By Rachael McMillan
Note: Uni High prospective student/parent information meetings for the 2018-2019 school year will be held on October 4, 2017; November 1, 2017; January 11, 2018; and February 7, 2018.
For our School Spotlight on Uni High, sponsored by Parkland College, click here.
Alternatively, I could have titled this: “Is Your Kid Right for Uni High?” Because, I’ll be honest–that’s really where this is headed.
University Laboratory High School is, according to their website, “a selective admission, public, laboratory school sanctioned by the State of Illinois and associated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The school serves academically talented students, residing in Illinois, from the subfreshman level (combined 7th and 8th grades) through high school.” In plainer language, it is an educational holy grail of sorts to many area families: a publicly-funded institution that has arguably the most rigorous and esteemed academic curriculum in the area.
It’s also very hard to get in.
Students hoping to be admitted take the SSAT and submit their transcripts, letters of recommendation from their teachers, and complete an application which includes a handful of essays (to be completed by the prospective student) about their life and academic career so far.
According to Dr. Ida Jeanette Nuckolls, the director of admissions for Uni High, “Each year, the University of Illinois Laboratory High School (Uni) Admissions Committee reviews over 200 subfreshman applications.” She adds, “Students who apply to Uni are very well prepared and qualified.”
Still, of those 200, only 65 will get in. If you think your child may be one of the applicants, either this year or at some point in the future, you should know that admissions decisions are not made lightly. According to Dr. Nuckolls, the process involves over 80 hours spent by committee members reviewing applications before they meet for a full day to make the final decisions.
So, let’s say your student prepares from the early elementary grades, building up a school history rich in academic and extra-curricular distinctions, and still doesn’t get in (not getting in being the most likely outcome). Where does he/she go from there?
Well, anywhere, really. According to Mrs. P.J. Johnson, the senior class advisor at Centennial High School, Centennial grads have gone on to earn degrees from “Yale, Brown, Cornell, Wash U, Northwestern and University of Chicago,” among many other prestigious colleges and universities.
Or, consider recently sworn-in State Treasurer Mike Frerichs; he’s a 1991 graduate of Rantoul Township High School. It’s the school where I first taught, and while there I encountered any number of students with seemingly limitless potential for future success.
So, as a teacher, the final thought I’d like to leave parents of prospective Uni students with is this: Uni is a great school, and your child would be lucky to get in. However, being admitted (or not) is not the end-all, be-all indication of his or her abilities. Some kids rise to the top of the application process and others do not, but resist the temptation to see this as a measure of what your child is capable of.
If Uni isn’t the right setting for your child, trust that it’s because one of our many other excellent local secondary schools will be.
Rachael McMillan teaches sixth and seventh grade history at Campus Middle School for Girls. She also tutors at The Reading Group and volunteers for Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade retailer in downtown Champaign. She is totally in love with her Chambana life, which she shares with husband Scott, fourth grader Jack, third grader Kate, and William the Toddler.