College Preparatory School

My very high-functioning but admittedly sensitive 8th grade child is curious about College Preparatory School. I'm hoping to connect with parents, current or recent students of CPS that would care to share their thoughts on their experience. I'm particularly concerned about the workload, the availability of mental health resources, and the degree - if any - of elitist attitudes on campus (I attended a different prep school for a few years before college and encountered a lot of blithe privileged attitudes). We are also considering Berkeley High and perhaps other private schools. Thanks so much for your advice!

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RE: College Preparatory School ()

We have had experiences with both CPS and Berkeley High (BHS).  I think the most important issue for kids like yours is the ability to find a cohort of friends of the same type. CPS, just like regular American high schools, is dominated socially by "popular" kids--rich, white, suburban-mentality type. BHS is the same but with a slightly more international flair because of the IB program. But BHS has a huge student population so that every type of kids will find their own group and be comfortable. In CPS, that is luck, depending on what types of students happened to be admitted that year.  Because of the small student population, the socially dominate group tends to have an outsized impact on the overall social dynamics of the school, and can be clique-y and exclusive.  CPS has smart kids, but not outlier-level of smartness.  The school has a bottom line to worry about, understandably, and of course, all the diversity quota to be filled.  CPS is best for students with above average academics but lack of self discipline. A truly academically outlier kid may suffocate there by the very heavy "busy" homework load. As a comparison, the 9th grade homework load at CPS is probably equivalent to a Junior or senior in BHS that takes 4 or more APs with at least 2 in hardcore STEMs. There is a lot of content feeding at CPS (not a lot of thinking though).  

BHS is a typical public school, and the quality of teachers is hit-or-miss, with more misses than hits. But their advanced math program is excellent and for once, teaching to the top (doing proofs to understand why rather than memorization), and the advanced math teachers truly care about the students and are very responsible.  Because the homework load is not heavy at BHS, the students have more time to do all sorts of extracurricular activities, and BHS offers so many opportunities for kids to be involved in the community. Kids learn a lot of soft skills at BHS. To be fair, BHS is not for everyone. Your kid has to be independent (academically) and knows what he/she wants in life so as not to be sucked into drugs/sex etc.

As for the crazy parties, drugs, sex, etc, both schools have it.  CPS has a lot of kids who suffer from depression.  Although they offer a mental counselor onsite, it does not solve the root causes of the problem.  The school administration is really good at suppressing this issue, and like all private schools, spends a big effort on "branding" and "reputation".  At the end of the day, neither schools are perfect, and you will have to make a choice based on the needs of your kid.  I personally would never consider sending another kid to CPS. We entered BHS with our eyes wide-open, knowing all their issues as well as opportunities, and ended up very happy.  Please feel free to reach out to me if you want to know more. Best wishes to your kid!

RE: College Preparatory School ()

Hi, I have a 9th and 12th grader at College Prep now.  They are very happy at the school and have made some great friends.  The majority of the kids that I have seen at the school are super sweet and smart kids.  I think the workload varies for every student.  My kids were used to a lot of school work in middle school so the transition for them was really smooth.  But, I have heard that other students thought the workload was a lot.  I think the school does a good job of easing the kids in Freshman year and then the workload increases a bit every year.  They typically have one or two free periods where they can get homework done in advance so that they have time for other activities after school or outside of school.  There's a school counselor who checks in with each of the students to see how they are doing and students can go to her whenever.  They also have advisors who check in on them weekly.  I've found that the students are very supportive of each other and will help each other out whenever they have a problem.  They also have extra writing and math help that they can get if needed in addition to their teachers.  I really haven't heard of any elitist attitudes on campus.  My kids are also the type of kids who don't like drama and will steer clear of it so I might be getting a skewed view.  :)  Please feel free to ask any other questions.  Good luck to your 8th grader!

RE: College Preparatory School ()

College Prep will push kids to the edges of their ability, and as a result of the difficult path the students will feel a sense of achievement and confidence that they otherwise would not have. Moreover, they won't have to find easy college majors that they are not truly interested in; they'll be prepared for any major they truly want to pursue, be it biophysics or
Classical languages. This is entirely due to the brilliance of the faculty. Many college freshman report that their first year was a breeze due to College Prep; the school deserves its name. Due to the demanding curriculum the students can be stressed out, but the fantastic success in college admissions reduces that stress. This year's early
admission success was off the charts; by my daughter's count almost half the class was accepted through early decision or early action to the most competitive schools in the country.  That success in matriculation should radically reduce the stress. Students make circles of friends in which they are comfortable. The arts and sports are highly valued at the school. Money is not the only marker of success and status at the school; intellectual engagement and public service count just as much, if not more.