Westtown School - Review #1

Read more details about Westtown School on their 2018-19 profile page.
Westtown School
5

About the Author:

College EnrolledAmherst College
Home Town, State Cranbury, NJ
Years Attended Boarding School4
Activities During Boarding SchoolI ran track for four years and cross-country for three - I was captain of track for one year and XC for two. I also worked on the literary magazine (Epiphanies) senior year, and went to some Women's Discussion Group meetings. I was a member of SHAE (Sexual Health Awareness Educators), going to meetings and some weekend 'retreats'. I had a mini-role in the senior play.

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
Westtown is a Quaker school, which translates to a very close-knit and supportive environment. From calling all the faculty and staff by their first names, to living with your entire class mostly on the same hall, you can count on making the best friends of your life. The Quaker aspect also means that we have Meeting - once a week for day students, and twice a week for boarders. This becomes increasingly important to students, whether or not they're spiritual, as a time of silent reflection or simply relaxation during busy weeks. Westtown also requires that students be involved with service, at least a little bit. It's something I've missed in college, where you're not forced to do it.The campus itself is beautiful, too, and it'll always feel like home. I lived nearby this summer with another friend who went to school there (from Pre-K to 12th grade), and it just gave us a peaceful feeling. Old buildings, older trees and lawns, the lake and cross-country course, the mini-farm...
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
The best thing that happened? It'd be hard to name - four years, from age 13 to 17, is a long time, a lot of growth in anyone's life. I made the best friends of my life, people I can always count on, even if we're not in great touch. My spirituality grew a lot, and I learned how far it has to go. I was a good student and a good athlete, learning a lot about how much I could do. And the people I was with were teaching all about myself. I couldn't have been at a better place to grow.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I would have tried to spend more time with my friends and less time doing work. My priorities were generally good, but sometimes I worried too much about my classes and didn't just let myself go and play Frisbee. I would have been more adventurous and silly, running around. Westtown is a great place to let yourself go. I would have gotten to know people better and spent more time with my teachers.
4.) What would you never want to change about your school?
The campus, the sense of community, the Quaker-ness, the feeling of home.
5.) What things could be improved about your school?
The stringent rules - always being told where to be, and when.
6.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
I think this place was great for me, but it might not be for everyone. Look at it carefully if you visit. It's the most important place in my life and probably will always be. At this point, I'm thinking about going back to teach there for at least a few years after I graduate from college.

Academics:

1.) What did you like best about your school’s academics?
Teachers are very, very approachable and want you to do well. They don't hesitate to tell you what you're doing right, and to give you advice for classes or for life. Eating dinner with them was not out of the ordinary. No-one was competitive about grades.
2.) What did you like least about the academics in your school?
In retrospect, there weren't that many options - it's a small school with a limited faculty, so hearing about the great classes my college friends took in highschool is a little humbling. Also, student leaders with more time-consuming activities than my own were sometimes swamped when a lot of work intersected with a lot of extracurricular stuff.

Athletics:

1.) What did you like best about your school’s athletics?
The Friends' School League is not a highly competitive one. Our 'rival' was George School, but there were never any hard feelings or anything silly like that. I knew the names of the girls on the other teams, etc. The same is true for the individuals on the team - everyone did the best they could and supported everyone else. Plus, the coaches became some of the most important people in my life.
2.) What did you like least about the athletics in your school?
Again, the size of our school dictated that the quality of our facilities wasn't great. It was never important, except to the top athletes, though. And some students grumbled about the athletic requirements - two team sports a year as a freshman and sophomore, if I remember correctly.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) What did you like best about your school’s art program?
I sang in school choirs, since I was never much of an arts person. Going to the plays and musicals was a lot of fun, and I was always surprised by how much talent my fellow students had. The student body's really amazing.
2.) What did you like least about your school’s art program?
Since so much of our time was structured, it was hard to do more than I already did. I would have liked to be in a play or do more visual arts, but students really have to make choices about what they get involved with.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) What did you like most about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
Activities ranged from the really laid-back (Chess Club) to the more intense (prefects, yearbook), and there was a real range of what you could do. Plus, it was easy to get your own club started and fairly easy to get the resources you needed.
2.) What did you like least about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
Clubs didn't always get a lot done. For instance, the literary magazine I was on had trouble pulling itself together a lot. And given how much other stuff we were all doing, as students, athletes, friends, it was hard to give extracurricular things much attention.

Dorm Life:

1.) What was the best thing about dorm life in your school?
The people. The relationships I made over four years were incredible, the best I imagine I'll ever make. Day students are required to board their junior & senior years, so after a time, our entire class became close, not just the boarders or the students who had gone to the Westtown Lower and Middle School together.
2.) What did you like least about dorm life?
The rules became harder and harder to live with between freshman and senior years. People couldn't have cars, getting away for the weekend was hard, the curfews were tough to live with, etc. The dorms themselves were nice, but we often felt stuck there.

Dining:

1.) What was the best thing about your dining arrangements?
Students all chipped in with dishes and serving, etc - which could be a drag, but was fun, too. Getting to know the kitchen staff was great. Also, some of the food came from our very own mini-farm, fresh & good vegetables. We all had a moment of silence before we ate, which is something I miss.
2.) What did you like least about your dining arrangements?
The food choices were limited and not always great. And Wednesday night dinners were required, which was annoying. You couldn't get late-night food. And even though in retrospect, all the students chipping in was a good thing - at the time, it could be a real pain, and gross if you had to help wash the dishes.

Social and Town Life:

1.) How welcome did you feel by the other students when you first arrived at the school
The first few months were amazing. There was an instant connection to the place that I couldn't have imagined. My freshman-year roommate and I were friends, but didn't get along functionally in the room, so she moved out sometime in the spring. It was much less awful than roommate problems could have potentially been.
2.) Describe the level of diversity and integration of students in your school:
Ethnic diversity was always a problem - it was great to have people from old Quaker families, but that meant that there were fewer people from other places. I think Westtown does a pretty good job with scholarships for a private school, so socio-economic class was better represented than in most private schools. And kids were all different anyway.
3.) Describe typical fun activities you did on a weekend:
I sat around on benches and talked to the people who were my best friends. I played Frisbee when it was warm or watched a rental movie in the winter. I stayed up late with my roommate or in another girl's room, talking. I went to Meeting on Sunday and then had Sunday Brunch with lots of friends, sitting around the table a long time after the plates were cleared away. I probably worked in the library for a few hours. etc, etc.
4.) What was the town like?
There wasn't much 'town life' - just nearby strip malls. There were some decent places to eat a fifteen-minute drive away, but you had to get a teacher to drive you there, since kids generally couldn't have cars. There were always movies and weekend activities (some of which were sometimes required, a pain) but kids mostly stayed in at school, or went to friends' houses.

Daily Schedule:

Weekday
7:15 AMGet up, head to breakfast. maybe i have a 'work-job' washing dishes or setting tables for lunch
7:45 AMReally quick shower, dressing, yelling down the hall to borrow clothes from friends
8:15 AMGirls' collection (homeroom, essentially, with all the girls in the school): announcements, news, lost and found, sports announcements, etc
8:30 AMFirst class (ex: english, - writing for social change, calc, french, asian history, chorus, environmental sci)
9:15 AMSecond class
10:15 AM'Recess' - fifteen minute break with milk and snacks
10:30 AMThird class
11:30 AMLunch
12:15 AMFourth, fifth class
1:45 PMFree period
2:15 PMActivity period - literary magazine, sexual health discussion group
3:15 PMTrack practice
6:00 PMDinner, after having showered quickly
7:30 PMStudy hall for two hours (after having had free time with friends)
10:30 PMOn dorm time (stricly single-sex dorms), after an hour of free time with friends - lights out times depend on what class you're in
Weekend
10:00 AMUp, shower
10:30 AMQuaker meeting for an hour
12:00 AMSunday brunch
2:00 PMFrisbee? a trip to philadelphia? anything
6:00 PMDinner
7:30 PMStudy hall for two hours
9:30 PMFree half-hour
10:00 PMDorm meetings, some free time, bed-time
Read more details about Westtown School on their 2018-19 profile page.

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