Confidence to Succeed in College: a Reflection a Year after High School Graduation

By Hunter Lowery, SWS Alum (2018)

When I was home recently on spring break, I went back to visit my high school, Sacramento Waldorf. I brought my friend Cody Liu, who graduated from Arcadia High School, a public school in Los Angeles. It was so interesting to see the place that shaped me through his eyes.

I didn’t realize until I went to Pepperdine University that despite rigorous academics, the pace in my high school was laid-back. I didn’t realize back then that they were teaching me for life, not necessarily for the next test or the SAT. A lot of schools push you through an educational machine. Not Sacramento Waldorf High School.

When I was in high school, I knew my friends at other schools talked about SATs. We focused on the day-to-day, more worldly stuff. We talked about environmental issues and other issues. 

I switched to Sacramento Waldorf School in eighth grade. My parents had a certain mindset – they thought this school placed a value on the individual more than public schools, where you might not know your teacher’s name. I’ll admit, that was a hard transition when I went to college – I became more anonymous.

I’m the type of person who needs to hear things three or four times. I don’t instantly know something. In high school, having a teacher who had my back, who invited me to come in at lunch and work with me to get me to the point I needed to be, that was great. 

I also built confidence in high school. That’s unusual, I think. So many teens feel insecure and anxious. I didn’t. I mean, I felt the typical things that teens feel, but I really felt like I belonged, like I was ok as I was.

Because it’s not a super large school, and you’re taught that you’re an individual and your qualities make you special. At SacWaldorf, your special qualities shine and grow. 

Yes, it was competitive, but not against each other. We were all trying to become better together. I didn’t see that at other schools. Waldorf is a pretty low-stress environment, even as it’s competitive. The more stress I’m under, the less I learn. 

In college, I learn more for the test, because I have to, and then I forget what I studied. At Waldorf, I learned and retained the information. The amount I retained a month, a year, two years later is greater and the diversity of learning was greater than even what I am learning at college.

When I took Cody back to visit my alma mater, he said he was bored in high school most of the time. He called it “toxic stress, all the time,” and he said it made him feel badly about himself. Learning wasn’t fun. Everyone talked about their grades all the time.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to just learn and be during my high school years. I wish every teen could have that same experience. Because the teen years are so hard as it is – why make it harder by throwing us into a dog-eat-dog world of competition and cliques? 

High school should be a place where you figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. Not just a place to figure out where you’re going to college.

Hunter Lowery is finishing his first year at Pepperdine University.