High school and two years of college in four years
Extremely fast-paced academics are not for everyone
Bard High School Early College (BHSEC) offers small class sizes, excellent teaching, and the promise of two years of college credit for free. The demanding, fast-paced curriculum has attracted some of the city's best students. Students complete their high school requirements in two years and then embark on college work. After four years, they receive both a Regents diploma and an associate's degree.
Most of the teachers have PhDs, and classes are organized as college seminars, with lots of opportunities for give-and-take between the teachers and students. Faculty members are both experts in their field and passionate about sharing their knowledge with their students. Students, too, are passionate about their studies, and may be heard talking about Kant or Machiavelli on the M14 bus that runs near the school (the nearest subway is a 20-minute walk).
Bard College contributes to the high school’s budget, enabling it to offer a wider array of courses than other public high schools its size. Course titles include The Novels of Dostoevsky, Forced Migration in Contemporary Africa, The History of American Education, Engineering, Urban Ecology, Computer Science, and Medicinal Chemistry. Once in the college program, students have the option of creating their own independent study and selecting a faculty advisor. Class size is typically about 20 students. Far more writing is expected of BHSEC students than of typical high schoolers. Students can expect three hours of homework, and some say they regularly work for four or five hours daily.
“The standards for work are really, really high,” a mother of one student told InsideSchools. “There is no way to fake it through this school.”
Faculty members are more than willing to provide students extra help individually or in small groups. In the library, there is a writing center and math center that students can take advantage of as often as they’d like. Still, the fast pace and high expectations are unmanageable for some students.
BHSEC is housed in a pleasant red brick building constructed as an elementary school in 1915. It has high ceilings, huge windows with views of the East River, and sunny, basic classrooms equipped with wood-trimmed blackboards and oak cabinets. School begins at the civilized hour of 9 a.m. Students come from all five boroughs. There is a nice mix of kids from different races and income levels. About two-thirds of the students are girls.
There is no formal gymnasium but the school uses a turf field next to the building or nearby East River Park. Indoor gym classes take place in a multipurpose room or the converted auditorium. Teams include basketball, tennis, cross country, track and field, soccer and volleyball. Students may also participate in ultimate frisbee, the literary magazine, the philosophy club, STEP team and more.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: About 5 percent of students receive special education services. The school added team-teaching classes in the 9th grade for the first time in 2016 and is working to expand the special education services offered in the upper grades, according to the yearly plan.
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS: BHSEC’s college office gives far more individual attention than is typical in larger New York City public schools. Each student is guided by both the head of the College Transfer Office (CTO), Beth Cheikes, and a CTO advisor who serves only about 20 students. "We have the time to write really good letters," said Cheikes. Students enroll in a CTO advising course, and they can consult the writing center for help with supplements and college essays. In the past, students have been admitted to a range of schools including Stanford, Yale, Wesleyan, Swarthmore, Binghamton, Middlebury, Haverford, Brown and Reed College. Students have also been selected as Posse Scholars. CUNY and SUNY accept the full two years of college credit, allowing students to enter as juniors. Some private colleges (including Bard College) accept the full two years; others accept less than one semester.
ADMISSIONS: Students who have between an 88 and 100 percent average may take BHSEC’s entrance exam, which includes math and writing sections. Based on their performance on this exam, students are called for interviews. Past attendance records are also considered. Most recently, there were 35 applicants per seat. (Clara Hemphill, May 2011; updated by Katharine Safter, June 2018. Note: Safter graduated from the school in 2015)
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Computer ScienceNot offered in 2019-20
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AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social ScienceNot offered in 2019-20
AP/IB Math or ScienceNot offered in 2019-20
Programs & AdmissionsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
Comprehensive liberal arts early college program. Students earn a high school diploma and a tuition-free Associate Degree from Bard College.