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A look beyond Hornet Road: Evaluating Greenhill’s ability to prepare students for college

A college preparatory school is supposed to prepare its students with the tools necessary to succeed when they matriculate. But sometimes schools struggle to accomplish what they set out to do.

According to Greenhill’s statement of philosophy, “Greenhill expects graduates to be highly competent in all domains of the curriculum, fully prepared for the academic rigors of college.” Yet students, recent graduates, and teaching alumni all have varying opinions on whether Greenhill prepares its students for college adequately.

Upper School Science teacher Dr. Andrejs Krumins and former member of the pharmaceuticals lab at the University of Texas Southwestern, said he tries to prepare his students to succeed beyond the high school classroom.

“I’m trying to prepare students for college all the time. My biggest goal with any student is to help them develop good skills and processes to be successful. I try to be careful of how much information I provide students to see if they can make connections on their own,” Dr. Krumins said.

Some faculty who are Greenhill alumni said they feel that Greenhill prepared them well for their undergraduate college experience.
Upper School Spanish teacher Monsie Muñoz ‘05 graduated from Williams College and returned to campus as a teacher in 2012.

“Academically, I think Greenhill prepares students to perform the functions necessary to be successful in college,” said Ms. Muñoz. “Greenhill asks a lot of students academically, but by the time they reach college, [students] can plan and better quantify how to parcel different elements of their day.”

Upper School History teacher Dr. Amy Bresie ’96 also said Greenhill played a significant role in helping her achieve a sufficient level of preparedness for higher education. Dr. Bresie completed her undergraduate education at Kenyon College.

Dr. Bresie specifically said the writing techniques and experiences she gained as a student at Greenhill gave her a leg up over her college classmates.

“I never felt like there was anything I couldn’t do. I knew how to write a paper, closely read a text, and how to talk about [the text],” said Dr. Bresie.

Some of Greenhill’s more recent graduates, such as Yale University freshman Zach Rudner ’17, also praised Greenhill for its handling of the college process.

“For me, Greenhill to college was just a natural progression. I learned how to handle a large workload and how to write a strong essay,” said Zach. “Greenhill allows you to take classes that you want, so it’s not as overwhelming to have that choice in college.”

Other alumni still in college had somewhat of a different take. Claremont McKenna College sophomore Justin Estrada ’16 had mixed views about how the college process is handled at Greenhill.

“I feel like I was prepared [for college] when I left Greenhill. Having good study habits and actually going to class are things Greenhill engendered in me,” said Justin. “College has more long-term assignments and less daily work than Greenhill. I think if Greenhill would focus more on preparing students to manage several long-term projects, that would be perfect for college.”

University of California at Berkeley freshman Kaavya Venkat ’17 said she feels behind in college due to some of the courses she chose to take at Greenhill. Kaavya is studying pre-med at Berkeley and said she finds herself having to catch up to some of her college classmates who took difficult courses in high school that better aligned with their major.

“If a student has an idea of what major or career path they want to follow, Greenhill should advise students to take certain classes in high school before going to college,” said Kaavya. “In some cases, taking challenging courses might make the academic transition smoother. For example, AP science classes can be beneficial in the long run for someone who wants to get a basic understanding of what introductory science classes are like in college.”

This leaves Greenhill in a complicated situation. The more removed an alumnus is from their graduation, the more optimistically they remember Greenhill’s college process.

Yet among current high school seniors and some alumni in college, there is still a sense of uncertainty about whether they are truly prepared to succeed at the next level.

“I’ve received an excellent education over the course of my years here at Greenhill, and Greenhill treats college preparation with the importance it should, but there are lots of other aspects of life that Greenhill doesn’t teach us,” said senior Bill Yang.

Some alumni and seniors, including Zach, had some suggestions for Greenhill that they thought would help prepare students to perform better in college.

“Greenhill makes you a good essay writer, but they should increase the variety of essays people write. Greenhill students write the same kind of formulaic literature essay over and over, save the two history research papers freshman and sophomore year. But in college, you can’t write every paper that way,” said Zach. “Greenhill should expand the essay writing students do to more different types of writing because college writing is not limited to literature.”

Photo by Sudeep Bhargava

Originally published in the November 2017 print issue

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