Our new Associate Director of Admissions Ms. Knapp wants to help prospective families learn more about what it's like to attend BASIS Independent McLean! In the third part of her blog series, Ms. Knapp sat down with some of our middle school students in grades 5–7 to learn about their transition to our our school. 

I've almost reached the three-month mark since joining the BASIS Independent McLean Admissions team, and I've started giving tours of my own to prospective families. Time and time again, families are asking the same question: How difficult is it for my child to transition into BASIS Independent McLean in middle school?

Luckily, I was able to sit down with some middle school students to get the inside scoop! Since I'm meeting with families often, I wanted more specific examples of life as a Red-Tailed Hawk to share with them. I also wanted to get a broad perspective so I sat down with six students: Anika K. '25 and Bryson K. '25 in grade 5, Sofia J. '24 and Somil H. '24 in grade 6 and Jaden Y. '23 and Lily S. '23 in grade 7. Lucky for me, they had a lot to share and were excited that prospective families would be able to hear their experiences. 

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How does a typical day start off for you?

As it happened, all 6 students are dropped off by their parents or carpool with other students who attend BASIS Independent McLean. If they get to school a bit early, many mentioned hanging out in our Great Hall to study for an upcoming quiz, read, or talk quietly with friends before their busy days get started!

I asked the students how long they have to travel to get to school and the answer varied from 15 minutes to 50 minutes depending where in the DC metro area they were traveling from. 

Somil had some good advice though no matter where you are coming from: "I make sure to give myself enough time to stop by my locker before first period, so I can stay organized throughout my day," he says.

I met with students during their lunch and Academic Enrichment (AE) time. Here, students have a 25 minute lunch followed by a 25 minute AE, which is a period in the day where students can study, ask questions to a teacher, organize themselves for their afternoon classes, or just relax. 

What about after school? Tell me about your extracurricular activities. 

Anika: On Tuesdays I have math club and on Thursdays I have service club. Outside of school, I play piano and soccer and also take French. 

Bryson: I have fencing practice once a week on Mondays, take Hebrew classes, and take piano lessons. 

Sofia: I go to Journalism Club on Wednesdays. Thursdays I usually attend chemistry student hours with Ms. Bulldis, and on Fridays I go to Pokemon Club. I also take Chinese outside of school and piano and violin lessons! 

Somil: On Mondays, I go to Model United Nations and also play guitar and soccer outside of school. I also stay at Late Bird on Wednesdays. 

Jaden: I play tennis on Tuesdays and Thursdays, have DJ lessons on Mondays and also participate in Journalism Club. 

Lily: I'm in the upcoming school play so we have rehearsal almost every night and take ballet three times a week. 

These students are busy! Although, I was happy to hear that they are able to handle extracurricular activities outside of school in addition to their schoolwork. Somil mentioned Late Bird, which is a voluntary, fee-based after-school program available to our students after the formal school day ends.

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What was the biggest difference between your old school and BASIS Independent McLean?

Jaden: The biggest difference for me was the amount of material. At my old school, we didn't have enough to learn. Here, there is so much material and you can keep learning.

Sofia: The biggest difference for me was having different teachers for each subject. One teacher cannot be excited about all subjects, but here, all my teachers are excited about their subjects because they only have to teach one subject. I also like having multiple teachers so I can get different experiences and perspectives in class.

What was the hardest part about transferring to BASIS Independent McLean?

Anika, who transferred into grade 5 in the middle of our first grading period last fall, said, "The hardest subject for me personally was Latin since it was so new to me. But, the way that the curriculum is taught here allowed me to catch up quickly. Teachers revisit concepts to make sure you understand. It was also hard leaving my friends, but I am glad I came here." 

Somil: I was nervous about changing classes and my schedule, but by week 2 I had memorized my schedule! We also have lockers and I didn't have lockers at my old school.

Jaden: I actually feel like I had a very smooth transition here. I was nervous for my first time taking Pre-Comps, but after I finished the exams, I realized how well prepared I was by my teachers and how much I over-prepared.

Jaden is referring to Pre-Comps, or Pre-Comprehensive Exams. These exams are taken by grades 6, 7 and 8, and are cumulative exams that cover what the students have learned up until the mid-point of the school year. They are followed by Comps, Comprehensive Exams, at the end of the year, which serves as the class's final exam.

The first time a middle school student at BASIS Independent McLean takes a Pre-Comp it may seem like a big transition, but one of our school's guiding principles is that the exam is not high-stakes if students are prepared. By Jaden's response, this certainly seemed to be the case for him! 

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Who is your favorite teacher?

The students had trouble choosing just one!

Jaden: Ms. Bulldis, my chemistry teacher, and Ms. McCormick, my biology teacher. They are make learning science fun! I also like how Ms. Bulldis gives us materials and a problem to solve in lab and then tells us to figure it out. It really gives us the space to problem solve and think critically. In Biology, I love doing the dissections. We recently dissected a squid!

Lily: Ms. Floyd is my favorite teacher and because of her, I like U.S. History. For example, we were learning about Teddy Roosevelt and his Big Stick Policy. That day, Ms. Floyd walked around the classroom with a Big Stick while teaching us. When that question came up on our quiz, I remembered that day in class and could answer since she makes learning history so fun! I also like Algebra I with Mr. Williams. Math isn't my best subject, but I love the content of the class. 

Anika: Ms. Ataku's English class is my favorite. Recently, we were studying internal and external conflicts while we were reading Wave. I really feel like Ms. Ataku cares about our education. She also gives us the space to express ourselves in class. 

Somil: Dr. McCaffray's World History class is my favorite. I love learning about history, but he is also great at explaining concepts.

What advice would you give to students coming to BASIS Independent McLean in middle school?

Bryson: The classes here will be harder at first, but if you keep working at it, you will get better and you will understand and see how much you can learn here.

Anika: The classes are here to challenge you, but it's not that bad.

Somil: Do your homework and pay attention. If you're having trouble, go to student hours. It will help!

Sofia: Stay organized! Don't be afraid to ask for help, even from friends. They can support you.

Lily: If you think you are ready to work hard, you are ready to come here.

Jaden: If you try, you will succeed, just work your hardest. Also, do a little bit every day. I actually do less studying the day before a test because I have done a little bit every day. That way, I can focus on getting good sleep the night before.

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I loved getting to know these students, especially since I'm new to BASIS Independent McLean myself! I was so impressed with our middle school students. They truly enjoy learning and are truly excited they are to come to school each day. It was great to see how they have transitioned to our middle school environment and balance their school work, extracurricular activities, and time with friends! 

Stay tuned for future posts in this series. Next up: Upper School!

You can learning more about our Middle School through a private tour of our campus or by exploring our website.

I loved getting to know these students, especially since I’m so new to BASIS Independent McLean myself! I was so impressed with our Early Learning students. Everyone is so welcoming and I love the mixture of learning, play and friendship in each classroom. I can't wait to share all the fun stories I've learned from the Early Students with prospective families. Stay tuned for future posts in this series. Next up: visiting our primary students! You can learn more about our Early Learning Program through a private tour on our campus.