When looking at high schools, Sarah ’25 found herself a little intimidated by Commonwealth, a school different from all the others she’d seen with a reputation for tough classes. But she applied anyway. Now, she advises other students to not be intimidated by academic rigor—embrace it. She brings that sense of carpe diem to everything she does, excited by the challenges in her classes (and kitchen) and happiest when her hard work pays off. Keep reading to get to know this sophomore from Winchester, Massachusetts, a bit better.
Getting to Know You
What is bringing you joy right now?
Hanging out with my friends. And baking focaccia. I'm a big baker. I just started getting into my bread phase.
What is your favorite book (or a book you’ve re-read)?
Oh, that's hard. I just read A Little Life [by Hanya Yanagihara], which I really enjoyed. It's kind of a dark book, but it was really good.
What are your favorite comfort foods?
Any sort of bread and chocolate.
What do you think is the most intriguing paradox?
Schroedinger’s cat. I heard about it a while ago, and I still think about it often.
What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)?
That's really hard. I have to pick a few classes: I really enjoyed Ancient History, CS1 [Computer Science 1: The Design of Computer Programs], and Life Drawing.
When do you feel the most enjoyably challenged?
When I am doing really hard work but I feel supported. And I feel like I'm in an environment where I can ask for help and accomplish hard things.
What never fails to make you laugh?
Oh, my friends. And babies!
Pen or pencil?
Pencil for tests or things I’m uncertain about, and pen for notes and signatures.
Coffee or tea?
Fall, winter, spring, or summer?
Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)
What was your first impression of Commonwealth and how has it mapped to your experience?
My first impression of the school was that it was very different—in a good way—from all the other schools I was looking at. It wasn't on my original list of schools, and somehow I learned about it by just looking at the website. I felt like it was a place where I could really see myself excelling, and I felt like it would challenge me in a way that other schools would not. So it was a little intimidating, but I could also see myself thriving here.
Now that it's real and I'm here, those sentiments are definitely still true, though the intimidating aspect of the school has definitely worn off. I think, from afar, Commonwealth can look like a really intense, scary academic community—it is intense, but I don't think people should be scared off by that!
Related: How to Research Independent High Schools and Find the Best One for You
Using metrics besides grades, how do you define your “success” in your classes?
To me, success is improving in a class where I didn't expect it or where I hadn't always excelled, and seeing hard work pay off. Or sometimes it can be scary to talk to teachers; for me, it’s a big measure of success when I'm able to do that.
How do you spend your time outside of Commonwealth?
Other than all the various extracurriculars I do, I like to draw and paint a lot. I really loved Life Drawing last year; I've never done that before, and I think it's a class that most people don't take in high school. I really enjoy going into a new space, sitting down, and drawing for like an hour or so. I also really like impressionist art; I would say my art is somewhat influenced by the style of Monet, for example, in that I like to focus more on capturing a scene than recreating it with perfect realism. I enjoy all types of art, though, even if I can't master them myself.
I also like baking and hanging out with my friends. I play tennis sometimes in the summer. A lot of what I do is connected to Commonwealth.
When do you feel most connected to other students (or teachers/staff members) in our community?
I feel most connected to Commonwealth’s community during times like Hancock or the all-school assemblies, like the Thanksgiving Assembly, where we are all together. Just being able to look around the room and see everyone makes me feel really connected and at home.
How has your Commonwealth experience colored the way you look at the world? How you plan for your future?
I think my Commonwealth experience has taught me to attempt all the challenges I can. I'm not afraid to try something intimidating. I'm just open to new experiences and go into them ready for whatever is to come. I think Commonwealth has really ingrained that in me.
What’s your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth?
Try not to worry too much. And I feel like I'm an admissions officer right now, but remember, it's all about the fit of the school. And if Commonwealth seems like the fit for you—if you enjoy academic challenges and are looking for a tight community—I think Commonwealth is definitely the school for you. Like I said earlier, I would not be intimidated by academic rigor; I would embrace it.