As Rutgers Prep sprang back into action after our winter break, many of our recent graduates were still at home visiting. Most college’s academic calendars don’t start back up until later in January, which tends to result in a warmly welcomed group of former students streaming back on to campus to reconnect with faculty members and each other. This year, one of these returnees was invited into a few of our Lower School classrooms, and so it was that our fifth graders found themselves learning new vocabulary and new concepts with a new teacher.
Like her brother Andrew Parr ‘12 before her, Sarah Parr ‘16 is a Rutgers Prep “lifer,” having spent her entire academic career prior to college here with us at Rutgers Prep. As a first-semester freshman at Case Western Reserve this fall, Sarah enrolled in a course entitled “Women in the Ancient World,” and when some of her former teachers heard about it, they invited her to spend some time in their classrooms while home on break. Sarah learned that Rutgers Prep fifth graders were studying Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first female pharoah, and used that as her starting point.
“There’s a lot of new vocabulary to learn when you study Ancient Egypt, so I decided to start there. I hadn’t actually read the book the students had, so I truly didn’t know what they knew; I decided to use that to my advantage. I was learning from them, they were learning from each other, and then we expanded on what they knew, which was a lot. To drive home some of the most important terms, I divided the class into groups of two or three and gave them each a key term for them to create a skit for. Their creativity with props and ideas was amazing.”
Thinking back on her time at Rutgers Prep as a student, Sarah shared that she had learned some of the exercises she drew on – like brainstorming key words and taking a few minutes to write down everything you know about them, and then organizing your thoughts and remembering even more information – from her Advanced Placement World History course.
Not surprisingly, our fifth graders were very enthusiastic about their time with Sarah. Zachary’s favorite part was presenting, while Abbigail was delighted to have a chance to do some acting. Vikram liked that the students worked together to do the charades, and Phillip was happy to learn some new vocabulary.
Mrs. Vinchur added, “The students were definitely engaged. They were up and out of their seats, moving and learning.” As the students headed off to their next class, one boy turned to Sarah and said, “Good luck in college! You did great. I hope you get a good job – you deserve it.”
These kinds of unique cross-divisional opportunities are part of what make the Rutgers Prep experience a special one, and we’re always happy to see our faculty leveraging the talents of their students… even the ones who have graduated!
At Rutgers Prep we take pride in the level of support we provide our Upper School students in their college search and application process, but even our College Counseling Team was a little surprised by the apparent readiness of this year’s graduates. In a typical year, somewhere between 65% and 85% of Rutgers Prep’s graduating class will file at least one application by November 1st, a common deadline for both binding Early Decision programs and non-binding Early Action programs. This year, in the face of ever-increasing selectivity, members of the Rutgers Prep’s Class of 2017 brought their “A” game and completed early applications in record numbers; a full 92% of this year’s graduating class had filed at least one application by November 1st!
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, total undergraduate enrollment in US colleges and universities increased 31% from 13.2 million in 2000 to 17.3 million in 2014. By 2025, the total US undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase to 19.8 million students. It is within this increasingly competitive context that Rutgers Prep students are rising to the challenge. Since in many cases filing an early application can improve a student’s chances of being offered admission, Rutgers Prep provides both opportunity and personal support to each of our students as they embark on their college application process.
As of this writing, although many students have yet to receive the results of their early applications, some good news has started to trickle in. At least one member of the Rutgers Prep Class of 2017 has received an offer of admission from the following schools (this list is not comprehensive, and is growing by the day!):
Carnegie Mellon University
University of Delaware
University of Denver
Indiana U of Bloomington
Johns Hopkins University
University of Mississippi
New Jersey Institute of Technology
New York University
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
University of Rochester
University of Texas at Austin
In addition to some exciting offers of admission, several of our students have been fortunate enough to be recruited Division I athletes, or have received substantial merit scholarship awards. The combination of Rutgers Prep’s excellence in education combined with our students’ own hard work means that our graduates are presented with some extraordinary opportunities. We are pleased and proud to support the Class of 2017 as they prepare to join some exciting academic communities next fall, and we look forward to hearing more good news as admissions committees continue to meet.
From a developmental standpoint, the middle school years are rich with possibility. At Rutgers Prep, our divisional leadership is hard at work ensuring that our students have opportunities to develop in areas that sometimes fall outside of the traditional academic disciplines… but are no less critical to the development of our students. This commitment to keeping our curriculum fresh is evident in both our middle school’s Ideas and Innovation programming, as well as in the students’ “Cycle Classes,” which students rotate through over the course of each academic year.
This year’s sixth grade Cycle Classes, for example, are Citizen Kid, Digital Kid, Art, and Latin. In their Citizen Kid classes, middle school students will grapple with primary sources and the civic responsibilities of citizens. As New Jersey heads into a gubernatorial race, our students will have an opportunity to interact directly with at least one of the gubernatorial candidates. We encourage our students to not only seek out the topics with which they are passionately engaged as learners, but also to actively consider their role as future citizens.
Students in our Digital Kid Cycle Class will be learning to keyboard, thereby increasing the efficiency of so much of the rest of their work. (Although based on research about how we learn best, the Rutgers Prep middle school also maintains a division-wide commitment to note-taking and journaling by hand.) Digital Kid students also work with recording their own voices, eventually moving to podcasting. This focus on developing one’s voice is also a division-wide commitment, as the school makes a conscious effort to ensure that students become more comfortable as public speakers and presenters. (This commitment is particularly in evidence when our middle schoolers travel beyond campus in the service of learning; at a recent trip to Philadelphia, members of the US Constitution Center’s staff were impressed with our seven graders’ poise and self-possession.)
Much of the thinking about curricular offerings at Rutgers Prep is driven and supported by the latest research; art classes are overwhelmingly associated with positive outcomes for students, and introducing students to Latin as sixth graders gives them a taste of language study so that they’ll be better prepared to select Latin or Spanish as a part of their regular seventh grade curriculum. Middle school-aged students are primed to embrace new ideas and get started on the development of sophisticated skills that will foster lifelong learning interests. At Rutgers Prep, our middle school curriculum is designed to provide students with a range of tools to support that intellectual development and enable effective learning.