How Montessori prepares kids for the ivy league and beyond

A focus on achieving the highest test scores possible often drives lecture-style courses that force students to memorize as much as they can; but memorization is not a skill that prepares students for anything beyond test-taking.

Posted Updated
Lisa D'Aromando
, freelance reporter
This article was written for our sponsor, the Montessori School of Raleigh.

College should be the time in life when a young person accelerates and experiences the excitement of learning, deciding how they want to have an impact on the world outside of the classroom.

Unfortunately, many teens arrive at college to take their first steps into adulthood exhausted and burned out, weary from years spent trying to achieve what many schools define as success.
School success has become so tied to students' test scores that many schools focus simply on achieving the highest scores possible. This focus often drives lecture-style courses that force students to memorize as much as they can.

Memorization is a skill, but it is not one that prepares students for anything beyond test-taking.

Jeannie Norris, interim head of schools at the Montessori School of Raleigh, explained the difference in their program's approach.

"Montessori provides a full integration of skill-building required to be successful in life, not just in an academic setting," Norris said. "You need skills like being resilient, negotiating with others, collaborating, persevering through challenges, sequencing projects and executing in complex situations."

At Montessori schools, from the moment a child steps foot onto the campus, those skills are integrated into their learning.

"They are prepared for college but are also self-directed, confident, curious, successful at working with others and have years of leadership training," Norris explained.

The Student-Centered Difference

Montessori schools are beholden to the same state standards, goals and learning outcomes as their public counterparts, but their aim is to present the material in a way that challenges students to better understand it.

"We provide just enough information, tools and guidance to allow students to work through the materials at their own pace, and through that process come to a better understanding of it," said Kevin McLean, head of middle and upper schools at the Montessori School of Raleigh.

By being given the opportunity to explore instead of being told what they have to do, students become more eager to learn and seek out additional opportunities to do so.

A Project-Focused Approach
Top universities and employers are not looking for memorization skills; they want students with the ability to do two things, according to PrepScholar co-founder and Harvard alum, Allen Cheng.
  1. Accomplish world-changing things.
  2. Contribute positively to their communities and help others accomplish great things.

One key way to show universities and employers that you are the ideal candidate is by showing you are deeply accomplished in a field.

At Montessori schools, students are given the opportunity to discover what they are passionate about and work towards it through academic, social and service projects. This allows students to think beyond the textbook and figure out how they want to make an impact on the world, and then explore it.

Through multiple, year-long projects, students are given the opportunity, guidance and time to discover their passion and pursue it.

In English class, for example, students work on resumes for jobs in which they are interested and then get the chance to see that career in action through company visits.

Another year, students work towards a community service project wherein they decide how they want to make a difference, beginning with their own lives, then expanding that to the school and finally growing it out into the community.

"A mistake a lot of schools make is that they become more rigorous by implementing more standards," McLean said. "We start at the academic mindset level. Students know that if they work hard, there will be payoff academically, and they are in control of their academic career. Once that mindset is in place, they show more perseverance, and that translates to academic performance."

This article was written for our sponsor, the Montessori School of Raleigh.


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