IMSA in One Word

IMSA from the perspective of students | Source: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

IMSA students are known to complain about their involvements.

“This week’s problem set is so hard.”

“I got two hours of sleep.”

“I have five club meetings after school.”

Even so, they all hang out with friends in the hall or laugh over Lexington donuts in IN2. This made me wonder: how do students really feel about IMSA? How would they describe it? In this article, I asked numerous students the same question:

If you had to describe IMSA in one word, what would it be and why?

Responses varied surprisingly and it became very clear that students have a lot to say.

Positive Opinions

Several students voiced positive opinions that you don’t often hear in the hallways. For instance, Clara Maughan’s (‘26)  response was, “Accepting. There are lots of clubs for many different groups, like the culture clubs, but if you don’t belong to any of them, you aren’t excluded.”

Similarly, Lucy Ferron (‘26) responded with “Aware.” She stated, “The students and staff at IMSA are aware of what is going on in the world around them and try to make changes.”

Christopher Costabile’s (‘25) word was “Entertaining.” He explained, “The people you meet and times you have will last forever and it is just so fun.”

Others appreciate the uniqueness of IMSA and the path it sets for students in the future. For instance, Ethan Hunt’s (‘26) choice was “opportunities” since “there are so many more options here for classes and clubs than at my old school.”

Likewise, IMSA alumnus Aaron Fanjoy (‘21), with experience in the world outside of IMSA, replied that the word most fitting was “challenging” because of the “academics but also fitting in with new people and moving away from home at a young age. “

Clearly, people have positive things to say about the school. They recognized the opportunities gained from the challenging and dynamic environment of IMSA and the good aspects that stem from combining people from across the state. On the other hand, several students had more negative things to say.

Negative Opinions

Other students recognized the negative components of IMSA that result from that challenging and dynamic environment. For instance,

Kennett Andersen’s (‘26) word was “tiring” as “the intensity of work plus being in a club and sport leaves [him] drained at the end of the day.”

Wenjun (Jessica) Li’s (‘26): description of IMSA was “hellish” as there is “way too much work and not enough time to do it…I’m so confused about everything all the time and they make the work hard and vague…Plus, there aren’t any AP classes or honor classes, so college is [going to] be horrible.”

Swara Kakumani (‘26) focused more on the teaching and mental health aspect of IMSA: “stressful,” replying– “[Teachers] give out way too much work and they say they have a lot of resources but they don’t have any that are easily accessible. Most of their resources are study sessions and peer tutors, which are often not helpful to certain types of learners. Teachers need to teach, that’s a fact… It’s not fair to expect incredibly intelligent teachers to teach beginners in subjects, nor is it fair to expect those beginners to understand. They pile on work with little to no instruction and expect us to understand things or learn concepts on our own, but some of us learn differently and suffer for it. The amount of work I have has made it nearly impossible to have a social life or extracurriculars, and both my mental and physical health have struggled because of the workload. The amount of effort I put in is not shown through what I get from the system. The late nights and lack of rest make things harder, and then I end up in a vicious cycle of depression and work. I’m constantly stressed and there’s no real resources that I can reach out to.”

From all of these responses, it is evident that IMSA truly is a challenging and dynamic environment with natural controversy. It is, of course, an ever-changing institution that will continue to improve and grow. Some opportunities and challenges are a great risk, but there are life-long rewards from these experiences. Because of this, there is no one word that can describe IMSA.

About the Author

Michelle Fanjoy
Hey! I am a sophomore at IMSA ('26) and I live in 1503. I enjoy playing tennis and the flute. I also love watching Formula 1, but most importantly, I love writing! I am looking forward to working as a staff writer for The Acronym this year.

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