Rachel, Upper School
Class of 2020
The math class at Northwestern University looks like any other. Students enter singly or in pairs, take a seat, and wait for the Professor to start his lecture. They are here to take Single-Variable Integral Calculus. No one notices that among the college students is an Upper School student: Roycemore senior Rachel. A native of the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, Rachel blends in with the college students. She wears a Guns and Roses sweatshirt, jeans, and a winter coat. As a senior at Roycemore, Rachel had already completed all of Roycemore’s advanced math classes and was eager to challenge herself by taking the next course in the math sequence at Northwestern University. She took a break from homework, basketball practice, and her microbiology experiments to talk to us about her experience as an Upper School student taking classes at Northwestern University.
First, can you tell us about your family?
My parents immigrated to America from Europe. My younger brother, Mark, is a sophomore here at Roycemore My parents met in Europe, went to college, and got married. They moved to America for better jobs and family life. My dad has his own company in Chicago and my mom helps him with it and she is also a stay at home mom.
Why did your family choose Roycemore?
Around age 3 or 4 my parents were seeking a school for me with a good academic program. They chose Roycemore for the quality of education. My parents knew that I could stay at Roycemore from Kindergarten through 12th grade. And it was easy for them coming from Rogers Park. I liked it a lot, so they also enrolled my younger brother.
Roycemore always felt like a family. That is one thing I loved about Roycemore even when I was so little! It is family oriented and you know everyone and all the teachers. In the Lower School you can know the big kids, like you can know the 4th graders when you are just five years old. You can talk to everyone and everyone is really nice.
Why did you pursue the NU Option program at Roycemore?
In 4th grade, I was the only student in my class who finished a giant packet of long division. My teacher gave me the textbook for the next level. I have always been on the upper edge of average for math class. When I was in Middle School, the math classes got switched up and I got to take algebra early and did well. I continued on from there. I was pushing myself; I like to take the hardest classes!
As a senior, this year I had the opportunity to participate in the NU Option (Roycemore’s dual enrollment program with Northwestern University). I feel lucky. I am not sure what gave me the edge to get chosen this year. I think the teachers have always known that I wanted to do NU Option, and my math teacher last year said that she thought I would do well at Northwestern. She said she had confidence in me.
What class are you taking at Northwestern University?
I took single variable differential calculus during the first quarter. This quarter I am taking single variable integral calculus. I started in September and the class was three months long. The nice thing about taking classes at Northwestern University is that they have really short quarters that go really fast. I like the fast pace. I think it is a good pace.
Are there other Roycemore students in this class?
(Laughs) Yes! It was a surprise! I am in a class with another Roycemore student. Gary is with me, yet I had no idea! I turned around one day when someone answered a question and saw him, it was really funny!
There is another Roycemore student too! At Northwestern, we have class as well as discussion session one time a week where we get to explain our process. We do the equations together and we talk about it. One of the students who graduated from Roycemore last year is in my discussion class. I always get to talk to her there, which is really nice.
I also have a Roycemore friend who is taking a different class than me. Before the first quarter I planned ahead with my friend Madeline. She’s taking a class ahead of me in the math sequence. I have known her since 3rd grade. She’s the more ‘mathy’ between the two of us, for sure! We scheduled it so we could take our classes at the same time. We met up before class, took the bus together, figured out where the classrooms were, met up afterwards, walked back together or waited for the bus together. It gave us some independence in the first quarter. Now we both know how the system works and we’re capable of going to Northwestern University on our own.
We never got to be part of the Northwestern freshmen orientation, when new students tour the campus. We had to google stuff and try to find it. This definitely has helped prepare me for college. Now I understand how college runs. I can transfer my independence and responsibility from here. You have to motivate yourself, that’s a really important lesson that I learned while taking Northwestern classes. There have been days that I want to miss class, but there is no way I could because I have to learn the info, I cannot take the day off. I need to know it! It is very quick, if I were to miss a day, I would miss a whole section.
How many students are in your Northwestern University class?
My first quarter had about 30 students, it was packed. Now I have about 15-20 students in my class of integral calculus. Now that it is smaller it is easier to ask questions.
What do you like about taking classes at Northwestern?
I enjoy the fast pace, there is always something fresh every day. They are on a tight schedule, but I enjoy it. I can still comprehend everything. I enjoy the discussion classes. It gives you a chance to take in and apply the knowledge. You have to explain your reasoning, not just do calculations and put in numbers. It makes sure I have an understanding of what I am learning. The professors are really good, which is amazing. The discussion classes are taught by TAs. I have the same professor this quarter from last quarter. Northwestern is a big university and they have a professor teaching the class, not a TA. I think that is really good.
Does your professor know that you are a high school student?
No, I don’t think he does. He knows my name and I can tell he recognized me from last quarter. I am sometimes embarrassed to say that I am in high school. I don’t want to come across as a super smart snotty kid. I just want to blend in with every other college student and not have to stand out. It is a great opportunity, but I don’t want to rub it into anyone’s face. I bet that some of the students can tell, but I don’t think my professor knows.
What don’t you like about the NU Option?
We cannot register online, we have to do it manually. We fill out everything ourselves on paper. We have to hand deliver the paper to the Northwestern office, and there is only one day when we can sign up. We have to sign up after Northwestern’s students have had a chance to sign up for their classes. So, we have a very short window.
How does it feel to be in class with college students?
I enjoy it! In my discussion classes, I enjoy talking to them and understanding them and where they are from. At Northwestern, I was taking a midterm and sat next to a college student from New Zealand. It was really interesting because everyone has different cultures and backgrounds. No one is the same, it is a lot to take in.
What is tough about high school?
For me, I do a lot of things! The homework load along with sports is a lot. I like to take the hardest classes I can. I am playing basketball so it can be a lot of work. Roycemore also offers independent study so we can take classes on our own. I am taking an independent microbiology class and AP Government and Politics class. A lot of the work is up to me to do on my own. I still have these classes along with Basketball.
Plus, I play on a club volleyball team outside of school! After January Short Term is over, I will have basketball along with tumbling and I will be in the school play. Not all students are as involved as I am. I love being involved. I love just doing a little bit of everything. I like to be as involved in the school as I can.
Whoa, that is a lot! Do you need a nap?
What is a favorite Roycemore memory?
One of my favorite memories is from the old building. At the end of the year on the last day of school we would go outside in the warm weather and have messy day. It was a theme week of pajama day, messy hair day, and the last day would be outside and we would play with shaving cream and make a giant mess on the playground. It was really fun and if it was hot, we would throw water balloons with our friends. That building was like Hogwarts and I remember getting lost in the stairways.
In the new building, where I have spent more time as a Roycemore student, I enjoyed a lot of things! Last year was really fun for me because it was the first time I got involved with theatre and the play. I bonded with so many people and it was so fun. Ms. Rivera made it so fun for us. We were working and also at the same time we were all goofing around and having fun with our parts. It was really enjoyable.
The play was Slaughterhouse 5. It was really confusing and crazy and funny. We had just read the novel in our AP lit class. The play mirrored the book. A lot of the students already understood the story, it made the play more fun for us.
What would you say to a student who was considering coming to Roycemore?
I think that people should keep an open mind. We are genuinely nice, and you will make a lot of friends from different grades. When I am at my non-Roycemore club volleyball team, my teammates mention only peers from their grade specifically. But at Roycemore everyone is together, and it is a good chance to get to know different people. We can form our own friends and friend groups. It makes life interesting.
I think Roycemore is a great option because the academics here are very strong. Sports wise, we don’t have tryouts because we are small. Yet we are academically strong with a lot of one-on-one time with teachers. You can personally know your teachers and be close with them. It is great! It adds to the family feeling of Roycemore. It is very beneficial. You get one-on-one time and a connection with your teachers. They will know if you are having a bad day and they will talk to you. Everyone is always willing to talk and help and have fun.
What would you say to a student who was considering the NU Option?
If you think you can do it, you should because you get a lot out of it. It made me super independent. But you need to understand how much responsibility you need to take. It’s up to you.
It is a good experience before college. It is like a taste of college while you are still in high school. Sometimes it stinks with homework or tests overlapping. But you get so much out of it! Northwestern uses the quarter system, so you can take three Northwestern classes in one academic year at Roycemore. You can take a class that you are really passionate about like a language like German or Hebrew. You get a college experience. It is for students who can pick up things quickly and keep learning. It is really fun, and I really enjoy the classes!
What are your future plans?
I applied early decision and I am going to Wake Forest University in North Carolina! It is a small school. I never thought I would stay at a small school because I have done it my whole life. But regardless, there are still a lot of undergrads there. I think it will be really nice because I am outgoing, and I always want to try and know everyone.
I haven’t declared a major, but I have a feeling I will major in microbiology or biology or some form of chemistry. I want to look at also doing a minor in psychology because I really find it fascinating. The minor will also give me a lot more options for finding a job that is interesting. I want something that is always different, not monotonous. I think the University is going to open up a lot of opportunities for me.