J.R. Neiswender | November 2 | Cougar Chronicle

Dear Upper School Families,

So much of what we do in schools is designed to prepare our students for “what comes next.”  Our ECE students are working toward being ready for kindergarten, our lower school students can’t wait for the challenge of being big middle schoolers, and our middle school students anticipate the opportunities that are available to them when they can finally join the upper school.  For our current upper school students, this concept of “what comes next” in many ways feels both more exciting and scarier - if for no other reason than, for the first time, it is much harder to define.  What options are available to me after The New School?  Do I choose to go to a college close to home or far away?  Do I choose a small school that will have similar qualities to TNS, or do I want something completely different?  Do I choose to go to college right away, or do I take a gap year or work for a while right after high school?  Every student’s path will look different.  And not only are we here to help advise them along their route and toward the path that best suits them, but there are things we do each and every day that equip our upper schoolers with the ‘tools’ they need to succeed in the years to come, no matter which path they ultimately choose for themselves upon graduation.  

This past week I have felt a little bit nostalgic for my former days as a college guidance counselor, as I watched many of our seniors fully engage in the “what comes next” process as a few of them submitted applications to colleges with November 1 deadlines.  Our Director of College Guidance, Marshall Gray, is able to work very closely with the members of the class on all of the elements of a successful college application and assist them in the submission of their work.  Whether it is time spent helping revise essays, formulating activities lists, discussing standardized testing strategies, or submitting the actual applications themselves, Marshall’s process helping our students put their best foot forward is both thorough and thoughtful.  And we are excited to see the many successful outcomes that await these terrific young people in the months ahead as a reward for their hard work.  

And while the application process itself may be the culmination of an entire high school career, our goal in the upper school is to prepare our students each and every year for whatever adventures await them once The New School is in their rearview mirror.  What kinds of skills will they need?  What kinds of knowledge must they possess?  What kinds of experiences will they bring with them on their journey?  Each day our faculty uses their subject-area expertise to teach our students HOW to think, not WHAT to think.  We have no way of knowing what careers are even going to exist when our students hit the workforce.  Learning how to problem-solve, learning how to analyze and understand data, and learning how to communicate effectively both orally and in writing are all skills that our teachers emphasize when guiding our students through English class, math class, science class, and every other class in the upper school.  We offer students a broad education, exposing them to a wide variety of subjects and ideas at every grade level.  But we also create a curricular structure that allows them to opt into a wide variety of elective courses, thereby having some agency designing their own course of study.  In the future, we look forward to developing more interdisciplinary courses, as well as bringing more opportunities for experiential learning back into our curriculum for our students in a post-Covid world.  Each of these endeavors broadens and strengthens our students’ knowledge and experiences, and each is made possible by the commitment and dedication of our tremendous faculty and staff.

While we may not always be able to know “what comes next” for each of our upper school students, we know that The New School will have given them the opportunity to develop the skills and abilities to be successful wherever their hard work, interest, and initiative takes them.  We are so glad to have these students share the campus with us each day, and we cannot wait to see where their various paths lead them in the years to come.

Go Cougars!

J.R. Neiswender

Head of Upper School    

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