’ve even been asked by my department to return as an alumnus and speak to students about my success in college. The work ethic that helped me stand out was cultivated at The Academy.

Why is the academy a unique experience? The environment of the Academy is made what it is by the incredible faculty and students. What I found to be unique about The Academy faculty was that they all possessed a deep understanding of the subjects that they were teaching. This was an indispensable resource because after taking their classes, I really felt as though I understood the fundamentals of the subjects as compared to my peers at neighboring schools. I felt as though many of them learned subjects like calculus and physics in a more mechanical way by memorizing formulas an applying them. By intuitively understanding the concepts I went on to remember them longer, and eventually built upon that fund of knowledge. I easily succeeded in my basic math and science classes during my first year of college thanks to the strong foundation from high school.

There were also many benefits to going to small school as compared to most township high schools; the attention was very personalized and there was support whenever it was needed. It’s very tough to transition from being a top student in your district to having peers and a workload that now match your potential. For me, it meant that I found myself in situations such as struggling in classes that I had previously aced, or the inability to manage the workload in the timeframe I was given. Even though many of us faced these hurdles, there wasn’t a single time where I didn’t feel that there was someone to help me figure it out. All the teachers knew every single student personally. The guidance counselor and principle also knew everyone personally and were very welcoming. And of course, being surrounded by intelligent peers meant that someone amongst the group will have figured out a good system and the small school really fostered comradery.

Aside from the great environment, the unique classes themselves were an invaluable experience. I believe that taking engineering classes in high school is one of the most beneficial things I’ve done for myself. I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who both studied engineering in college, but is currently in medical school and therefore perusing a non-engineering career. For those who decide to continue studying engineering, the classes will give you an unbelievable edge in college. You will learn core concepts that will allow you to ace classes, take higher level classes earlier than your peers, and get recruited for research and real projects by faculty that require a higher skill level. For those of you who decide not to peruse engineering, I have found that the skills I’ve learned helped me both get into and succeed in medical school as well. The core of engineering is problem solving. Those analytical skills have helped me every day no matter what task I was faced with including now when working with patients. Technology is becoming exponentially present in all fields whether it’s in the arts such as design or theater technology, or non-engineering sciences like biology or chemistry. An engineering background is an asset.

Aside from engineering, the academy offers a unique array of classes through its connection with Middlesex County College. Again, this was a great opportunity for me because I was able to take classes for which I received college credit. This freed up my college schedule to take more interesting and higher level classes. The other perk is having the entirely of Middlesex County College’s classes at your disposal gives you the opportunity to take classes that others wouldn’t have the option of at other schools.

With all of that being said, there were a few challenges I faced that are important to consider if you are a prospective student. Due to school’s small size, there isn’t a variety of electives available. When I was a student, this included activities such as band, visual arts, theater arts, etc. I was able to get around this by joining a dance team outside of school and taking instrument lessons. It was tough to do and wasn’t as convenient as having the options available in school. If these are aspects of high school that are important to you, keep this limitation of The Academy in mind.

To this day, I am still grateful for having the opportunity to shape my high school years at The Academy. I set myself up for great success in future years, made life-long friends, and still reach out to the teachers I had there if I need help. If it becomes your home, it can become an irreplaceable experience.

About Pooja Sheth:

Pooja Sheth graduated from The Academy in 2010. She graduated college in 2014 with a bachelors in biomedical engineer. Pooja currently studies medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine where she is now in her third year.

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