The Waldorf High School provides excellent, attentive college guidance. Stephen Sagarin, Faculty Chair (nominal Head of School) and Beth Robbins, English and Drama teacher, function as College Guidance Counselors, and all teachers are available to write recommendations and assist students with choosing colleges and applying to them. All teachers know all students well, having taught them for four years.
In addition, Berkshire Waldorf High School students stand out in these important areas:
- Rigorous academic preparation
- Writing ability
- Ability to speak articulately and to interview well
- International travel and exchange
- Portfolios of artistic and academic work to support the more conventional aspects of their applications.
Also, every college wants to know if an applicant has taken the most rigorous set of courses that a school offers. Most of our curriculum is required, and all students take the most rigorous course of study. We report all our courses to colleges as Honors level, and have had this evaluation confirmed repeatedly over the years.
College Guidance begins in 9th grade, in which we emphasize the quality of work, curricular and extracurricular, that colleges expect of their applicants. It continues throughout high school, intensifying in 11th and 12th grades, when students meet with their College Guidance Counselors to begin the application process. Here are some of the key steps through which our school guides its students:
- Develop a list of schools. This list will evolve through 11th and the fall of 12th grades.
- Visit, visit, visit. We expect students to visit at least 6 colleges in 11th and 12th grades. Setting foot on a college campus is the best way to begin to learn where you belong.
- Write an essay that tells a student’s story, demonstrates enthusiasm for learning, and matches the student to the college. Five drafts is not unusual; this is one of the most important essays a student may ever write. And our students have years of experience in writing workshops and in writing for most of their classes.
- Create a portfolio to show academic and artistic work, unique to Waldorf schools.
- Develop a list of extracurriculars. At Waldorf, you will likely be in a play every year, in the chorus, on the sports teams, serve your community, and travel. Your list of extracurriculars will be long.
- Take the SAT and SAT II tests. We offer a few weeks of test-taking practice and strategy in the fall of 11th grade. Our students perform about 100 points higher than the national average.
- Interview. Waldorf students interview well and should take advantage of their personability.
- Complete a letter-perfect application, with faculty oversight and input.
The path to college is well-known and well-worn; around 2 million students tread it each year. We help our students navigate this process, taking every step as well as possible. We are proud to say that more than 80% of our students are admitted to their first choice of college.
Preparation for College & Lifelong Learning
The arc of a full Waldorf education—from early childhood through high school—is designed to change significantly at key points along a student’s path of development. Just as the transition from early childhood to the grades calls for a different approach to education, the transition into high school is a time of transformation in a student’s intellectual life. A new emphasis on independence, social context and “outside-the-box” thinking meets this transformation. We offer students well-thought-out opportunities to enlarge their capacities for innovation, creativity, flexibility, focus, compassion and self-discovery—preparing them for an engaged and deeply rewarding college experience. Arthur Zajonc, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Amherst College, has this to say about Waldorf graduates:
“By the time they reach us at the college and university level, these students are grounded broadly and deeply and have a remarkable enthusiasm for learning. Such students possess the eye of the discoverer and the compassionate heart of the reformer which, when joined to a task, can change the planet.”
In a report titled, “Standing Out without Standing Alone: Profile of Waldorf School Graduates,” Douglas Gerwin and David Mitchell share the results of surveying 550 students from 26 Waldorf high schools in the U.S. and Canada. The results suggest that a majority of Waldorf high school graduates share three predominant characteristics:
- Waldorf high school graduates value the opportunity to think for themselves and to translate their new ideas into practice. They both appreciate and practice life-long learning and have a highly developed sense for aesthetics.
- Waldorf high school graduates value lasting human relationships— and they seek out opportunities to be of help to other people.
- Waldorf high school graduates sense that they are guided by an inner moral compass that helps them navigate the trials and challenges of their professional and private lives. They carry high ethical principles into their chosen professions. The Waldorf High School fosters these characteristics, and our graduates bring to their colleges enthusiasm, care, depth, breadth, and new ways of thinking.