By Sophia Milla (‘20)
This year, a small number of students from South Brunswick High School are taking their Spanish classes at Princeton University through the TeacherPrep program, which gives students the opportunity to learn in a university setting rather than in a traditional classroom. That means taking a fifteen-minute drive during second block, searching for a place to parallel park, and then taking an eleven-minute walk up a hill in order to get to the class building.
These courses are intended for students who have demonstrated an exceptional amount of knowledge in a specific subject through their AP or SAT subject test scores.
Assistant principal Ms. Susana Nikitczuk, who manages the program’s connection to South Brunswick said, “The program gives students exposure to working them in an Ivy school setting. They are taking the teaching in and then learning it.”
Besides having strong test scores, students must also be in good standing in their other classes and must submit a letter of recommendation from their teachers of the highest levels of the subjects. However, even with meeting these expectations, high school students aren’t always guaranteed a spot in the class since university students are given priority.
But that is not the case for South Brunswick High School this year. The last time the school had students attending Princeton University for classes was about four years ago.
In the Advanced Spanish class, which takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays of the fall semester, South Brunswick students noticed a sharp difference in the way that the class is taught compared to the high school.
One of the students, senior Elizabeth Matticoli said, “The prestigious level is different because it’s Princeton University, and they are an Ivy League school, much more demanding compared to the level at the high school and the content. What surprised me was the knowledge and vocabulary that those kids have which isn’t common in South Brunswick.”
Being native in a language does not necessarily mean that the course gets much easier because the course is college-level. In fact, many of the other students in the class demonstrate quite proficient knowledge of the subject.
Though the academic rigor and thrill are one of the perks of taking a university course, there are its downsides as well.
Mattioli said, “Now I have to manage my time more because it’s not the easiest class but it really makes me dive in.”
Time management can be quite an issue, especially since students may have to juggle the class with the classes they are taking at the high school. The university course is only one semester, but it has to cover a lot of topics. Plus, even if TeacherPrep students have high school days off, that doesn’t mean that they have their university days off. To compensate for the discrepancy, these students are enrolled in a HAP during this time.
Sometimes, the TeacherPrep students will have to sacrifice those days of sleeping in. But overall, the students say it’s a great challenge and opportunity for those who yearn to expand their learning in a particular subject area that they are strong in.
How can a student get accepted into the program?
The program’s officers first do a preliminary round, where they look at letters of recommendation and grades, especially those in the subject area. For the students that make the preliminary round, they are then expected to score a 5 on the AP exam or at least a 750 on the AP subject Test.
Ms. Nikitczuk also said, “Students should apply 100%. When I think a student can benefit from the program, I definitely will help them out with the process.”
South Brunswick is one of the few schools that have the privilege to send students to Princeton University to continue learning. And hopefully, the pattern will continue so for the years to come.