By Carol Lombardi
For our School Spotlight on Uni High, Sponsored by Parkland College, click here.
Part 2 of a two part series about Uni High in Urbana.
While all of our area high schools are excellent and will challenge motivated students, Urbana Uni High, for a variety of reasons, is the best choice for some students. Like many area teens, our students are bright and motivated, but they are often looking for non-traditional approaches, more independence, a smaller environment and a safe place to take risks. Please see more about Uni in our previous post, Uni High Myths and Facts.
Many prospective students and their parents have misconceptions about the selection process, and we have addressed some of them here. You can learn more about applying to Uni by attending a prospective student meeting on Jan. 6 or Feb. 3 and by reading the application packet.
Myth: There is some magical formula for admission to Uni.
Fact: There is no magical formula. The admissions committee looks at the whole student – activities, application essays (where they look for both writing ability and content, as well as evidence that the student wrote the essays independently), recommendations, grades and SSAT scores. The goal of the committee is to create a well-rounded class, so they want a balance of gender and race/ethnicity, of course, but also students with a variety of interests and a range of favorite subjects, etc. Less than perfect grades or test scores will not keep a student out of Uni. Our only regret is that we have limited physical space, and can only accept about 65 students each year. We typically have many more qualified students whom we would LOVE to accept, but we just don’t have room.
Myth: Uni’s director (or some other person) makes decisions based on limited criteria or special factors.
Fact: The admissions committee is made up of five Uni teachers and it changes every year. Each person on the committee reads every word of every application and they discuss every applicant before making admissions decisions.
Myth: Certain groups have “priority” in admissions.
Fact: The admissions committee does not know an applicant’s name, who an applicant’s parents are, what neighborhood they live in, who their siblings are or any other identifying information. We do strive to build a class that is inclusive and representative of the surrounding communities, but the admissions committee NEVER considers just one factor in making a decision. If an applicant includes identifying information in an essay, it will be redacted before the committee sees the application.
Myth: It’s all about the test scores.
Fact: It’s not. The scores do give us some helpful information when viewed together with the rest of the application, but we recognize the limitations of standardized testing. We strongly encourage applicants with less than perfect SSAT scores to apply anyway. We look at raw scores, so don’t sweat the percentiles.
Myth: Uni students are expected to be good at everything.
Fact: Like everyone, our students have strengths and weaknesses. Teachers go out of their way to be available for feedback and extra help, and we have support options such as our writing center and math help. We also have students with 504 plans and IEPs. We are first and foremost in the business of helping all of our students reach their potential.
Myth: Applicants need extensive “resumes” to be considered.
Fact: We realize that our applicants are generally about 12 years old. We look for evidence of outstanding creativity, leadership, initiative, or interests, but an applicant with a list of 16 activities is not going to receive any more consideration than an applicant who pursues one specific passion, or one who has no “organized” activities at all, but pursues interests independently. Use the application to tell us about who you are – not to compare yourself to some imaginary standard.
Carol Lombardi is the journalism teacher and communications coordinator at Uni High.