Archive for college

Cultivating Courage: Part 3

In this week’s Cultivating Courage post we answer the question: How will my child get accepted into college after attending Alpine Valley School?

Future-looking parents often come to us with this question, expressing concern that their child will not be able to get into the college of their choice after attending a school like ours. In particular, they often express concern over the lack of GPAs, extracurricular activities, and standard-looking transcripts.

While it’s true that Alpine Valley School doesn’t place the same emphasis on grades as other institutions, our graduates do create their own unique transcripts. As personalized as an AVS education itself, this transcript often includes details regarding school positions the student held while enrolled (such as School Meeting Chair), as well as any involvement in school Corporations and Committees (such as Public Relations & Marketing). Authentic leadership positions such as these can really help a Sudbury college applicant stand out from the crowd.

Dr. Peter Gray (author of Free to Learn) has conducted a research study on grown unschoolers, much of which applies to students at Alpine Valley and other Sudbury schools. One part of his study, focusing on college admissions, can be found here: Survey of Grown Unschoolers: Going on to College. Of particular interest is his observation that “unlike so many others in the general population, most unschoolers do not consider college admission, or college graduation, or high grades in college, to be in any general sense a measure of life success.”

Along these same lines Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, wrote an article called Why Entrepreneurs Sometimes Struggle With Formal Education. Branson makes the point that many individuals who see things differently and are self-directed often struggle in a more traditional educational environment where mistakes (in other words, critically important learning tools) are not generally welcome. On the positive side, the passion and intensity of this kind of learner drive them to overcome obstacles standing between them and their dreams, such as getting into college.

Many individuals do choose to pursue a college education after graduating from Alpine Valley School, and many of them find the freedom they experience in their last few years at school gives them a leg up. AVS students can spend 100% of their time at school focused on studying for the SATs, working on challenging areas of study (such as calculus or English), and preparing all the necessary materials they will need to get accepted into the college of their choice. We’ve found that this kind of focused attention typically gives them a significant advantage over the traditional high school graduate, who does not have that kind of time to dedicate exclusively to college applications.

What are your thoughts? Did we spark any additional questions for you around college admissions? Give us a call at 303-271-0525 or email info@alpinevalleyschool.com to discuss this subject further.

Couldn’t attend the Get to Know AVS event last weekend? Check out the full video of the panel Q&A here:

Cultivating Courage is an ongoing series of posts (text, video, etc.) intended to help Alpine Valley School families feel confident in their choices. Supporting our students means becoming more informed and helping each other along this road less traveled. These posts will address common questions and provide a variety of useful resources.

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DIYU, Edupunks, and the Changing Face of Higher Education

Two summers ago I read Anya Kamenetz's eye-opening book DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education and intended to write a summary to publish here, but never got beyond the research point. The book is incredibly content-heavy, and I'd already summarized Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. Fortunately, much of the content of this book

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Back-to-School Reading for Parents

Alternatives to the traditional four-year university are the subject of two interesting books published recently. The books, "DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education", and Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work are two different perspectives on paths young people can take to finding livelihoods. Parents of kids who are not marching along the path of admission to a four-year college should find either book, or both, interesting and helpful. Shop Class will be of particular interest to anyone who knows (or is) someone who is not interested in college at all, and DIY U is a must-read for the rest of us.

When the New York Times Magazine published an adapted essay from Shop Class, The Case for Working With Your Hands, it was an unexpected sensation. Written by Matthew Crawford, a man who inhabits the worlds of academia and garages, the essay makes a (somewhat) simple case for the satisfaction that comes from making a livelihood from solving puzzles through your hands. In some ways, the essay is better than the book; it's that word 'somewhat' that can be a problem. In his little blurb on the University of Virgina website, where he is a fellow, the synopsis of this book reads:

Matthew is currently writing a book for The Penguin Press that will explicate the experiences of making things and fixing things. These activities illuminate the mutual entanglement of mind and hand, and thereby shed light on certain permanent requirements of human flourishing that material culture must answer to.

And, I'm sorry to say, this isn't just UV Institute for Advanced Studies In Culture claptrap, a good bit of the book reads this way. If this is how your brain picks through words then it's a really great read. The essay is much more palatable, but like a good dessert, isn't as nutritious. Mr. Crawford's background in philosophy is evident on every page, for example when he makes the case that "The trades are then a natural home for anyone who would live by his own powers, free not only of deadening abstraction but also of the insidious hopes and rising insecurities that seem to be endemic in our current economic life. Freedom from hope and fear is the Stoic ideal."  The thought that choosing a career that is free from ambition could be liberating is certainly novel in our culture, and it is a neat trick.

It might take me the rest of the summer to finish this (my kid is 14 - there is no hurry and there are mysteries to be read), but every time I pick this up I'm glad for the time I spend in this guy's head, glad for the new perspective. I'll finish with a paragraph from an early chapter that summarizes a thought that is not new to those in the Sudbury world, and makes this book reassuring:


"So what advice should one give to a young person? If you have a natural bent for scholarship: if you are attracted to the most difficult books out of an urgent need, and can spare four years to devote yourself to them, go to college. In fact, approach college in the spirit of craftsmanship, going deep into liberal arts and sciences. But if this is not the case; if the thought of four more years sitting in a classroom makes your skin crawl, the good news that that you don't have to go through the motions and jump through the hoops for the sake of making a decent living. Even if you do go to college, learn a trade in the summers. You're likely to be less damaged, and quite possibly better paid, as an independent tradesman than as a cubicle-dwelling tender of information systems or low-level "creative." To heed such advice would require a certain contrarian streak, as it entails rejecting a life course mapped out by other as obligatory and inevitable."

One might add that if you feel that you can spare a great deal of money, go to college. But we'll get to that in the next post, when we cover "DIY U".


Copyrighted text used with permission, Penguin Press c. 2009

End of post.

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No B.A.? No problem.

Short of an artful forgery, how do you get into graduate school to do an MA or a PhD when you don't have an undergrad degree?

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Many alternative paths to post-secondary

Our largest turnout yet! Homeschooling parents, educational professionals, parents with kids in traditional and alternative schools, current and former Sudbury-school parents, parents of preschoolers and one teen in Grade 11 (a former Beach School student) came to the beautiful new building of the Toronto Buddhist Church in the Downsview area of Toronto. In addition to [...]

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