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Potomac School

School rating 4.8 / 5 by

1301 Potomac School Road McLean VA 22101 United States
Boarding
None to None
Day
K to 12th
Gender
Coed

Academic

Potomac School review by .

I can say honestly that Potomac prepared me well for my university experience. I arrived at Brown my freshman year startled that many of my peers didn't know how to write an essay. Potomac's writing program is in my opinion one of its great strengths, and it starts in Intermediate School. That advantage I had over my peers for the first few weeks of freshman year really helped me feel prepared for college as a whole. Potomac's math and science curricula were also rigorous, and having taken the most advanced classes available, I found myself with a fairly average math background compared to my new Ivy League peers. At first, I'll admit this was demoralizing - I had classmates who had taken multivariable calculus at their local community college, and I asked myself why I hadn't been on some similar fast track. At Potomac, such a situation is incredibly rare, and reserved for people like, for example, Grace Young, who graduated a year early after having been accepted to MIT. (She was recently featured in Glamour Magazine. She's so cool: http://www.glamour.com/inspired/2013/04/grace-young-top-10-college-women-2013). Anyway, here I was, feeling inadequate, when I realized what I perceived to be a weakness was actually one of Potomac's strengths: the math instruction is engaging at every level. From what I've gathered from my friends here at Brown, they skipped ahead in their high school math curricula because the younger level classes were too easy or too boring. At Potomac, 9th grade accelerated geometry is as challenging and engaging as 12th grade AP Calculus. Students who want to take on more than the recommended course-load must advocate for themselves, because the Potomac administration is inclined not to allow students to get in over their heads. In my sophomore year, my chemistry teacher suggested I take AP chemistry concurrently with advanced physics the next year. I did, and wouldn't change a thing about it, but at every step there was an administrator reminding me that I didn't have to unless I wanted to, and I could always drop the extra class if I felt overwhelmed. It was reassuring to know that my wellbeing was more important than my transcript. Classes are small at Potomac. I think my largest class was no more than 20 people, and that was unusual. Since I graduated, the Upper School has grown, so I can't speak to class sizes now. The small classes were conducive to discussion, which teachers usually encouraged. Potomac's student body is tight-knit and generally a lively group, so there was never a dull moment. Teachers were available to talk whenever you needed them. If you didn't have an overlapping free period, they would make time to meet with you during an activities block (when clubs usually meet) or even in the few minutes after school. They liked hearing about our lives, and generally had close relationships with the students. As an academically advanced student (I cannot deal with how pretentious I sound right now), I felt that I was given every opportunity I could want. Even in Lower School, there were breakaway groups for the advanced math students. The miracle of this is that they were considered cool. Going to "math club" during lunch was actually a pretty desirable activity. I have no idea how they pulled that off, but I'm thankful, because it set the tone at Potomac: being smart is cool. No, I wasn't taking multivariable calculus at the community college. I don't feel like I missed much. As for additional resources for those who needed extra help, I know they existed and I know there were at least some people who seemed to really appreciate them. I can't speak to much more than that, unfortunately.

College Counseling

I first made a list of schools with my college counselor in the spring of....

Sample insights on college counseling

  • They have contacts at most of the major universities and feel perfectly comfortable picking up the phone and advocating for a student to get accepted somewhere they feel is a good fit for that student. However, these counselors are certainly not magic bullets. They cannot guarantee that a student will get into an Ivy League university...
  • For those wishing to move on to Oxford or Cambridge, the provision is second-to-none. In the months running up to application and interview, every subject faculty offers classes (often run by former Oxbridge tutors) exploring further areas of their subject as well as offering advice on personal statements, interview technique and more...

Admissions - Getting Accepted

I got into Potomac when I was six. I don't remember the process at all,....

Sample insights on admissions

  • For the interview, dress conservatively. Try to be very clean and put together. Also, I was a tour guide for two years and at the end of every tour, we were asked to evaluate the candidate so if you think the tour is not apart of the process, you are very wrong. Ask questions and be interested. Also, tip for the parents: the kids speak on the tour. Do not ask their questions for them...
  • Most younger siblings have an easy time in the admissions process. I can only think of one case of a younger sibling not being admitted. About half of the students who entered with me had come from public schools. The remainder came from private K-6 schools, or had transferred from other New York private schools The Elizabeth Morrow School and St. Bernard were two of the larger feeder schools...

School Life

The students are overwhelmingly liberal, and overwhelmingly privileged (naturally, there are exceptions to both). I think we thought we were all very socially conscious, but I still found myself saying things like "Really? You've never been out of the country? Not even to like, Europe?". Seriously. I know the Potomac administration tried their best to give us a reality check, and they really did do a pretty good job, but there's only so much perspective a sixteen year old can have. Since Potomac is K-12, the student body is fairly close. I can honestly say I had at least one....

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