Small by Design – University High School

Carmel is nationally recognized for its excellent public school system; to list the accolades of Carmel High School alone would take many pages. But there are other choices available for students in the community and University High School is one. Jeanette Vanausdall, Director of Marketing, offers an overview of its advantages.
While there is a wealth of opportunities to be had at a large school, many families find that a small program offers special benefits for students. Where a big school can offer more of just about everything, a smaller venue can usually provide a deeper, more personal experience. Smaller class sizes allow for more interaction between teachers and students. Although athletic teams may be less competitive, an average player can participate in a more meaningful way. “We often hear people say the trick for surviving at a large school is for the child to find a ‘niche’ in order to feel part of a smaller community,” says Nancy Webster, Director of Admissions at University High School. “We wonder why you wouldn’t want the whole experience to offer that kind of community.”
With just 237 students, University High School is “small by design.” 
Everyone is known by name and experiences a level of flexibility that a large school would find impossible. A three-week January Term Intensive is one example of its unique programs. Students return from winter break to a three-week suspension of regular classes, while they focus on one class, all day every day, to achieve a semester’s worth of work. This allows the school to supplement its regular curriculum. In addition, J-Term enables classes to be relatively independent in terms of activities, guest speakers and travel. Programs range from oceanic studies, where scuba certification is preparatory to a dive school in the Florida Keys, to a Japanese culture course, which culminates in a trip to Japan. Students who stay closer to home still benefit from the ability to take all-day or several-day field trips.
Another benefit of the school’s small size is one-to-one faculty mentoring. Every adult at the campus, including the head of school and the business manager, supports up to ten “mentees.” A very different approach than “home room” groups, mentor and mentee meet every other week for a 30-40 minute private conversation, ranging from class overviews to navigating sometimes intense personal situations. Since teachers have only four classes at University, they have time to build their mentoring into a substantive part of each student’s curriculum.  
University’s intimate culture also provides a four-year, personalized college counseling program. “Families are walked through the process with a level of familiarity for their student’s needs and goals in a way that just doesn’t happen at larger schools,” says Rhonda Kasper, parent of both an alum and a current student. “And it begins in freshman year, which is very different.”
“In general, our size allows us to be really progressive educationally,’ concludes Webster. The irony is that with all the “progressive” programs, what seems to make the school work so well is pretty old-fashioned. “It’s about the relationships and genuine community. That’s something people are looking for more and more these days.”
Jeanette Vanausdall, Director of Marketing
University High School of Indiana
2825 W. 116th Street
Carmel, Indiana 46032