Westminster School - Review #2
Reflections and Advice:
1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
While Westminster is in the Founder's League, its overall size hovers closely to 400, making it a tightly-knit community where a student at the very least knows everyone's face on campus. The newly built dining hall within the last 3 years is a huge advantage as well because it now allows the entire student body, faculty, and staff to sit and enjoy a "family style" lunch at the same time (rather than having it be a staggered 3 block schedule in years prior). Another aspect of the school I find unique is the commitment to having state-of-the-art learning and dormitory facilities. Armour Academic center was built in 2009 and within it a student has all 5 of their core classes (history, English, language, math, science) so during the colder months it's nice to be within one building during the school day. Many of the dorms are within 15 years of age, with the size of the doubles being more spacious than many college dorm rooms (which actually housed 3 of us my freshman year at Boston College). Our athletic center (gym) is light airy and spacious so it makes working out a more manageable. Our fields and courts are well kept, and security makes us feel safe at all times.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
The best thing that happened to me at boarding school academically is I gained the ability to write well, and I really mean that in the most literal sense. I scored high enough on AP English literature and AP English language where I do not have to take a single English class in college. Even in classes like history where writing essays is a major part of the grade, I find little challenge in structuring the essays because of the tremendous base I was given. In a more broad scope, the best thing that ever happened to me was probably achieving a feeling, specifically in my senior spring, that I really took advantage of all that Westminster had to offer. As my father used to tell me in the early months of my Westminster career, "make sure you suck the life out of this school because that's exactly what you're meant to do at a place like Westy." As a person I think I'm more well rounded, I understand a broader range of issues and have the ability to inquire on a deeper level. This trait serves well not just immediately after in college but in any career.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I would tell myself to be more open to extra curricular opportunities more early on and for advice, I'd say to be bold and tryout for that sport you were on the fence about or go for the part you want the most in the musical or play. Westminster is a place to reach for the stars because it encourages taking risks.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
I love the tight-knit community feel of Westy. I know this is something you'll hear a lot about if you look into Westminster further, but it's the truth. The way time flies when you're at school for four years is incredible. Candlelight service before winter break, lawn ceremony and of course graduation on commencement lawn are all highlights of my career at Westy.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
As far as advice for kids going to boarding school, try and attach yourself to two mentors, one faculty and one student. Usually the student is the senior living on your hall as a freshman and the faculty is someone who might teach a favorite subject, coach your sport or just seems to connect with you really well during a week of family style lunch.
1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
At Westy, there were two distinct characteristics that stood out to me, the level of classes a student could take and the willingness of teacher to help each and every student. First, the various levels offered for each subject. A student can take a regular level, honors level, or AP level course in classes such as Calculus, history, biology, and many more. If a student is feeling challenged by an AP chemistry class, they can talk to the academic dean and switch to an honors level section and vice versa if they want to be challenged more. Most humanities classes are taught in the "Harkness" style setting so each student is able to get involved in the scintillating discussions and science classrooms have lab stations in the back for experiments. Second, the way in which each teacher genuinely wants to help each student succeed. An overwhelming amount of Westminster faculty live on campus, making them infinitely more available to have meetings with in between classes, after school or during evening study hall. They make themselves available at a rate that even the busiest student can set up meeting times with any teacher. The sincere attitude of the teachers is something I found incredible to be around and only made me more interested in each class.
1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Being a smaller school in the Founders League means we play schools with more recruited athletes on their sports teams, but are still able to compete at a high level no matter the sport. It is true that hockey and lacrosse are overwhelmingly the most popular sport at this school (and have the most attention from that athletic director) but that isn't to say sports like soccer and basketball are neglected. As a freshman I was on all JV teams, in many cases making it over students who were to be placed on thirds or even fourths for a sport (there was always a spot for everyone). This meant that I immediately had upperclassmen on my teams and found that as an easy way to befriend students where I wouldn't have any other direct way of interacting with. I was extremely close with my senior year basketball and baseball teammates and we still keep in contact three years later (I consider the basketball coach to be a family friend at this point). In conclusion, what I enjoy most about the programs is the way the coaches drive you to improve every time you step on the court and the camaraderie you have with each team.
Art, Music, and Theatre:
1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
I was involved in the school's jazz band for three years as well as an independent jazz trio that I founded during my time at Westy. The band program is open to anyone regardless of level, and the director Mr. Aber is one of the nicest faculty at the school. The Chorale program is headed by Mr. Chrznowski who is a spectacular musician and plays the chapel's organ when we have Chapel twice a week. The theatre program is headed by Mr. Rasheed who is a tremendous director and has enough energy to make even the most disinterested person engage in the productions. What I liked most about these programs (at least the ones that I was a part of specifically) was the inclusivity that anyone could join, as long as they showed interest. The faculty that headed these programs made sure all students felt at home in whatever level they wanted to be in.
1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
I always found there to be different activities for whatever one's passion was outside of the classroom. For me, that was tutoring which I was able to do through a summer program helping teach students at Covenant Prep in Hartford. I also was a part of the Hispanic Or Latino Alliance which helped provide a safe space for students who identified as such to share their experiences and bond. Westminster also has a competitive Model UN team, an Eco team, exhibitions throughout the year to showcase artwork, and even something as quirky as "grillin' and chillin'" where students grill burgers and hotdogs on the quad during the weekends. My point, there's something for everyone.
1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
As a day student, I can offer a unique perspective into how I interacted with boarders. The basics are simple enough, study hall on weekdays from 8-9:50, check-in at 10 with whoever is on duty, weekends checkin at 11, 11:30 for seniors. As a day student, I could stay over on the weekends with any of my friends and did so multiple times. We'd watch movies, play video games or just listen to music for hours. A lot of students bring couches and tv monitors with them. The dorms are all around the quad and quite close to class and the dining hall.
1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
During my time at Westminster the school switched from having a 3 block dining hall schedule where roughly a third of the school would eat at a time to a single period solely devoted to lunch. This was possible due to the new Armstrong Dining Hall built the fall of my Senior year (2017 fall). All lunches are now family style lunch (except for Wednesday and weekends), meaning you get assigned a random table with other students and at least one faculty member for the week. This works really well in getting to know students from different grades who you might not otherwise interact with. The dining hall is quite large, so fitting all students isn't a problem. The servery is quite spacious so for breakfast and dinner students serve themselves and can sit wherever they like. We also have a student center with a grille where students can order a variety of small bites and bagel breakfast sandwiches.
Social and Town Life:
1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
Westminster is only a 5 minute walk from downtown Simsbury, a classic New England town. I think this is another aspect of what sets Westminster apart from other prep schools, is its close proximity to an actual town center with a Starbucks, subway, grocery store and many small restaurants close by. Many local restaurants offer deliver to the Westminster campus as well. On Sundays there are several vans that will take students to Westfarms Mall in West Hartford, the Shoppes at Canton, and a Walmart/five guys van to name a few, all within 15-20 minutes of the campus.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
In general, I really enjoyed the fact that I knew everyone's face on campus, and pretty everyone's name, especially by the time I was Junior and Senior. I could say I was friendly with most kids, and this wouldn't an uncommon statement to make across the board from most students. Having 396 in the student body my senior year, it's easy to connect to your classmates. During the weekends I was always on campus hanging out with my friends going to "studs" or trophy room parties, hanging in the dorms, or getting food at the Brockelman student center. Also a part worth mentioning is Saturday classes. Due to the prep school sports schedule of games on Wednesdays and Saturdays, both of these days are half academic days, meaning you'll have at most 3 classes on these two days. At first, it may seem like a total buzzkill, but as a boarder, it wakes you up and engages your brain before a sporting event which I always found useful. Plus, what else are you going to do since you literally live at school?
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