Students with nontraditional school backgrounds thrive at the College

March 16, 2016 by Christopher Zaro, Staff Writer

For the majority of students at the College, a standard high school experience is a held expectation. In a conversation about high school experiences, typically the only question asked is whether one attended a public, private or boarding school. However, some students have much more intricate and nontraditional educational histories and as such have fascinating perspectives about education and the transition into the College.

Jimmy Miotto ’18, for example, was homeschooled in high school. For Miotto, being homeschooled didn’t mean that his kitchen was his classroom and he had to ask his mother for a hall pass. “I went to brick-and-mortar schools up until sophomore year of high school, and then I took courses at different colleges in the Boston and Worcester area for the rest of my time in high school,” Miotto said of his multidimensional approach to education. While high school guidance counselors and the College Board may tout AP classes to be just like college level courses, nothing compares to taking real college-level classes. Taking these courses helped Miotto in his college search process as well as in his transition to the College. “Having already taken courses at colleges, I kind of knew what to expect and what style of course I would enjoy. I realized that smaller class sizes really helped me engage with the material, and in that sense Williams was definitely the perfect fit,” Miotto said.

Miotto was not confined to the stereotypical homeschool social life of a sibling prom date and dad best friend. “I did a lot of extracurricular activities [such as] Boy Scouts, Model UN, choruses and the Boston Youth Symphony, which made sure that even if I wasn’t in a tradi-tional brick-and-mortar school I was still having a pretty active social life,” he said.

Looking back on the experience, Miotto sees great inherent value in the educational path he took. “The main reason that I homeschooled after freshman year was because I really wanted to be able to explore different academic avenues that I wouldn’t have been able to even glance at if I had stayed at my local high school,” Miotto said. He has derived an educational philosophy from this experience: “[All people] should try to find situations that works best for them on academic and personal levels,” he said.

Anna DeLoi ’18 also had a unique homeschooling experience. “In high school I took most of my classes through an online, accredited school and some at a local college. I’m also a musician, and I did my musical study at a conservatory preparatory school and spent a lot of my ‘school day’ hours practicing,” she said. Homeschool worked best for DeLoi because it allowed her to focus on her passion, music, something hard to achieve in a traditional high-school setting. In looking for schools after high school, the College appealed to DeLoi. “I felt more comfortable going somewhere small where I knew I’d be able to form relationships with my professors and not get lost in the shuffle,” she said.

She believes that her experience at College bears some similarities to her homeschooled education. “At home, you have all this time and freedom, and you have to learn how to manage your work and self-motivate yourself the same way you do in college,” DeLoi said.

In high school, DeLoi found that her passion for music made the lack of classmates a non-issue socially. “Music was definitely the center of my social life in high school. I studied at the same music conservatory for all of middle and high school and made a lot of friends in my youth orchestra and my classes there,” she said. Like college, shared passions were the center of many of her relationships. DeLoi believes that homeschool was the best option for her. “It’s such a flexible model that I could prepare academically for a school like Williams and still have time to pursue music seriously and travel for performances, which is really hard to do when you’re in a classroom all day, every day,” she said. However, DeLoi’s transition into the College did take some getting used to. “It was strange just having people nearby all the time,” she said.

Homeschools do not encompass all of the alternative high school experience represented at the College. For skier Marc Talbott ’18, a small boarding school in California was the ideal setting for him to grow as a student-athlete. Small, however, might be an understatement, for the size of Tablott’s school. “To give you an idea of the size, my graduating class had ten people in it,” he said. This school fit Talbott well, because a traditional high school could not have allowed him to spend as much time and energy skiing. “Our schedule was designed around skiing. We skied six days a week during the winter. Skiing was in the mornings, and we had class into the evening,” he said.

In many ways however, Talbott’s non-traditional experience was not too far off from that of a boarding school. “I was fortunate to have lived in a dorm before I came here, so I was used to having a roommate and living in shared housing from high school,” he said of the benefits of his school in transitioning to the College. That being said, the sheer increase in class size at the College has been a big change and has introduced Talbott to a more hetero-geneous group of people than he knew in high school. “There are so many people inter-ested in so many diverse activities. It’s really inspiring, to be honest,” he said. Though Talbott’s school would not be ideal for those fearful of the slopes or the cold, its rural and insular nature proves surprisingly relatable for students at the College.

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