Lick-Wilmerding High School
If it’s any solace, Lick is making their classes bigger starting with the 2018 entry year (this was the first year so we are just seeing how that will play out. I think they are adding 10-20 kids per class. My daughter goes there and frankly, for the price (we are full pay), I’ve been a little disappointed. Maybe I expected too much, but I feel like my daughter fell between the cracks. She’s quiet so maybe she should have spoken up more. Freshman year, they told the parents to but out and let the kids handle things. I followed that advice to my daughter’s detriment. There are a lot of things to like about the school, but honestly, I have some regrets. However, my daughter claims she is happy there now even if I can’t see it day to day. Good luck to him! I hope he gets in if it’s his first choice and I think their flexible tuition works well for most families (I know it’s very important to the school). If he doesn’t, there are lots of other schools out there. He will find his place.
Your son sounds like ours, who also loves to make things, and was intimidated by the high school application process. The advice we gave him was: Why not you?
We encouraged him to apply to Lick, even though he didn't think he could get in. We did have to encourage him to study for the ISEE (not his favorited thing - I recommend a site called Test Innovators, as the ISEE math section tests concepts that most 8th graders have not yet covered in class.) We are so glad that he followed through and applied. He absolutely LOVES Lick, as do all the other kids I have spoken to from his class. The school environment from the kids to the parents to the teachers is very warm and inviting. My son loves the creativity involved in learning the concepts taught in class. He actually also loves the commute, he feels very independent with his clipper card, and it is an excellent way to get to know other kids from the East Bay.
As for financial aid, I believe that the admissions process at LWHS is completely need blind, and they do have a very generous financial aid program.
All that being said, I think all the independent and parochial schools in this area are excellent, and I suspect your son will love whichever school he goes to. You may want to look at Bentley also, as it felt more relaxed than CPS during the open house tours. However, Athenian was our second choice, and I think their program is outstanding. The outdoor component of that school is pretty incredible, and teachers seemed very accessible.
Good Luck with this crazy process. I hear that applying to college is a lot easier than applying to High School. :)
Both of my sons have gone to Lick-Wilmerding High School, and it is very special. The motto Head, Heart & Hands has special meaning, particularly hands with the incredible technical arts classes (wood, metal, electronics, art & science of computer science, jewelry). Students come from all over the Bay Area (>60 middle schools) and almost 40% of students receive tuition assistance through flex sliding scale tuition (double that of other schools). My sons have both been very well prepared for college with thoughtful coursework, the athletics are fun and inclusive, and the community is very strong, particularly for a high school (dozens of different events put on by the Parents Association for parents, for example). More than 900 students apply for 128 spots, so it is very difficult to get in, and it has been a big commute from North Berkeley to Balboa Park BART. But we feel it has been well worth the commute. I encourage you to sign up for an open house and shadow visit early (August?) and visit to get a better feel for the school.
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My child just graduated from Lick-Wilmerding this year, and I can't say enough good things about the school. As for your specific question about homework load, I think that the school does a great job of providing a very rigorous academic environment and challenging classes without burning out the kids. One key is the block system. Classes meet every other day for longer periods. Teachers love this because they have more sustained teaching time with fewer transitions for getting to and from class, packing up books, collecting assignments, etc. My student liked it because on any given day there were only 3-4 classes where homework or tests were due. He got excellent grades, played sports and took a very challenging course load, but never did things like stay up past midnight on school nights.
We visited several high schools and Lick really stood out as a place where they value learning as opposed to achievement. One school in particular seemed all about their stats: how many kids scored 5s on the AP tests, how many got into Ivies. Bleah. Lick is where they talk about what the kids can do when they graduate: write a 5-page paper in Spanish on the Cuban embargo, make a table, conduct high-level physics experiments and explain them. Some kids are burned out by the time they get to college. Lick kids are fired up and ready to go. Lick Parent