This year has been unprecedented in so many ways. In the midst of a global pandemic, schools and colleges across the United States shuttered their doors and moved classes, clubs, and events to virtual platforms. Here at Seattle Waldorf School, we pivoted as best we could to online courses, class meetings, and experiential learning opportunities. Students, faculty, and administrators proved resilient and dealt with the ups and downs of online school with positivity, humor, and an understanding that this long year of mask wearing, social distancing, and humanities and Algebra II from the couch would at some point end.
As the last few weeks of the school year come into focus, I am amazed at where we are and all we have accomplished as a school. Students are back on campus: in classrooms, playing Ultimate, socializing at the picnic tables and down by the water, and chatting with teachers in the halls and on the steps leading to the main doors. There is a sense of joy, community, and a shared recognition that we have made it through the worst of this pandemic and can embrace these moments of togetherness and look forward to the opportunities that the future provides.
The class of 2021 deserves a huge amount of credit for the optimism and perseverance that prevailed throughout the high school community. They took charge in student council, hosted club meetings at all hours of the day, were instrumental in expanding our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work, and introducing bystander training. Leading is hard in the virtual world, but the class of 2021 succeeded through creativity, strength of will, and trust and joy in each other. I had the privilege of witnessing their commitment to school and community every Friday during class meeting and in every individual college counseling session. It has been truly wonderful to see the fruits of their labor in their smiles (which you can still see through a mask) when they arrive on campus and to hear it in the laughter that echoes down the halls.
And they have been wonderfully rewarded for their efforts, compassion, and academic work with the most impressive and eclectic list of college acceptances in the history of the school. In college counseling we preach the notion of “fit,” students finding the college that best serves them academically, socially, emotionally, extracurricularly, etc. The class of 2021 took the idea of fit to heart, not just a cliché that their college counselor throws around. These seniors did the leg work: they researched, took virtual college tours, attended virtual information sessions (60 of which were hosted by SWS), chatted with current college students, and engaged with admission officers via phone, email, and Zoom. They put their most authentic and vulnerable selves out there with little hesitation. In sum, they truly owned the college admissions process.
And now for some numbers. The class of 2021 submitted 156 applications to 89 colleges and universities across the country and around the world. When all was said and done they received 100 acceptance letters to schools as diverse as their personalities: Adelphi—College of Nursing, Bard, Boston University, Bryn Mawr, Franklin University (Switzerland), Indiana University—Jacobs School of Music, Kenyon, Occidental, San Diego State, Sarah Lawrence, Shoreline, Smith, Stony Brook—College of Engineering, Temple, The New School—Eugene Lang, University of Arizona – College of Architecture, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, University of Limerick (Ireland), University of Montana Western—College of Equine Studies, University of Washington – College of Engineering, and Western Washington. Additionally, they were rewarded a whopping 3.7 million dollars in merit aid, a number that per-student exceeds many of the nation’s most elite private high schools. More than a third of the class will be deferring their enrollment and embarking on a gap year or semester. Their experiences will include backpacking in New Zealand, equine therapy, playing professional Ultimate, sustainable farming, social justice work, apprenticing, working at a veterinary clinic, and touring Europe by rail.
This amazing list of schools and the extraordinary sum of merit money that the class of 2021 received are not only validations of their talents, interests, creativity, and dedication, but are also a testament to Waldorf education. We are doing wonderful and meaningful work here, and that work is recognized by colleges and universities in all corners of the world. In phone calls, Zoom meets, and emails, I continually hear from admissions officers how excited they are to receive and read a SWS college application; they appreciate and value that our students are not defined by grade point average, AP courses, or test scores. Instead, what our students, and we as a school project, is a love of learning, of life, of community, and a deep respect for each other and the earth. And most importantly, an optimism for the present and the future that is not hyperbole, but is as true as the individuals that make up our school.
—Erich Schweikher, College and Career Counselor