Zoe Beckenstein- From Plant to Barnard


Luka Vaicekauskas

Posing then and now, a former Plant High School student, Zoe Beckenstein, shares about her experience at Barnard College. Now, after spending 4 years at Plant High School, Beckenstein just finished her first semester at Barnard as an economics major and a minor in art history.

Luka Vaicekauskas, Features Editor

Zoe Beckenstein, a PHS’ 22 graduate, is a current student at Barnard College, with an economics major and a minor in art history. Studying at a rigorous and selective school in the heart of New York is an accomplishment worth noting, but with the rigorous and involved schedule Beckenstein maintained while at Plant, the acceptance letter was merely a surprise. In this interview, Beckenstein shared her most memorable moments at Barnard, tips for future applicants, as well as throwbacks to her high school years at Plant. 

Tell me a little bit about your experience at Plant. What clubs or other activities you were part of, ect. What teachers inspired you most? Any athletic activities you were part in? 

“I had an amazing experience at Plant and looking back on it now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I was the president of NHS, co-president of Speak Up alongside my friend Silvia Farfante, marketing vice president of Gold Rush, and a member of TV production. I was also a member of the cross country team from freshman-senior year. My teachers were phenomenal and it’s become evermore apparent to me since going to college how lucky I was to go to Plant and to have had the teachers I did. Coach Meyer was definitely the most inspiring teacher I had and truly changed my life. I hope to find a mentor similar to him in college (although that may be impossible with how much he impacted me). I also loved Mr. Ren, who has inspired me to become an art history minor, Mrs. Hough, who taught me to love math (I’ve learned since high school that math teachers as incredible as her are few and far between), and Ms. Johnson.” 

How did you decide that Barnard was a place to be? 

“Barnard was everything I was looking for in a college. I loved that it remained its own small community within Columbia but still allowed me to have all the resources and opportunities within the university as a whole. It has this extremely unique dynamic that I feel can’t really be found anywhere else. As a Barnard student I have access to all of the courses and extracurriculars of Columbia but am able to have a little home of my own when I step back on Barnard’s campus. It is an absolutely incredible community of women who all have so much drive, passion, and intelligence and it truly is a community that pushes you immensely. Further, I wanted a liberal arts education where I’d be encouraged to explore an abundance of different fields without feeling tied to a core curriculum and Barnard provides that as well. I wanted to live in a city but as I got closer to the application period I started to think about applying to school with more of that “campus feel” and luckily, Barnard/Columbia have both!” 

How was the application process to apply to Barnard? What do you think stood out in your application? 

“The application process for Barnard was pretty typical when it comes to college applications. There were three supplemental questions and everything was done through the Common Application. I chose to do an optional interview but I had a very friendly interviewer who seemed genuinely interested in learning about me and teaching me about Barnard so that was a really great experience. For Barnard, along with a couple of the other schools I applied to, I submitted an additional portfolio that including some of my favorite videos I made at Plant which I think made me stand out in my application.” 

How is your ultimate experience at Barnard? What is your favorite part about it? 

I would say overall I love it here. There are parts of it that I don’t love so much such as my schedule, which I unfortunately loaded with some challenging classes that aren’t really in my wheelhouse but nonetheless, there are so many incredible professors and resources here and I’m very excited for my future here. Next semester I’m taking some classes that I think will be super interesting, including the first class for my minor so I am very excited. It is honestly hard to choose my favorite part about Barnard. I’d say first and foremost the professors and resources provided at Barnard and Columbia are outstanding and the help they provide for connecting to alumni, grad school, etc are truly wonderful. Secondly, I cannot get enough of New York City. Every time I walk across campus I feel like I’m on a movie set and it sometimes feels like the options are endless when it comes to anything from food to museums to fashion to a future career. People here have so many niche interests and it’s always exciting to meet people who are super passionate.” 

What is one tip you would give someone applying to Barnard? 

“I know this is cheesy and overused but I would honestly say to be as authentic as possible in your application. As a student I’ve seen that there is every single type of individual attending this school. You do not need to have perfect grades, scores, or a seemingly insane resume as I thought you did in high school. I have friends that may have not have excelled test taking or AP classes or athletics but still showed Barnard that they belonged here. I feel like most people I meet were meant to be here and are able to thrive in this environment. I believe the admissions office bases admittance off who they think will fit in the community and I feel most people have started to find their niche.”