Germantown Friends Schoolreview by University of Virginia student. Overall, GFS prepared me very well for moving on to college, but there are several areas of preparation that were seriously lacking. The first program that did not adequately prepare me for college was the college guidance. Most schools, from what I understand from talking to my peers at other schools, have dedicated college counselors whose primary job is to get every student into the best school possible through help with applications, connections with admissions programs, and dedication. GFS has a program that has full time teachers do college counseling on the side. They often cannot spend the necessary time on their students application because they also have to spend time on their classes. I found that it actually held me back in several ways once their necessary work was done; once they had submitted the teacher recommendations and reports, I worked on my own. That being said, the time that they spend on their classes, not advising college applicants, pays off because they teach some great classes. I have heard that the classics department is exceptional, but I never got to experience it. For a long time I have wanted to be an engineer, so I focused on math and science classes. These classes are all excellent, but they, as well as every other class, have one major flaw: the AP exam. On many occasions, we were told by teachers and guidance counselors that the APs are a waste of time and money, that we should take the same courses at a college level. One of the few people who actually told us to take them was a calculus teacher who told us in her first year of teaching (she no longer teaches at GFS). In that course, we took a mock AP exam and graded it on the national AP curve. Many of us would have gotten top scores. I can only guess that this would hold true for most classes, which would mean that I would have been able to enter college with the equivalent of over a semester already completed. That is $24,000 dollars that my family could have saved by graduating a semester early, or an entire semester of other classes that I could have taken to expand my knowledge base. There is no reason that I should have repeated Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, Spanish, and Biology. The greatest part of GFS is the community that the students, teachers, and staff form. The small school environment that includes pick up basketball games between students, teachers, coaches, maintenance personnel, and security guards is what makes GFS unique. This community makes it easy to reach out to anyone or ask for help from anyone. We could always feel comfortable anywhere on campus to study with peers or teachers.
There is no hiding that GFS is an extremely liberal school. Out of 90 graduates in my class, I can count on one hand the number of known republicans.This does not mean that the community is anti conservative. Everyone fits in and gets along just fine. The schools honor code is a great concept. It lays out definitive policies on integrity and honor, but the school needs to stick to it more strictly. The relationship between GFS and the neighborhood of Germantown is a complicated one. It is difficult to have a private school whose tuition is approaching $30,000 in a poor, inner city neighborhood. But GFS works very hard to integrate with the surrounding community and make meaningful relationships with the local culture and history. There are several days each year reserved to doing various community service projects in Germantown. For a while there was not much of a relationship between us and neighboring Germantown High School. During my time at GFS, that changed. First, my track team and the Germantown High team started swapping runners during practice, so that they could be coached by our exceptional long distance staff, and we could be coached by their exceptional sprinting staff. We now continue to do that, share buses to large meets, and put on co productions in theater.
Because of the small size of GFS, you will always have friends who are participating in service organizations or clubs, which makes it very easy and fun to join them. Clubs range from community service to investment clubs to film clubs. If there is a club that does not exist that you think should, then you can easily make it, for instance my friends and I created the Spanish club and the Film club. In terms of sports, GFS is very open to all skill levels. No one gets cut from a sport, students are put onto varsity, JV or third teams based on their skill levels. My own nine seasons of track and three seasons of soccer was one of the best experiences at school and the relationships formed on the teams have been some of the strongest and most lasting. Even though GFS does not recruit athletes, we still have some of the strongest teams in the region and every year we have athletes competing at nationals.