By Carol Lombardi
For our School Spotlight on Uni High, Sponsored by Parkland College, click here.
Part 1 of a two part series about Uni High in Urbana, IL.
University of Illinois Laboratory High school — Uni High — is a selective admission public high school on the UI campus in Urbana. Most students apply as sixth- or seventh-graders for the subfreshman (eighth grade) year, although students are sometimes admitted to higher grades on a space-available basis. After 93 years, there are many misconceptions and much outdated information circulating about Uni. Our first post addresses general myths, while the second post will look specifically at admissions.
Myth: Uni is a private school and charges tuition.
Fact: Uni is a public school and does not charge tuition. In order to meet the part of our budget that does not come from university support, general state aid and donations, we do have student fees, and students buy their own books. This is necessary because we do not receive property tax revenue. We offer financial assistance when needed and are proud of the fact that no student will be unable to attend Uni due to financial considerations.
Myth: Uni is a school for nerds.
Fact: We have our share of nerds. We also have our share of artists, programmers, builders, dancers, activists, athletes, musicians, volunteers, scientists, poets, gamers, babysitters, entrepreneurs and so on. We truly value diversity in all of its forms.
Myth: Uni is an AP school.
Fact: Uni actually has NO designated AP classes. However, many of our students feel prepared to take AP exams after taking our regularly offered classes, and many prepare for other AP exams on their own without ever taking a class in the subject. On the other hand, our courses are all considered “honors” courses, and they are challenging.
Myth: Uni is just like any other high school.
Fact: As a laboratory school, we are exempt from state testing, and our curriculum is therefore more flexible. We have an all-honors curriculum and our teachers are content-area experts who decide what they will teach. This can change from year-to-year based on research, experience, student feedback and experimentation. Uni is smaller than other local public high schools — 320 students this year in grades 8-12 — and our students have an open campus, which gives them quite a bit of freedom.
Myth: Uni’s homework load is impossible to handle.
Fact: Uni recently spent two years researching homework best practices, having faculty discussions and training, getting input from students, alumni, parents and past parents and grappling with the issue of homework. We have revised our homework guidelines and teachers are very conscious of giving homework that has a purpose and limiting the time spent on it. This has led to curricular changes and an exploration of new teaching strategies in many departments, while keeping the homework load reasonable.
Myth: Uni students are all work and no play.
Fact: Our students play every bit as hard as they work. We have an astonishing array of extracurricular activities, clubs and sports, and students are welcome to start their own clubs based on their interests. Clubs currently range from investment club to Bollywood club to Habitat for Humanity. Our students participate passionately in many activities outside of school as well. Uni students enjoy dances, sporting events and various school traditions.
Myth: All Uni students go to Ivy League colleges.
Fact: Our outstanding college counseling program encourages students to explore which post-secondary options are right for them, from gap years to community college programs to large research universities. We encourage students to pursue the right post-high school plans for them.
Myth: Uni is a STEM school.
Fact: Uni prides itself on its excellent educational opportunities in every area and does not emphasize any one academic area. We want — and expect — students to engage in every discipline and we offer excellent resources in every subject.
Carol Lombardi is the journalism teacher and communications coordinator at Uni High.