First-hand Perspective of Texas Academy of Math and Science (TAMS)

Texas Academy of Math and Science alum, Ly Hoang, provided Thesis with an inside view of what it takes to be a “TAMSter.”

Do you have a child who is academically talented and wish he/she can be challenged more? Ever wish your child could skip several grade levels and go to college early?  Or perhaps be exposed to some of the brightest minds in Texas as classmates and be given the opportunity to excel on a national level? If you answered yes to any of the above, you and your child may want to learn more about the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS)!

TAMS is a 2- year residential high school in which students complete 11th and 12th grade as college students at the University of North Texas (UNT), with enough credits to finish their Bachelor’s degree in 2 years. Essentially, students are able to skip the last two years of high school.TAMS-logo-1

This fact was probably the reason why my parents “tiger-momed” us into applying. The idea of their over-achieving kids pushing the envelope even further as 14- 15 year olds was too good to resist. So our summer days were spent studying SAT words and nights learning math concepts two grade levels above us.

Two of my older siblings attended TAMS before me, so I was inundated with stories of their successes as motivation. All of the sacrifices were worth it in my young impressionable mind, in exchange for the promise of unlimited access to the dessert section in the cafeterias and all weekend slumber parties.

Academics:

Highly competitive, TAMS annually accepts the best and brightest Texas students from a large application pool. Most TAMSters are at the top of their class with competitive SAT or ACT scores and an interest in math and science.

Students  take all the required courses for a high school diploma such as Biology, Chemistry, English, etc., with electives available during senior year. Some of my friends took really amazing classes such as fencing, art of cooking, or music history. I, as a doctor-in-training, took the practical route: organic chemistry.

With more than 48 credits by graduation, most graduates are able to transfer over to a 4-year university as a sophomore or even junior to complete the remaining requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree. I went to Rice University after TAMS, where I had enough credits to graduate in 2 years with a B.A. However, I wanted the full college experience so I stayed for 3 years and majored in Biochemistry and Cell Biology and minored in Global Health Technologies.

Not everyone who graduates from TAMS ends up in the STEM fields ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics); some go into education, English, film, etc. Though applicants are generally more inclined towards math and science, pursuing other career fields are never discouraged. Morever, the colleges that graduates attend afterwards are varied. Some of my close friends have gone on to Harvard, MIT, CalTech, UT Austin, Texas A & M, WestPoint, and the Air Force Academy.

One of the best part of attending TAMS is the impressive C.V. that accumulates after two years. It is the type that make admissions officers take a second look at your application. TAMS doesn’t restrict you in your career choices, but rather, expands it to include options that are highly competitive or those that you have never thought about before.

Dorm Life:

TAMSters live in the beloved McConnell Hall which houses only those in the program. There is a dedicated team of Student Life directors, hall directors, program advisors (PA), and resident advisors (RA; an older UNT student) who act as the “parents” to TAMSters. However, students are given enough independence to grow, but with discipline and rules to guide them.

My RA, Jessica, was my “cool mom” who made sure we were in our rooms every night by curfew (11pm weekdays, 1 am weekends), took us to IHOP for Pancake Day, and led us in pranks on other wings. In gratitude, my friends and I lovingly tee-peed her room on the day of graduation.

Also, parents, if you have concerns about boys and girls fraternizing with each other in such close quarters, don’t worry, there are safeguards for that. Each gender is given a separate floor in McConnell with each floor divided into “wings” or sections that are under the direct supervision of a RA. Rules that are reminiscent of those at home include “no closing the doors when a person of opposite gender is in there.” These are strictly enforced… though they are tested everyday.

Understanding that changing environments can be difficult, TAMS work hard to prevent any major home-sickness. For juniors, there are 2 seniors who live on their wings and act as “older siblings,“ who are there to calm any crying spells, to advise on how to ace classes, and to counsel on which cafeteria has the best food on what day. Therefore, it is highly advisable to become best buddies with said older siblings. It’s a win/win situation: sisters/brothers who gives you advice without stealing the T.V. remote or hogging the restroom time before school.

Social Life:

TAMS has many student organizations ranging from the nerdy (Mu Alpha Theta, JETS, Medical Society) to the service-oriented (HOPE, Project Nepal) to the cool ( Food Research Club, Dull Roar, Artfelt Association, BUILD).

With a lot of support from the Student Life team, students are encouraged to be social not only amongst each other but also in the community. By being exposed to so many diverse activities and interests, students are encouraged to explore and discover who they are.A full list of clubs can be found here: https://tams.unt.edu/student-life/clubs-and-club-info. If you don’t see a club with your interests, start your own!

All in all, TAMS was a priceless experience that still positively affects my career today. I still get compliments and awe-struck looks about attending medical school at such a young age. Additionally, TAMS helped introduce me to some of my best friends for life.

If your child is interested in applying for TAMS, be sure to visit their website for all of the information about the program.

 

Ly Hoang is  a medical student at UT Health Science Center in Houston’s Medical Center, in addition to tutoring with General Academic.

The views expressed in an essay/op-ed belong to the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Thesis.

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