Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Advice from Successful College Students


Months ago when I was touring schools, I sent a Facebook message to some college students who participated in a youth program I coordinated in Oakland a few years ago. They were amazing youth leaders, critical thinkers and great students. They all went to some great colleges (including some ivy leagues) and attended a mix of public and private/parochial schools for their K-12 education. I asked them for advice on what they think I should do about choosing schools for my daughter. Here were my questions: “With your diverse experiences in public and private schools, what do you think are the benefits and disadvantages of each?
 How did going to a private school influence your self-identity being that y'all are people of color, generally working class/middle class, and, sometimes, from immigrant families?
 Do you think we should prioritize sending our daughter to private or public school? 
How has private school helped or hindered your experiences in college? 
What else? What do you think I should know about choosing schools? How did y'all become such awesome high schoolers?"

Here are some excerpts of their responses.  I’ve been thinking about their advice a lot this past week and thought they might be helpful to others:
o   I can't deny that I learned a lot in private school and there were a lot more opportunities but something must be said for the fact that I do feel that it made me a little socially awkward. I can't really explain it but public school immerses you more in reality.” – Attended public school for K-8 and then a Catholic high school
o   “I would maybe send her to public school for Kindergarten through elementary and then private school in middle school or even a really good charter school but definitely private school for high school. 
Private school definitely provided me with more attention and a better understanding of the college process. But it is really expensive I was able to get a large scholarship every year so that helped some. I feel my high school helped with my confidence and allowed me to ask and answer questions with little intimidation, which are good things to have once at college. 
But not all private schools are the same. 
Check class size, curriculum and diversity of student body.
 Do students and faculty at school look like me?
 At many private universities, diversity is a problem, but some schools are better than others so try to find those schools.” – Student who attended public school until she went to a prestigious independent high school on full scholarship
o   "I went to a diverse private school from K-8 (i.e. almost all the students were low income and on financial aid). I went to mid-level private high school. As far as K-12, I can only speak to Catholic private education. In short, it was well worth it. Going to the same K-8 school built a strong sense of community among me and my peers—especially the people I had known since Kindergarten. It’s really hard to hate on or make fun of someone you’ve known since you were 4! In both K-8 and high school, the populations were both really diverse; however, I found that the Catholic education foundation and belief among me and my peers served as a phenomenal shared background. The mandatory retreats and reflections, something you don’t really get in public school, encourage introspection and self-discovery—something that helped me to define my values and goals. Naysayers will say that private school at a young age leaves you sheltered—but to be honest, I think I turned out well adjusted because of it! I found K-8 to be incredibly nurturing, which really allowed me to be MYSELF in a safe and supportive environment. That’s how I ended up so confident, flamboyant, and extroverted in Catholic school—even despite being low income and of color." - Student who attended Catholic school from K-12

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! Very insightful. I've heard of a handful of good parochial schools in San Francisco, anyone have feedback on any of the following: St. Cecilia, St. Finn Bar, St. Anne, St. Brendan, Holy Name, St. Gabriel? Or firsthand experiences at these schools?

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  2. St. Brendan is notoriously hard to get into. It fills with parishoners' children. St. Cecelia is know for performing arts. Have read positive comments about St. Finn Barr and St. Gabriel on this blog.

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  3. Why on earth was my comment deleted from here? All I did was compliment the poster, and then add an anecdote that I thought was clarifying, about the pros and cons of independent schools. What gives?

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    1. It may have been a mistake sorry. Trying to delete the spam comments fast and might have deleted yours by accident. Please repost

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  4. 7:08 - I was surprised that it was deleted too. I saw it in the morning and found it gone this evening. Mistake by moderator? I've noticed a lot of spam comments popping up lately. Maybe you should try to re-post.

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    1. have you made your decision? I think a lot of people are in a similar situation, e.g. great public option and great private option. a tough call for sure.

      we opted for private with lots of fear and trepidation. trying to avoid "buyer's remorse" and trying to look forward now that the decision is made.

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  5. The comments of the college students was interesting. My gut tells me that it does make more sense to start with public school, but do privates for high school. But I have heard diametrically opposite views from some neighbors. Two in particular had their kids go to private from K through 8 and then did public for high school (lowell and SOTA). I also had a co-worker who lives in Berkeley who sent her kid to private for K through 8 and then Berkeley High (public). All three felt that the privates gave their kids a firm foundation so that their kids were more successful in the public high schools. All three went off to good colleges (Georgetown, UPenn and NYU) and have been successful. So go figure!

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    1. Yup, my neighbor did Friends K-8 and daughter is now headed to SOTA. All studies show that early education matters most (including preschool) so perhaps they're right in how they allocated their dollars. Everyone does the best they can with the means and information and opportunity they have.

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  6. 7:08 here. Sorry to sound so defensive -- I thought my comment was a balanced assessment of both public and private, and an interesting echo of what wordofthemutha's respondents said (it also complimented her on her reviews). So here goes, again:

    A friend of mine has a daughter who went public through 9th grade (at Lowell), then transferred from public to private. She also, coincidentally, identifies as a very leftie Christian, which will explain the rhetoric she used when I asked her what the differences were between public and private. She said something like, I feel like I am finally getting an education at [her private], whereas public was all about competition and testing. But I see the face of Christ in everyone, and my classmates at [her private] could never do that; they are all just caught up in their little dramas.

    I thought this was really pithy, and though this young woman's incredibly wide social band is not JUST a result of public school (her experience in a lefty and very class-diverse church has something to do with her ability to hang with people very different from her), it's clearly part of it. Yet she has had to grapple with how much more deeply she can go, intellectually, in private. She is "successful" at both, no doubt, and it's not clear what the right answer is -- maybe a mix of public and private? I think we all want our kids to have both a challenging, individualized education AND the capacity to interact with and befriend a wide variety of people.

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    1. I have come to a place where I've decided it's not about public vs private. It has to be a financial and school specific and child specific choice. There is no easy dichotomy and unfortunately as in life, it can often be grey, especially when so many factors play into a child's life.

      At this age we (as parents) can still choose a path to start them off on, but ultimately, they will walk away from us down their own path no matter what we decide.

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    2. I went public K-7, then transferred to Catholic schools in a progressive diocese. My family was atheist but wanted an academically sound option that would challenge me and force me to challenge myself. The public schools available to us in that time and place did not offer that. The values of compassion, selflessness, and seeing the humanity in everyone that I picked up in Catholic school moved me from the thoughtless country-club conservatism of my family to pretty far left. I think it made a lot more open to all kinds of people. As a result of that, and of the far deeper, more intellectually demanding and stimulating education I received, I am a huge fan of Catholic education, even though I'm not at all a fan of the official doctrine of the Catholic church.

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  7. Thank you for your great advise. This brings big benefits for me as I have my degree in college and it help me get successful in my college career.

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