Does WS prepare students for college? A clash in opinions

As the year slowly progresses, but at the same time hastily comes to an end, concerns of getting into college and starting from scratch is prevalent. Even though it might be too late, some students have started wondering about the efficacy the school in their academic preparation. They have different reasons to question the school’s role.

For some, the teachers were at fault.

Vaibhav Jain, Class of 2019, said that the “teachers don’t teach us at all, they just give us homework”

His views are shared by Aryan Balani, Class of 2019. who said that, “[teachers] don’t teach properly.” He explained that in terms of the AP teachers “there are people (teachers) who don’t know anything about the AP.”

“I have taken three AP classes but there’s only one good AP teacher,” said Balani.

On the other hand, some students argue that their teachers are not the issue.

Sophia VonHippel, Class of 2018, said that the school prepares students for college “better than [her] old school” and that she would probably be “ahead of many of [her] peers when [she] get[s] to college.”

But she pointed out that the school could improve in the writing department. “I think in general, Woodstock kids aren’t taught the necessities of grammar. They’re taught more general things about writing essays without the basics, despite having some excellent teachers.” she said.

Mr. Richard Davies, the high school coordinator, agreed with VonHippel on the latter point. He said, “In terms of the academics here, they are very thorough, there are very committed teachers.” He said his argument could be justified by “looking at the results of the AP scores.”

Graduates seem to have a more unbiased approach of responsibility for the path ahead, emphasizing that the responsibility is shared by students and the school.

A graduate from the Class of 2011, Sherly Samuel, said what happens after school is “more on the individual than on Woodstock.”

She added that Woodstock gives students an advantage in comparison to students from Indian schools as Woodstock gives you “opportunities” that will help to “build your resume for college applications.” However, she emphasized that grades were the individual part.

Mrs. Nicole Last, AP European and World History teacher, seems to share Samuel’s views. She said it was highly dependent on the “choices that students make.” She explained that there are students who take “challenging classes,” but at the same time that it was possible not to take them.

Nitisha Mohapatra, another graduate from the Class of 2011, pointed out that it is not solely up to the students: it is also the responsibility of teachers to “push kids to find their passions in life.”

She backed this up with an experience at Woodstock. “I remember I was never into photography but Mr. Plonka encouraged me. That’s when I went to being a photo-editor of the newspaper,” she said.

Concerns on whether students will be accepted or rejected from colleges based on their academic resume is a major concern, but it is not their only worry. When students become aware of each second ticking past, concerns of moving into a whole new environment and starting from scratch is imminent.

Several expressed concerns on moving into a new environment as they would have to leave the “Woodstock bubble.”

Woodstock, due to being located at the foothills of the Himalayas, physically isolates students from much of the hustle and bustle of the modern day, as an elite western prep school in the middle of the less developed mountain communities of India.

Its uniqueness has enabled the development of our own interpretation of matters, way of speech, perspective and even slang.

Tanishq Daniel, Class of 2019, explains this bubble phenomenon in his own terms; he said, “We don’t interact [with the world outside our gates]” due to the school’s location in a “local setting. We might be very fluent with what’s happening in the U.S but we don’t know what’s happening where we are living.”

The difference in the standard of living between students and the people in our locality may be the reason for this cleavage.

The reason to this can not be pinpointed. However, the Woodstock bubble with its perspective and bias might be the reason for the filtering out of information that we view as unimportant.

Vaibhav Jain, Class of 2019, who has been at Woodstock for eight years now, said he had really integrated into the Woodstock bubble to the extent that he didn’t “have any friends outside of Woodstock.”

According to him, the transition from Woodstock to college would be a major concern because “in college you have a lot of freedom compared to Woodstock.” He said it would be a problem for students to manage themselves due to never being exposed to such a large amount of freedom.

He complained, “They have taken away a lot of privileges like keeping gadgets at night on weekdays” and “they took away bazaar everyday for the seniors.”

Again, there were strikingly different opinions due to the subjectivity of the topic.

Daniel, who has been at the school for over eight years, preferred to think that he was “not part of the Woodstock bubble.” He explained that he was “not close-minded, [thinking] that only Woodstock exists.” He also mentioned that this was probably easier for a “day-boarder than it is for boarding students.”

Therefore, he didn’t think moving on from Woodstock and adjusting to college was an issue.

VonHippel, too, denied the Woodstock bubble was her “comfort zone.” She also explained that her comfort zone was where she could be a “hundred percent independent, alone [and] in the U.S.”

She added, “ I’ve only spent a week going to college, going to university; but when I did, that was a place I felt significantly more comfortable in and more (at) home in than I’ve ever felt at Woodstock.”

The staff views differed from those of the students.

Ms. Last said the problem of adjustment highly differs depending on “where you go to college.” She connects this to her college experience. “I actually went to school that reminds of this bubble. It was a small liberal arts school and it was kind of in a small town and there wasn’t much else going on in the town and it was an hour to get anywhere, so it was actually very similar to Woodstock. So I think it would’ve been a very smooth transition from Woodstock,” she said.

However, she continued that it is possible that Woodstock students might have a “culture shock” if they go to “a big city, or a really big university.”

She also said that the “coping skills” that Woodstock provides its students, alongside teaching “how to accept other people” will be an asset when adjusting to college or a new environment said Ms. Last.

Mr. Davies, too, said that adjusting highly depended on where the student went. But he said that the school provided the necessary “decision-making skills” which students might lack if their “parents had been telling [them] what to do for the last five years.”

Instead of the estimation of how Woodstock students will adjust to college, Woodstock graduates talked about their experiences in adjusting to college.

Samuel who went to a college in the States after graduating Woodstock, spoke for all three graduate’s hardship on leaving Woodstock, their comfort zone. “We missed Woodstock so much, I remember we would Skype people everyday. Right at the beginning, we would have massive group Skype calls because we missed it,” she said.

And she talked about the brutal truth in her terms, “Woodstock changes you and makes you this kind of person where you’ll never feel like home anywhere except for in Woodstock or with your Woodstock friends,” she said.

She explained that even though she loved college, her experiences, and her new friends, “there’s a part of [me] that won’t connect unless [we] share that experience.”

Sayyam Khanna, a graduate from the Class of 2013 and the founder of Cusprint, faced similar issues as Samuel even in adjusting to a college in India. He talked about the ‘international’ part about Woodstock actually becoming a hindrance in adjusting to colleges with less diversity, despite being part of the majority.

“See, I went to India, I was with all Indians. It was sort of a reverse culture shock” said Khanna, explaining that his own culture startled him due to Woodstock’s international environment.

Mohapatra, too, who went to an Indian college shared her experience with the transition.

“They were artists, they wouldn’t be scared to express themselves; but, I was coming from a place where I was a little scared to express myself” said Mohapatra.

The hardest part was that she “didn’t wanna express [herself] amongst people [she] didn’t understand.”


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