Mindset when applying to TJ


Ayesha Khan

Seniors in the DNA lab conduct a wide variety of experiments for their projects. Atal Khawreen, a South County freshman looking to apply to TJ, sees senior research labs as a major draw. “I have seen a few different laboratories at TJ. I think they are really cool, and they will provide me with a lot of opportunities because of all the equipment that is available to you,” Khawreen said.

Ayesha Khan, Staff Writer

Some believe that the key to success in education is at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. 

Jefferson is rated the number one high school in the nation, by U.S News, as well as many other organizations. There are approximately 1800 students from five different counties, though the acceptance rate is a low 17%. 

“The focus of the school is the same field that I would like to pursue a career in. I want to become an engineer when I’m older, and I have heard that TJ has a lot of great equipment and offers many technology and programming classes that can help me get started,” eighth grader Bilal Khan said. 

At Jefferson, problem solving and critical thinking skills are the focus of the curriculum. This belief that these essential skills will fix the problems of the world is reflected in their mission statement, which reads that Jefferson “provides students with a challenging learning environment focused on STEM, to inspire joy at the prospect of discovery.”

“When I read the mission statement, I knew that this is a school I want to go to. It shows that they believe learning is endless. I love to collaborate with others, and I know that having good knowledge can lead students to do great things in STEM careers,” South County freshman Atal Khawreen said. 

Jefferson offers multiple courses related to science, technology, and math.  There are many opportunities for advanced curriculum at Jefferson. 

“Since I am interested in engineering as well as other STEM studies, I truly believe that I will be happier at TJ because I will be able to do what I am interested in all the time,” Khan said. 

This is a high school many students see as highly desirable. However, the admissions process has many steps, some of which can be complicated. 

“Last year, I didn’t apply. However, throughout this school year I have strongly felt that I want to be able to study at TJ. I have decided that this year, I am going to apply through the sophomore application process,” John Lewis freshman Saad Ali said. 

Once accepted into Jefferson, there is a heavy load of coursework, a long commute for many students, and high expectations. This means more time outside of school spent on studies. 

“TJ is designed in a way that it would only be a good fit for students who are highly motivated, and academically driven. There will probably be a lot of self learning, and doing research on your own. The requirements for graduation are also stricter,” Khawreen said. 

In general, students at Jefferson have more projects, homework, and exams than the average student in Fairfax County Public Schools. 

“If I do get accepted, I’m expecting that I would have to put in a lot of effort into school. From time to time, the workload could probably lead to stress and anxiety. However, I know that it will benefit me,” Ali said.

Along with the amount of time commitment that students put into TJ, the school day ends later than other high schools in the area. High schools in FCPS end at 2:50, whereas Jefferson ends at 4:00. 

“Having the school day end at 4:00 can be really hard for high school students. I like to participate in sports and clubs after school, but if I end up getting into TJ, that might not be possible since I will get home late,” Khawreen said. “I will not have enough time to finish up school work, and that would also result in less sleep.”

While Jefferson may require more time, this is what some students are interested in. There are a lot of things to keep in mind when applying to TJ, and seeing if it is a good fit.

“Some people might see it as a school that is too complicated, stressful, and strict, but I see it as a hard push towards success,” Khan said.