Westminster School - Review #3
Reflections and Advice:
1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
Family-style dinners bring the community together and are unique to Westminster - twice a week when I was a student - now they do it during lunch.The senior lawn ceremony was special - at the end of the year - current Seniors pull juniors individually onto the lawn as a passing of the torch so to speak.It's a requirement that you work in the kitchen / dish washing room a couple times a month - not sure if they still do that but it builds character in a way.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
Hard to say. Definitely built character in certain ways - mostly learning to be responsible for your schedule and own success without the overbearing presence of parents.It's really one of those experiences that you don't appreciate or really miss until its over. I can remember getting a pit in my stomach the last few weeks of senior year knowing that it was coming to an end. In fact I'm getting a pit right now just thinking about it. It really was a special & privileged experience.Definitely had a leg up my freshman year of college in terms of being adjusted to living away from home and knowing how to manage my time. One negative would be that I felt so comfortable in the dorm and dorm life and didn't necessarily recognize that others didn't feel the same way.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
The only thing would be what colleges I looked at my junior and senior year. Our admissions department strongly urged looking at New England small liberal arts colleges and I'd say a large percentage of Westy graduates attend those types of schools. Many of them obviously loved their experiences but I felt as though Gettysburg was just like Westminster - only slightly bigger. Going to a small boarding school was nice because it was intimate and comfortable - going to a small college felt like more of the same and didn't present me with the opportunity to grow as an individual. I also spent my freshman and sophomore years in a dorm before I transferred (with the possibility of junior and senior being in a dorm as well because the off campus & apt options were assigned by lottery). That was 6 years in a dorm and I was fed up with it.When I transferred to CU it was the best decision I ever made. I got an apartment with a kitchen (huge deal) and ample space and lived with good friends - moved to Denver after I graduated and now work for a Microsoft consulting company. I don't think this would have been possible had I stayed at Gettysburg.Ultimately, the biggest takeaway from my two college experiences is that "you can make a big school small, but you can't make a small school big." I wish someone in admissions had told me that before applying.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
Grit & Grace is a motto that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Just have fun and don't take yourself too seriously.
1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
My teachers were very thoughtful & caring, but also strict & demanding in a way that fostered respect. Class sizes were a major plus as they were often smaller and more intimate.I enjoyed the fact that many of our teachers lived on campus, were dorm parents, and taught athletics.Directly out of Westminster I attended Gettysburg college before transferring to University of Colorado in Boulder. I can honestly say that I thought the classwork at Westy was more challenging than at Gettysburg. CU professors and courses were much more challenging in my opinion.
1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Football in the Fall, Swimming in the Winter, Tennis in the Spring.I appreciate the emphasis that Westminster put on athletics - mandatory sports each trimester - unless you elected to do the play or music or something like that. I'd say that we were very competitive with rival schools considering our size (about 400) students split about 50/50 boy/girl. Football team struggled a little because it was difficult to field a large enough team to compete with boarding schools with 800 students and 400 boys. It's my understanding that Football is no longer a sport at Westy - replaced with Water Polo - which I have mixed feelings about - but is understandable considering how soft the youth are these days and issue of being able to field a team in the first place.There is definitely a known hierarchy of value - Hockey & Lacrosse are dominant and most important.
Art, Music, and Theatre:
1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
We have a great performing arts center that was relatively new when I was a student. I imagine it's still considered modern and "nice". Never really was into the performing arts or music. I took a stage-craft class my junior year which was an easy A and actually kind of fun - unfortunately for that teacher - he caught a student drunk or something one night and decided not to report it - it got back around and he was fired somewhat controversially. That was sad - because he was a nice guy and protecting a student. At the time we had a zero tolerance policy and the student would have been ad hoc'd and most likely thrown out.
1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
We had a number of clubs - the John Jay Vestry being the most prevalent - which was not exactly easy to get into - I can't recall exactly what the requirements were but I was never a part of it. I'm not sure we really had that many truly active clubs - something that could probably be improved.We had an LGBT club which at the time was probably kind of progressive.
1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
The dorm life was the best. I had some great dorm parents who I distinctly remember to this day. Unfortunately both dorms that I lived in have been torn down since and replaced with new ones. Granted the new ones are state of the art and beautiful - the sentimental value is gone when I visit campus. The best part of the dorms was the late-late night hanging out with friends. We were supposed to be in our rooms by 10pm and have lights out by 10:30pm. Depending on who the teacher on duty was that night they'd generally stop patrolling by 11-11:30pm. At that point we would sneak into each others rooms to hangout and joke around until easily 2 in the morning almost every night. Those were the times that you really bonded with your buddies in the dorm.Every couple of weeks we'd have a "feed" where the dorm parent on your hall would invite you into their apartment and feed you all sorts of food. That was always a nice intimate way to get everyone on the floor together and bond with the dorm parent. Some dorm parents were better than others. The best two that I had were Tony Griffith and David Pope. Both were hardos but also kind of softies if you got to know them well enough.The faculty hated it and I don't know if this still happens - but the three boys dorms at the time were all closest to our "quad" - which was the massive lawn at the center of campus. Every now and then the seniors would give word of a "barnyard" - at midnight all the guys would open their windows and start yelling and screaming and making animal noises - essentially waking up everyone on campus! It was a lot of fun but risky because the dorm parents (especially those with kids) would come running through the halls livid and start busting down doors! We got in a lot of trouble when that happened and they'd take away privileges and punish seniors sometimes but it was always so funny. Seems dumb now but at the time so funny.
1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
There is a new state of the art dining facility in the location of the old primary academic building (Baxter). When I was there the dining hall was in Cushing (our main and oldest building). It was ok - beautiful building and very cool to explore the "catacombs" in the basement but other than that nothing special. We had sit down family style dinners twice a week where we would be assigned rotating tables with a teacher at the head of each. Seniors for that table would be responsible to carry a large tray of all the food to be handed out. Taught you to engage with students and faculty you weren't familiar with. Table manners - stuff like that.My best memories from the cafeteria - the French Dip & Chicken Parm Day. Those Chicken Parm sandwiches were so good honestly. Also we had the best chocolate milk on tap.
Social and Town Life:
1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
Simsbury is a very pretty quintessential Connecticut town. Although quiet and boring. I didn't venture down into town hardly at all because there never was really any time to. Memories of the Fall Foliage stand out. Very wooded with beautiful scenery - the Farmington river running nearby. Williams Hill - as we often call Westminster's geographic location rises above Simsbury and in certain parts looks over a hilly valley.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
Social life was a mixed bag. If you were an athlete who played the right sport you were considered "popular". This is literally the case for probably every high school in the US. School/sports/life balance was pretty good. Here's the breakdown of free time. You go to class from around 8 to 3ish depending on when your free block was. Then from about 3-5/6 you had practice - Wednesday and Saturday (yes school on Saturday) were half days because they were game days.Underclassmen had a mandatory study hall after dinner from 7:30 to 9:15 - then a time called "fun 45" until 10 when you had to check into the dorm. Seniors didn't have mandatory study hall and could do what they wanted until 10. This changed conveniently for me my senior year - they eliminated "fun 45" because they thought kids were having a little too much fun....sneaking out into the fields with blankets..to you know...and doing other stuff. So they simply eliminated it and switched study hall from 8:30 to 10 and then in the rooms lights out at 10:30. You had to be in the dorm by 8 for the night - which was a big deal for a lot of people because it felt very constricting. I'm sure the kids who go there now who never knew of fun 45 don't know the difference. Didn't matter to me for the most part because I was a senior - but if you were a senior and you dated someone who was a junior and they had to be in the dorm by 8 every night and couldn't go out for "fun 45" - that was a HUGE drag.
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