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 final part of her blog series, Ms. Knapp sat down with some of our upper school students in grades 8–11 to learn about their transition to our school. 

I've reached the last post in my blog series! I've truly enjoyed getting to know the students in each area of our school and can't wait to share stories from our students in our upper school, which includes grades 812. Something I learned when I arrived here at BASIS Independent McLean was the term, "upper school." High school is still grades 912, but we include grade 8 in our upper school to help with the transition from middle school and because our grade 8 students are taking some AP-level classes, which are traditionally high school classes.


I sat down with six students: Sophie P. '22 and Pallavi M. '22 in grade 8, Justin W. '21 in grade 9, Anika S. '20 and Alan Y. '20 in grade 10, and Armin D. '19 in grade 11. Our upper school students are busy and don't like missing class so lucky for me they let me steal a bit of their lunch period to answer some questions about life as Red-Tailed Hawks. With our oldest students, they were eager to talk with me and we started off with one of the most common questions I hear from families who visit our school:

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

Sophie: Everything about the academics is different. The teachers are more engaged in their subject. There is more homework, but it's manageable. The difference in the amount you are learning is so much greater here.

Pallavi: The amount of hands-on learning we do here is the biggest difference. Usually in classes at my old school, there was a lot of just sitting in the classroom and taking notes and just listening to teachers talk. Here, we do a lot of group work, projects, and labs that make the class exciting.

Justin: I have more homework here than at my old school. I manage it relatively well, but the amount was noticeable at first. I had pretty good time management skills before I came to BASIS Independent McLean, but I didn't need to use them as often. 

Armin: Adjusting to the schedule was the biggest difference for me. Here, we don't have a typical block schedule and our day is longer than my old school. But, it didn't take too long to get used to and now I find I prefer my schedule here over my old school.


I was starting to notice that a lot of the students were mentioning homework, time management skills, and a longer school day. So, I had to ask the students about what they do in their spare time besides homework. (Good news! Our students are very involved outside of the classroom!)

Pallavi: I am a student ambassador for admissions, participate in CyperPatriots, and American Computer Science Club to name a few. I also help out with our Kindergarten classes during lunch with Sophie P. Seeing the youngest students is a clear highlight of my day! Sophie and I also were a part of a future problem solving club where we used to solve future problems and discuss solutions.

Alan: I swim 2–3 hours a day on a competitive swim team. I also participate in Physics Olympiad, help coach a local swim team, and do peer tutoring at school. 

Anika: I like doing art in my spare time and reading. I also have done some medical internships and honestly, I like reading different research papers on medicine since a lot of my family is involved in the medical field. I feel like I am able to have time outside of homework to pursue my hobbies and interests.

Justin: I participate in Quiz Bowl with BASIS Independent McLean's school team. At the end of May, our team is going to Atlanta, GA to participate in the National Quiz Bowl Championships with 1,200 other students! I also participate in History Bee, and Geography Bee as an individual. Last weekend, I actually participated in the National History Bee as an individual in Arlington, VA.

When I asked Justin how he became involved in these types of competitions, he responded, "I just started reading history and accumulated enough knowledge to qualify in 6th grade and then by 8th grade, I was in the Top 16 nationally."

I was happy to hear that our upper school students able to manage their workload and pursue extracurricular activities and personal passions at the same time! 


Who is your favorite teacher?

Sophie: I really enjoy the subject matter in Biology with Ms. McCormick. Economics is good too with Mr. Biemesderfer; it really has improved my analytical thinking skills. 

Pallavi: Algebra II with Mr. Williams is one of my favorites. He makes math fun and interesting! I also like Computer Science with Mr. Stout, which is my elective. Right now we are learning Java and learning how to make battleships. I like that he focuses on making sure we get to the computer and do some hands-on learning. 

Justin: I like AP Government & Politics with Ms. Floyd. She really engages with the students and makes a more difficult topic easier to comprehend.  I also like how Dr. Vicks really provides a comprehensive and holistic view of every novel we read in Honors Literature.

Alan: I like all my classes and my teachers. The teachers here are helpful and it's so nice to be able to talk to them whenever you need it.

Anika: A lot of the teachers here are more personal. There is a higher quantity of teachers that I can relate to and that respect you. I like that. I actually struggle at history, but I like going to AP European History with Dr. Hight because he makes me feel more confident in the subject. I also like AP Computer Science with Mr. Stout because he gives us an assignment and makes us work it out ourselves. I like having the freedom to figure it out on my own first. 

Armin: Mr. Loomis in AP AB Calc is one of my favorites—I like his teaching style and how he interacts and engages with our class. He really makes sure we are prepared. He also likes to wear shirts with math puns! 

Dragon Dance 1

What would you tell someone is one of your favorite aspects about BASIS Independent McLean?

Justin: I really like the curriculum and course structure. The way the classes build upon themselves really gives you a great foundation not just for AP classes, but your knowledge base too. 

Sophie: It was exciting coming here! Not everyone gets to say they were a founding family. I love having the three different science classes (biology, chemistry, physics). I also really like that I have teachers here who are passionate about the subjects they are teaching. It makes you more excited about learning!

Anika: I like being surrounded by students who are passionate about learning because we are able to grow and improve by using each other. I also like the electives that I am offered here, like AP Psychology and AP Studio Art. At my old school, there were a lot of barriers to certain electives and here, I don't have to worry about that as much. 

Armin: I like the impact that we can have on the school. It's up to us and what we make of it to how much we get out of it. I like that there are opportunities to create our own clubs and leadership roles. I also really like how this school is emulating a college environment as much as possible. 

Note: Armin will be a member of our school's first graduating class of seniors next year in May 2019! 

Finally, what advice would you give to students coming to BASIS Independent McLean?

Justin: You will probably need to study more than your last school and work on your time management skills, but if you do both of these things, you will be successful here. 

Sophie: Don't be afraid to go to student hours. The teachers really do help you!

Note: Student hours are blocks of time that teachers have weekly so students can come and get extra help if they need it. Teachers also have weekly parent hours in case parents want to come in and meet with a teacher, too! 

Pallavi: Planning is everything! Everything takes longer if you don't plan. 

Anika & Alan: The teachers and staff here really want to help you succeed on what you want to do. So, think about what you want to do, and how you want to get there and you can be successful. 

Armin: You can handle the work, just don't procrastinate. I would tell students to make the most of their opportunities here, too. 


I loved getting to know all of these students throughout this blog series! I was so impressed with our upper school students. They work hard, and most importantly, love to learn! I can't wait to see what the future holds for our oldest students here at BASIS Independent McLean. 

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