Questions and Answers

​Questions and Answers

UPDATED December 8, 2020​​

What is MESA?

The Math, Engineering and Science Academy offers a four-year program designed to prepare students for a college preparatory pathway to a career in math, science and/or engineering. Students will thrive in a state-of-the-art laboratory environment designed to provide authentic experiences in mathematics, engineering, and science. Academy students will explore science and mathematics through the lens of engineering research and design. Students will learn to communicate complex ideas reflecting the rapid growth of technologies applicable in the global community. Students enrolled in the Academy will have the opportunity t​o experiment with cutting edge technologies as they interact and intern with professionals in the science, mathematical, and engineering fields.


Where is MESA located?

MESA is located on the 2nd floor of the science wing at Albemarle High School.


How do I attend MESA?

Starting with in the winter of 2021, there will be no applications for fall 2021 for rising 9th graders or rising 11th graders. Instead an interest form will be filled out and students will be chosen from the pool. Currently 72 seats are available for the program. In the fall of 2022 the process will change again. How it will change has yet to be determined.



Who can apply to MESA?

All rising 9th graders can apply to the program. In addition rising 11th graders can apply to take the engineering component of MESA. Please speak with your guidance counselor regarding the prerequisites to apply as a junior. Please note applicants must be Albemarle County residents to attend MESA. 

Albemarle County Academies are cohort programs.  Students must be rising freshmen when they apply and enter an academy program.  If a middle school student is not an eighth grader, a determination of grade acceleration must be made before the student applies to an academy.

Only students who plan on attending an Albemarle County school may attend an academy. They may apply with the understanding that their parents/guardians will have a home residence​ in Albemarle county by the following school year.


What do rising juniors need to do to apply?


​Rising juniors will​ need to show interest by filling out a form. The form is currently not available.

Typical math and science part of the schedule

8th grade: Geometry
9th grade: Algebra II
9th grade: (If you have not completed geometry, you will need to complete it by 10th grade.)

10th grade: Math Analysis/Pre-Calculus (Outside of the MESA program, this can be done as a double blocked class at AHS.)
11th grade: AP Calculus AB 
12th grade: AP Calculus BC 

Math Option 2
8th grade: Algebra I
9th grade: Algebra II

9th grade: Trigonometry by the start of 10th grade. This can be done as an elective during 9th grade or during the summer online. Talk to your counselor about options.
10th grade: Math Analysis/Pre-Calculus (Outside of the MESA program, this can be done as a double blocked class at AHS.)
11th grade: AP Calculus AB
12th grade: AP Calculus BC 

9th grade: Biology I
10th grade: Chemistry I
11th grade: AP Physics 1

12th grade: optional: AP Physics 2 –>this is typical among MESA students.


When do I apply if I attend a private school in Charlottesville and the public school registration does not start until AFTER the posted application deadline?


Since you live in the state, you must apply before the same deadline as the other applicants. No late applications are accepted late in this situation.


How many openings are there during the junior year?


We are limited to how many students we can teach by the classroom size and staffing. Openings in the program are created by the number of students who choose not to continue in MESA by their junior year. Typically this yields zero to six openings.


I currently attend a high school other than Albemarle High School in the county. Can I attend my high school and still be in the MESA program?



No. All students who are accepted to the MESA program become students at Albemarle High School.


If I live in a feeder pattern other than Albemarle High Schools, for example Western Albemarle High School's, will a bus be provided to Albemarle High School?



Currently the county does provide transportation to and from your feeder school and Albemarle.


Are there pre-requisites to apply to MESA?

A strong interest in math, engineering, and science is preferred. Students applying for MESA as rising a 9th graders should have completed Algebra I or Geometry.​

For juniors applying to the program, enrollment in Calculus is a co-requisite for the class. In addition, students should have completed all the physical sciences - Earth science or biology and chemistry and AP physics 1. If they have not had AP physics 1 by the junior year, then they will take it AP physics 1 during the junior year. Since the junior and senior year classes are dual enrollment, they must also meet any additional requirements put in place by PVCC


Is there an additional cost to attend MESA?

MESA is part of Albemarle County Public Schools. As a public school, there is no tuition cost to attend MESA.


How is MESA different from the high school experience at other schools?

MESA is designed simply to be another option for students who are interested in additional math and science electives beyond the current offerings. 


How many courses are involved in MESA?

MESA students will take their math and science courses as part of the academy. English, social studies, world languages and other electives will be taken as part of the regular course offerings at Albemarle High.  A sample schedule is seen below.  Remember at the 9th and 10th grade, the MESA courses are simply replacing your math and science courses. 

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I am also interested in the Fine Arts Letters Program, can I do MESA and get a Fine Arts Letter in Band or Drama?

Definitely yes.  The Fine Arts Letters program was created to showcase the wonderful things our Fine Arts students are doing already.  Many MESA students are active in choir, drama, creative writing, band, etc and you can do one or both.


I'm not the greatest math student, will MESA be too difficult for me?


While a certain skill level is a needed, the ability to solve problems is a stronger requirement. Engineers are not always the best mathematicians, but they are people who enjoy figuring things out. MESA starts with the Algebra II curriculum, so students should have completed Geometry. If you are interested in MESA and have not taken Geometry, you should still consider applying.  We have worked with numerous students who had not completed Geometry to make sure they were academically ready for the MESA program.  


I don't know if I want to be an engineer, is MESA for me?

Students who don't apply to MESA say this is the biggest reason -- they don't want to be engineers. The problem is many people and especially young people have a very narrow definition of engineering.   As technology has advanced and the problems we face have changed there are numerous engineering disciplines that did not exist 10 years ago, from Biomedical Engineering to Nanotechnology to Environmental Engineering, engineering careers literally encompass every student interest and potential career choice.  In addition, students with an engineering background score higher on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and students with a Physics major get higher scores on the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) than any other major -- including pre-Med and Biology.

Engineers are trained problem-solvers, and that skill is highly applicable and transferrable to every profession. Many business people and employment recruiters think of an engineering degree as an asset to any future career. The biggest question students considering MESA should ask is “do you like to solve problems, do you like to be challenged and do you like to create?” The engineering curriculum provides an excellent background for careers in law, business or medicine because it creates disciplined work habits; it empowers creativity, collaboration and communication skills.


        SAT Scores Math  English Writing
        MESA 715 701 682
        ACPS 566 563 539
        VA 515 518 497
        National 501 492 478


MESA students have a variety of interest and abilities and have talents in many areas - see above.  While most students graduating from MESA go into a science, math or engineering discipline, we also have students that have gone to college to major in business, politics, music, film, teaching, nursing, Russian​ literature, food policy and a host of other careers.  ​ 


How many hours of college credit will my student earn upon completing the program at MESA?

All MESA graduates will earn 5 engineering credits through our partnership with PVCC. It is anticipated that the student will also earn some college credit through AP classes taken concurrently with the Academy. The 2017 MESA graduating class averaged 7.5 AP classes per student and close to 8 college credits through Albemarle High School’s dual enrollment offerings. That is potentially over 25 college credits depending on the student’s AP scores and the acceptance of AP classes by the student’s respective college.  The Engineering classes offered in MESA have been accepted for college credit at the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech in addition to numerous out of state colleges.


How many students will MESA accept?

9th grade: We accept all students who fill out the out the interest form by the due date or when they enter the school system.

11th grade: 0 to 6 students -It depends on the number of seats that are available. We are limited by classrooms and teacher availability.


We live outside the Albemarle County District, and/or we will be relocating to Albemarle County can our child still apply?

The MESA program is for students who are in the Albemarle County school system. If a student from outside Albemarle County is selected, the student will be placed on a confirmed waiting list until documentation of residency is produced. Residency documentation must be produced by July 10th. Failure to produce documentation will result in the student being moved to the program's waitlist.  ​

Questions regarding residency requirements for Albemarle County and Albemarle High School attendance should be directed to the Albemarle County School Board office at (434) 296- 5877.


We live in Albemarle County, but not in the Albemarle High School District. Can my child still apply to MESA?


Yes, all county students are invited to apply to the Academy. Please note that the student will need to attend Albemarle High School as a full-time student. Currently bus service is not provided to students in the Western or Monticello district although we are continuing to work on that to accommodate students from across the county. 



What if my child is not accepted as a rising 9th grader? Can s/he apply again in a future year?

Yes, even if not accepted as a 9th grader, students can apply to MESA again as a junior.


What if my child took Algebra II in the 8th grade? Can s/he still apply to MESA?

Absolutely. Although the Academy is being specifically designed for kids who will have completed Geometry by the 8th grade, students who have already completed Algebra II as entering freshmen will be ahead of this pace a bit. The curriculum will have some repetition to it, but as the course is being designed as more of a lab course with the science overlap, the student will receive a deeper and richer understanding of the material.  See what the students have to say.  Student responses.pdfStudent responses.pdf


Who is the ideal MESA student? What are the expectations of students, work load, etc.?

It is expected that the MESA student will have a strong interest in a career in a math- or science-related field, and that they have a general passion for experimentation, design, building, self-discovery, etc. As students accepted into the academy will have a love and an interest in the content, the work-load will not be overly burdensome as they will be studying topics they might have been exploring on their own.  Kids who are building roller coasters, robots or other gadgets in their spare time will not see any work outside of class as "homework" but more as fun.


Will my child still be able to participate in extra-curricular activities, if s/he attends MESA? Will these be Albemarle High programs, or programs at my child's home school, if that is not AHS?

A student must attend Albemarle High School to be part of MESA. If a student does not reside in Albemarle High School’s district, and is accepted to MESA, permission can be granted for that student to attend AHS and MESA. In that case, AHS becomes the student’s home school, and any extracurricular activities at AHS are open to that student. A student may not, for example, attend AHS/MESA and compete in athletics at another county high school in the district where the student resides. The student could compete for any AHS team or activity.  From sports teams to robotics teams to Improv Teams the students in MESA are incredibly active in a wide variety of clubs and extra-curricular activities.  They just have to do it all as AHS students.


How are the classes weighted for GPA calculations?

All MESA classes are weighted at the Honors level. (i.e. 5 points for an A).  Due to the structure of the MESA courses, students receive credits as follows: (2 credits 9th grade, 2 credits 10th grade, 2 high School elective credits + 2 college credits 11th grade, 2 high school elective credits + 3 college credits 12th grade) MESA at the 11th/12th grade also qualifies as a students CTE/Fine Arts Elective for graduation purposes. 

However, the program's classes and GPA weights are superseded by any changes the school system imposes as a system.


My school offers science as a semester course and I have just started my 8th grade science class. I doubt my teacher knows me well enough yet to write the most effective recommendation. Should I get my 7th grade teacher to write the recommendation?


Teacher recommends are no longer used.


What is required to take the 11th and 12th  grade MESA engineering classes? 

These are dual enrollment courses. Credit is awarded through PVCC and the classes are held​ at the high school. You need to be in Calculus to take the class and if you have not had AP physics 1 or MESA physics, then you will take AP Physics 1 your junior year too.

The tree of math classes the lead to calculus is as follows.

  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Algebra 2 with trigonometry 
  • Math Analysis/Pre-Calc
  • Calculus​ -co-requisite for the 11th grade dual enrollement class.