College Preparatory Schoolreview by University of Pennsylvania student. I could not have asked for more from the academic program at College Prep (The College Preparatory School, Oakland, CA). Its rigorous classes not only demanded that I thoroughly understand the concepts being taught, but also challenged me to explore and develop entirely new ways of thinking and approaching problems. Personally, I found that the most engaging classes came from the English, Foreign Language, and Math departments. Each class I took was small and discussion-based, and the teachers came to them with thoughtfully planned-out lessons. We were encouraged to develop our ideas through conversations both with the teachers and our classmates, and even the few classes that were more lecture-oriented were interactive and engaging. The teachers were clearly invested in the success of each individual student, and made an effort to ensure that we all participated and kept pace with the class. Their support was evident in the form of level of availability--both through office hours and email--and their willingness to help a struggling student both in and out of class. There is also a Learning Center that provides faculty and student tutors to students who need extra support, and those who wanted to further their studies were also welcome to speak to their teachers outside of class, all of whom were very accommodating. My academic experience at College Prep prepared me extraordinarily well for my college classes. The student body is competitive in the sense that everyone is expected to do well, but individual grades are very much a private matter and students are always willing to help each other out.
I can honestly say that College Prep is a very happy place. The campus and surrounding neighborhood is beautiful and quiet and is close to a lake and several regional parks. Though there are no dining services, student groups will often sell food during breaks and lunch to help fund their causes, and the faculty dining lounge will provide a lunch to a hungry student if necessary, so there is never any lack of food on campus. There are two very well-equipped computer labs on campus as well as a tech support office that always has a staff member willing to help with anything from a broken printer to a video project for class. The library is a great place to study, as it is kept very quiet and has different areas for both private and group study. Subject-specific offices are also very helpful for those looking to study for a particular class. The school is very dedicated to promoting diversity, and while the majority of the school remains white and upper-middle class, there was a clear shift in priorities even throughout the four years I was there. The school has a very open and accepting culture, and almost every student is heavily involved in some aspect of the school community, whether it is sports, student groups, or community service. I think the school has a very reasonable approach to discipline. In terms of academics, students communicate directly with the teachers, and though most are very accommodating of special circumstances, they are also strict about deadlines when necessary. Generally all forms of discipline are at the teacher's discretion.
College Prep does succeed in helping the students balance their extra-curricular activities and academics, though academics does generally hold more weight. Community service is very present on campus; every year, each class works together on one specific project, from cleaning trails in Point Reyes to rebuilding a local park. There are also other opportunities to get involved individually, such as weekly tutoring at the nearby elementary school and bimonthly trips to a homeless shelter. A typical student spends about 15 hours per week on extracurricular activities. While the heavy academic load can sometimes be stressful in and of itself, students are very much encouraged to pursue their interests outside of the classroom. With some dedication and work, it is very possible to be involved in sports and other activities without compromising academics and your sanity. Though it may take some time to adjust, ultimately the high expectations of this school essentially forced me to become more organized and learn how to successfully manage my time.