TCS Goes To College
My name is a Madeline Moneypenny. In 2018, I graduated from The Community School where I had learned since 8th grade. I’m a sophomore at Bard College where I’m a music major with a potential joint or double major in Middle Eastern Studies. I am driven creatively and academically, and the class structure at TCS provided many of the skills I use to attain success in college. My senior year experience at TCS shaped, in large part, what I want now to study, and my entire TCS education prepared me to advocate for myself with college faculty, have the confidence to integrate myself into my new community, and have the experience to see interdisciplinary opportunities in my academics.
My senior year science/math class was an integrated course that put strong emphasis on individual growth, group collaboration that was student-lead, and academic independence. At its core, in addition to content, the course taught me how to write introspectively about myself, a great asset in college admission writing or the many emails I composed whenever I wanted to start a relationship with faculty. Besides being helpful for outward purposes, it put me in touch with who I am and how I operate as a learner. In college, you have to manage all of your own time: the class schedules are much different, and you have to prioritize your tasks, things that are all difficult to do without understanding your own needs, strengths, and weaknesses.
Learning how to work in a group was another aspect at the heart of the integrated model. As a musician, my best experiences are creating or performing art with others. While I have the skills to be a solo performer, there’s nothing that makes me quite as happy as spending hours at a time productively working with other artists, whether that be recording an EP in the studio, preparing jazz standards with a live band to sing at different venues on campus, or just meeting up in the music practice rooms. Music, like many, is an industry where connections are key, and being able to work well with others could be the difference between getting an important meeting or gig and not.
The integrated model presents real challenges and the tools to work through them, but it’s up to students to rise to those problems and create innovative solutions. There aren’t usually wrong or right answers; for example there are many ways to build an aquaponics structure (one of my senior year projects) and we had to determine the best system for our needs. This kind of independence means you must think through each option, plan for the future, effectively communicate your goals, know where you stand as a learner and have the ambition to take the initiative or see through a project.
Each of those skills has been indispensable as I successfully navigate higher education, where there are many opportunities but only if I reach out for them. TCS taught me to be comfortable asking for help, knowing my needs and how to think critically and creatively. Without those skills, I’m not sure how I would have reached out to the head of the Middle Eastern Studies department and advocated for my vision of integrating music with her program. I met her initial resistance by articulating my vision, and now have the go ahead to work between those disciplines with the support of faculty. I love that TCS has taught me these things and I love how they do it. All these skills culminated in what remains one of my most fulfilling academic and emotional experiences, the Senior Project.
The Senior Project is not just a final academic test before you leave high school. It gives a taste of what after high school will be like, in a controlled setting that is dictated by your passions. All the components of self-advocacy, time management, independence, collaboration etc. that I’ve mentioned before–and that TCS actively teaches and supports– are necessary here. From working with mentors to crafting your schedule for a month of sabbatical, the project gives real world experiences, all of which have flowed directly into my college learning. Writing 120 pages of senior project definitely prepared me for the challenging essays I write weekly in college. Being taught to break down large projects into manageable pieces and prioritizing each prepared me for my midterm and final assessments. My senior project on music production launched me into new relationships at school and set the course for me to meet my best friend.
I loved doing that project and it has stuck with me (and is available to read in the school library if anyone so desires!). At the core of that experience were the TCS values of putting the student first, providing a challenging and enriching academic experience, and working outside what some may consider a common mold to prepare students for an ever-changing world.
* Madeline ended her freshman year at Bard with a 4.0 gpa.