Advice from a Director of Admission
I saw an interesting post the other day on a message board about a family applying to a catholic parish school (they wondered if they would be accepted to the school if they were not catholic). This got me thinking about why families look at religious schools in the first place.
WES is an independent Episcopal school that serves students of many different denominations, religious affiliations, and beliefs. When I interview families during the admission process and ask them what interests them about WES’s religious curriculum (which includes a weekly religion class and Chapel) some families say that it supports the religion they practice at home while other families say that it helps to educate the whole child (i.e., academically, emotionally, and socially). Commonly, religiously affiliated schools discuss and explore the fundamental virtues including thankfulness, compassion, courage, faith, charity, and truthfulness that cross many religions and social mores in a nurturing, safe, and dedicated environment. Additionally, many of these types of schools have a community service requirement that families find appealing.
An education in religion can also provide students with a deeper understanding of history, literature, and art because it further explains the inquiry, thought, and conflict examined in these subjects. For example, can one truly understand the Crusades of the High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages without understanding differences and similarities between the Christian and Muslim faiths? Perhaps, but this supplementary information can add a deeper level of comprehension.
If you find a religiously affiliated school that you like but are unsure of (because of the religious curriculum), I recommend you do a few things before applying. Ask to meet with the chaplain or the school’s religious leader and have him or her explain the curriculum. Inquire about the classwork, see examples of homework and/or student projects, and, if possible, attend the school’s religious service (if there is one). This should give you a clear understanding of the curriculum and a good sense of the program. At this point, if you think the school is a good match for your child and family, feel confident and apply.