Alumni say BHS culture generally leads to college success

Kendall McGowan and JK Suh

Does Brookline High School prepare its students for college?

Both alumni and faculty agree that the collegiate, freedom-based environment offered by the high school strengthens and prepares students well for the independent life of college. Alumni said that compared to their peers at college, they find they are much better at managing their time.

“I know students here who spend five to six hours a day doing work,” Conor Brennan ‘13 of Yale University said. “Coming out of Brookline, you’ve been challenged for pretty much your whole life. Lots of these students come from sub-par high schools and they don’t know how to manage their time because they’ve never been challenged before.”

Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator Gary Shiffman said students at the high school are constantly presented with challenges which, by senior year, teach them how to efficiently manage their time.

“I think because of the relatively open system we have here, for students who have good work habits and good organizational skills, the big challenges are all social and not academic,” Shiffman said. “Managing your own academic affairs is not new to a lot of students by senior year.”“I think because of the relatively open system we have here, for students who have good work habits and good organizational skills, the big challenges are all social and not academic,” Shiffman said.

According to Alan Zhou ‘12 of Harvard University, high school stays true to one of its philosophies, “freedom and responsibility,” by offering students the opportunity to prioritize their necessities. Students at the high school are granted large, if not excessive, amounts of free time.

“You were able to decide what you were going to do with your free time because there is a lot of free time,” Zhou said. “People aren’t around the whole time telling you what you have to do. In theory, you can really just skip classes if you want to. You get to really learn for yourself what you should be doing and what you want to be doing.”

Photo provided by Kate Rhodes
BHS alumna Kate Rhodes ’13 (top row, fifth from left) at her freshman orientation at Macalester. Rhodes said she felt prepared for college. Photo provided by Kate Rhodes.

Kate Rhodes ‘13 of Macalester College also said she learned how to manage her free time long before going to college.

“I learned about things like time management because when you have open campus, you have the opportunity to go out and do other things rather than stay in the library and do work,” Rhodes said. “I think it allowed me to realize while I did have this opportunity to go out, I also had the responsibility to do my schoolwork. I had to find a way to balance those things in a way in which my work would get done, yet I could also go out and have fun during my free blocks.”

Dean of Students Anthony Meyer said the high school offers an opportunity to adapt to the lenient college lifestyle before even graduating.

“I learned about things like time management because when you have open campus, you have the opportunity to go out and do other things rather than stay in the library and do work,” Rhodes said. “The notion of freedom and responsibility, and giving students free blocks and letting them be off campus, is very collegiate,” Meyer said. “The school feels much more like a campus than the school with a single building that many students are familiar with.”

Senior Joanna Kaplan said she expects the self-advocacy required in Brookline academics to translate into important skills for college.

“If you need help, it’s your responsibility to get that help, and teachers don’t come after you and tell you what you’re missing or how you did on this certain quiz,” Kaplan said. “You have to do that for yourself, and I think in college that’s a really important skill to have because your teachers can’t find you.”

Next page