A Lawrenceville-Centric View

In the first week of 2020, I wrote out my calendar for January, just as I had done every other month for the past year.

In the first week of 2020, I wrote out my calendar for January, just as I had done every other month for the past year. As college application season drew to a close, and with it, months of constant stress, I looked forward to a more relaxed schedule for the rest of senior year. But as I wrote out my schedule, I noticed that each week had just as many major assignments and extracurricular commitments as before, if not more. Call it senioritis, but my initial reaction was to crawl into bed and resent Lawrenceville for never giving us a break. But before I could do so, my eighth-grade sister rushed into my room and asked me to read her application for Lawrenceville’s Class of 2024. As I read through her answers, I began to reflect on my own application to Lawrenceville four years ago. In eighth grade, I had applied to the School willing to undergo its various rigors and pressures for the sake of the renowned Lawrenceville experience—one that would challenge students to “lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose.” During my first week at Lawrenceville, I was flooded with the notion that the Lawrenceville community and the education it provides are undeniably superior. The Lawrencevillecentric rhetoric of “If not Lawrenceville, where? If not Lawrentians, who?” suggests that we are unique in one way or another. But despite my enthusiasm from four years ago, as a senior, I remain apathetic and uninspired. Even after four years of supposedly balancing rigorous academics with enriching extracurriculars, I am somehow less motivated than I was when I had applied to Lawrenceville.

Was this an isolated occurrence that only affected me? Or does it concern a broader phenomenon that students feel at Lawrenceville? While we all have most definitely grown in the past four years, is our growth more a product of the Lawrenceville experience or simply just the natural course of getting older?

Looking back, I recognize that Lawrenceville and its core features—House, Harkness, and rigorous academics—are not categorically distinct from those of an otherwise “normal” high school. The rigor of our academics is neither uncommon nor distinctive. Tens of boarding Schools offer a similar curriculum and countless public schools are more difficult or advanced. While the House system has fostered some of my closest friendships, its effect on our adolescent relationships is comparable to that of dormitories at boarding schools in general. Harkness, an approach to learning that we so pride ourselves upon, is simply a modern extension of the Socratic method, and the method itself has been adopted by high schools and colleges across the US. In fact, the method in itself isn’t some novelty we’ve pioneered in pedagogy. Rather, it is a privilege afforded by a low student to faculty ratio, an inevitable result of the School’s resources in affording a large faculty base.

Through these comparisons, it seems that the most prominent aspects of Lawrenceville do not distinguish the School from its peers. However, this isn’t to say that Lawrenceville does not provide its students with any benefits. Indeed, Lawrenceville performs strongly across the areas expected of an elite private school—academics, athletics, and even matriculation. But what we must acknowledge is that despite our personal attachment to the School, Lawrenceville is not intrinsically unique in any way. Therefore, we should not expect our time here to magically entail life-changing experiences nor trust that simply our identities as Lawrentians must help us realize our ambitions. Indeed, we can lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose, but it isn’t necessarily through House or Harkness that these dreams are realized.