WHEELING - For the 66 college-bound seniors at The Linsly School, and for many seniors in schools all throughout the Ohio Valley, a waiting game has begun: the majority of students planning to matriculate to post-secondary schools in the fall of 2013 have submitted their applications and now await the results.
"For individuals faced with a decision significantly impacting their life's trajectory, these moments are filled with a peculiar blend of uncertainty and optimism," Linsly Headmaster Chad Barnett said.
"Those of us responsible for their education think of their journey on a personal and societal level simultaneously."
Prefects for the 2012-13 school year at The Linsly School in Wheeling, shown here, serve as the student government and are selected based on a point system. They are mainly seniors and a few juniors.
With 435 students in grades 5-12 from throughout the Ohio Valley, across the country and around the world, Linsly fills a unique educational niche both in the local community and in the independent school universe, as a college preparatory school that focuses not only on supporting students through the competitive college admissions process, but more importantly, on ensuring the success of graduates once they are there.
According to Barnett, there are two defining features that create a distinctive college preparatory experience at The Linsly School: the faculty and the students.
"Guided by a commitment to comprehensive college preparation that starts with our youngest fifth graders and continues throughout senior year, Linsly teachers provide individual attention for all students," said Barnett. "Their specialization within their academic field coupled with their deep commitment to educating the whole student leads to fantastic outcomes."
Barnett pointed to several recent studies that reveal near-universal agreement that students throughout the United States arrive largely unprepared for the intellectual demands of post-secondary education.
Among the most pressing shortcomings include difficulty formulating and solving problems, evaluating information, developing coherent arguments, interpreting data or conflicting points of view, and handling ambiguity.
"I have two fundamental concerns about post secondary education. These concerns shape the way we develop policy, grow as a faculty, and engage our students at Linsly," said Barnett.
"First, attrition abounds at all education levels, but in the context of our graduates I worry that nearly half of America's undergraduate students drop out (of college) after their first year.
Think about that - between a third and a half of all American undergraduate students will not return for their second year of school.
Secondly, those who remain seek entertainment and a diploma rather than real skills, problem solving abilities, and a philosophy of life. Moreover, they do so on borrowed money in an economy where employers value the degree far less than the skills and character of the person holding the degree."
As a result, Barnett explained that students entering college today conditioned to pursue academic excellence and embody great character will shine like never before.
"Nothing matters more to me than our students' preparation for college success," said Barnett. "Their teachers and I come to work each day committed to shaping their intellect and character, one student at a time. We want them to graduate from Linsly prepared to shine on their college campus, then to enter their professional lives as indispensable employees who will one day be leaders in their field."
Linsly's college preparatory curriculum holds students to standards that exceed the average undergraduate experience: All Linsly Upper School students take at least one course requiring more than 20 pages of writing in a semester. All Linsly Upper School students take at least one course requiring 40 or more pages of reading per week.
"Linsly's curriculum concludes with a senior year that often exceeds in rigor a Linsly graduate's freshmen year of undergraduate school," said Barnett.
This is evidenced by the many anecdotal emails that Barnett and other Linsly faculty routinely receive from recent graduates who fully come to realize the value of their Linsly education once they are in college, as a graduate of the Class of 2012, now attending the University of Virginia, wrote:
"First of all, I need to thank you for everything you taught us. As I sat writing a short paper comparing 'Hamlet' to Thomas Kyd's 'The Spanish Tragedy,' I knew I needed to write soon. The work is not so bad, a lot of reading in nearly every subject, but we were definitely well prepared for that at Linsly, much better than the majority of the people here."
The school's academic program beginning in the fifth grade leads to a typical senior year where classes may include: AP BC Calculus, AP Literature and Composition, German IV, AP Physics, Economics, and AP Psychology.
In fact, most Linsly students will take an AP level exam before graduating from the school.
According to Barnett, throughout West Virginia, approximately 20 percent of students participate in the AP program. At Linsly, nearly three quarters of juniors and seniors will take at least one AP test. Additionally, Linsly students earn passing scores on their AP tests at a success rate nearly 20 percentage points higher than the state average.
Linsly completes the college preparation curriculum with a capstone course unique to a Linsly student's education, the Senior Seminar, which is team taught by Linsly's Headmaster and Linsly's Director of College Counseling, Penny Cunningham.
"Taken by all seniors, our Senior Seminar guides students through the college search and selection process," said Barnett. "Through this seminar class, we help each senior identify scholarship opportunities, guide students through the financial aid process, and discuss philosophical aspects of their transition to college life.
"Linsly students graduate with an understanding of how to achieve high academic standards. They graduate with a clear sense of sound character - from simple values like holding the door for an adult or making good eye contact with a firm handshake, to more encompassing principles like persevering through adversity to achieve lasting success," Barnett added.