High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College
The High School for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at City College (HSMSE) is located in Baskerville Hall, a 100-year-old building on City College’s campus.
Established in 2002, HSMSE provides a rigorous education focused on the STEM fields. The school’s mission is to challenge students to expand their intellect and develop habits such as inquiry, expression, critical thinking, problem-solving, and research.
HSMSE has an enrollment of around 500 students, and it’s been recognized by the New York Times as the most diverse school in New York City. Students have access to City College’s campus facilities, including the cafeteria, gym, quad, and multiple libraries.
- Enrollment 491
- College Matriculation 87%
- Graduation rate 100%
Rigorous Academic Programs
Like other specialized colleges, HSMSE challenges students to a rigorous academic program. Here, freshmen take two periods of mathematics. Students take laboratory science classes each year, as well as a core set of engineering courses. Students also take a minimum of three years of foreign language instruction (Spanish or German) for at least three years.
All courses are taught at the honors, college, or AP level, and students follow an extended day schedule, attending classes from 8 AM to 3:35 PM daily. The HSMSE teaching staff includes PhDs and trained engineers.
Students complete their high school requirements during their third year of study and have the option to earn a minimum of one year of college credit from City College.
The graduation rate is 99 percent, and 99 percent of graduates enroll in a college or postgraduate program within six months.
Unique Schedule and Concentrations
Students at HSMSE follow a block schedule, attending core classes for 90 minutes on alternating days, which leaves more time for class discussions and projects. Electives and lunch take place in shorter periods of 45 minutes daily. This schedule offers the added benefit of staggering student homework.
A three-year sequence of engineering courses is required at HSMSE: Design and Drawing, Civil Engineering and Architecture, and Principals of Engineering (taught in a double period with Physics).
During the spring of their sophomore year, HSMSE students declare a concentration in either math, medical research, or engineering (taught by trained engineers). Some engineering students earn paid internships from the City College’s Grove School of Engineering.
Students in the math concentration compete on the math team and take college level mathematics courses including Advanced Topics, in which they learn Maple programming, a computer language for mathematical computation.
The medical research program offers limited seats and is partnered with Mount Sinai Hospital. Courses include bioethics, physiology, and anatomy. Students regularly head to the medical center to participate in laboratory and clinical internships.
Although HSMSE is most celebrated for its STEM programs, it’s strong in other subjects as well. For example, students take AP English during their junior years. By senior year, they’re discussing topics such as existentialism and the American short story. Students read work by Thoreau, Kafka, and Hemingway.
Courses are offered in drawing, guitar, studio art, jazz ensemble, and more. Students can also play sports including basketball, baseball, soccer, softball, volleyball, and track.
HSMSE allows students to help choose the elective classes and programs that are offered, giving them a sense of ownership and belonging. Principal Bonds explains that the school culture is rigorous and fast-paced, so she wants students to have fun as well.
Electives include astronomy, poetry, and gastronomy. Students who take gastronomy sample food and report on their “tasting trips” on a food blog.
This apparent love of food carries over to clubs as well, where students can join “Eat NYC” and experience different cultures and foods every Friday after school. Club offerings are plentiful, with topics such as anime, astronomy, ping pong, and gardening.
There’s also a wide variety of academic and service-oriented clubs, as well as Dr. Dragon, a bi-annual magazine devoted to math, science, and engineering. Every other Thursday, students meet to create, design, and produce the student-run publication.
In addition to being highly qualified, teachers at HSMSE are devoted to educating their students. 100 percent of teachers say that they work together to design instructional programs, and students receive an interdisciplinary education. For instance, they may watch Schindler’s List in film class while studying WWII in history.
These quality teaching practices are partly due to the leadership of principal Crystal Bonds. Parents and teachers trust Bonds, who emphasizes an environment that is both rigorous and supportive.
Enrollment is under 500 at HSMSE, so it’s a small, close-knit community. And although the school is rigorous and competitive, students describe the atmosphere as friendly, accepting, and supportive.
All ninth grade students complete a year-long course called Freshman Academy, learning about study skills in the fall and research methods in the spring. Bonds says that since starting the program, there has been a marked decline in freshmen students struggling or failing courses.
Teachers provide before and after school tutoring, and some offer individual or small-group tutoring during school hours. There’s a peer tutoring program run by the National Honor Society, and the school sometimes holds Saturday Academy from 10 AM until 1 PM.
There’s also an onsite mental health and wellness clinic that provides free counseling and resources for all HSMSE students.
Is HSMSE Right for You?
HSMSE is a great fit for STEM-oriented students who prefer a small, close-knit environment. It offers especially exciting opportunities for students who want to pursue engineering or medical research.
The school balances high expectations with acceptance and support. Students help choose electives and programs, and English, the arts, and other subjects are strong at HSMSE as well.
Highly qualified teachers collaborate to provide an interdisciplinary education, and the block schedule gives students more time for hands-on activities and discussions.
The school building is somewhat crammed, a feeling that’s emphasized by the basement-level entrance. However, this limitation is offset by student access to City College facilities.
Overall, HSMSE provides a quality education on a college campus, preparing students for both college and careers. Students hoping to pursue a STEM career can benefit from unique courses taught by experts in their fields, as well as hands-on learning and research opportunities.