Eager to Learn
Exceptional, community-minded students who have a curiosity for the world cultivate their interests and passions at the Solebury School
by Bob Craig

Seventeen-year-old Alexandra Leone of Ewing, N.J., was searching for a school that would welcome her passions and strengths, while ultimately challenging her in a comfortable and noncompetitive environment. She found exactly what she was looking for at the Solebury School, a college-preparatory school located on 90 acres of rolling countryside in New Hope.

“I love Solebury School,” she says. “Applying there was the best decision I have ever made.”

As students such as Leone will happily attest, Solebury School is like no other college preparatory school in the area. As a co-educational school for day and boarding students in grades seven through 12, Solebury School thrives on its students’ eagerness to grow, learn and be model citizens for the world in which they live. The small community-based school has only 235 students, a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:6, and an average class size of 10 students. Bonds between students and faculty are fostered here, as the school’s founders believed that every individual plays an important role in making Solebury a dynamic and diverse place, as it has been since its inception in 1925.

“The young men who established Solebury School believed that if you let students find their passion, you have a much better chance of delivering them to the next level still excited to learn,” says Tom Wilschutz, head of school. “We have, on average, one less requirement per subject than other more traditional independent prep schools. We want students to be able to pursue their passion.”

Solebury School enrolls approximately 70 new students each year. Of these 70 students, a select few are chosen as recipients of the Trustees Merit Scholarship, with awards ranging from $2,000 to $15,000. Consideration for the scholarship is given to any candidate who applies for admission prior to December 15.

The admission application process is thorough but necessary. It includes the submission of the student’s personal statement, report school reports, recommendation letters, official transcripts and grade reports from all of their previously attended institutions and scores from the Secondary School Admission Test. In addition, students must interview with an admissions officer.

To be considered for the scholarship, students must exhibit traits and qualities that set them above and beyond what might be considered a typical student, according to Wilschutz. Scholarship recipients are bright, interesting and will further enrich the social and diverse climate of the school. Generally speaking, they are already active in their community, more likely to be involved with on-campus activities and tend to emerge as leaders. “Our admissions officers are alert for the characteristics that we look for during the campus interview, like evidence of involvement, leadership and passion as well as the strength of their transcript and test scores,” he says. “These are qualities that would make Solebury School more interesting. “We look for strong students but are not exclusively focused on academics when we award Trustee Merit Scholarships.”

Although recipients of the Trustees Merit Scholarship do receive a financial incentive, the perks attached to being deemed a Merit Scholar are more illustrious than the money. “They receive a certificate from the board of trustees in addition to the financial award,” says Wilschutz. “They also receive recognition in the community and at the board level throughout the year.” In order to retain the scholarship, students must maintain an academic standing of a 3.0 GPA or higher, be good students in the community, avoid the disciplinary processes and be a good role model to their fellow students. “We give students a lot of freedom,” Wilschutz says. “There is a higher degree of accountability; they need to be a self starter.” But, he adds, “One of the best benefits of being a small school is that our faculty has a great deal of contact with the students. It is easy for our administration to keep tabs on them, encourage, mentor, intervene and suggest other paths.”

“I was really excited when I was chosen for the Trustees Merit Scholarship,” says Leone, now preparing to enter her senior year at Solebury School. “I knew that I was accepted to the school, and then Scott Eckstein from admissions called me and told me that I was chosen as a Merit Scholar and I was even more excited.”

Like her peers, she was chosen as a scholarship recipient on the strength of her exemplary standards for education, leadership and community service. “The essential ingredient for us is curiosity of the world—a student who likes to learn,” explains Wilschutz. “Like most preparatory schools, we are interested in intelligent men and women, but we choose those who are also excited and invigorated about the opportunity to learn at our school.”

Solebury School thrives upon its incredible sense of community, according to Wilschutz, and a relationship with the surrounding environment. “Almost every one of our classrooms opens to the outdoors,” he says. “And almost every student has to travel outside to reach all of their classes. Students enjoy lounging outdoors in all weather. That is an ethos that was important when the school was founded and still is today.” The school also boasts a range of varsity athletics and numerous other activities for those who don’t want to be part of a team sport, including hiking, rock climbing, gardening and the arts. “We have a vibrant theater and music program,” Wilschutz says. “More than 60 percent of our students are involved in the arts.” Unlike other preparatory schools, Solebury School is unique in that students feel included in the daily goings on; they feel nurtured and part of the community, regardless of their passions.

“It was really nice to know that they didn’t just want me; they wanted to invest in my education,” says Leone. “It was great to know that they expected great things from me. They really wanted me there.”

For Wilschutz’s part, he got a taste of the Solebury School’s student-first philosophy even before his tenure as head of school began. When he first visited the Solebury School campus with his wife, they met a young man on the sidewalk. His wife asked the boy why he chose Solebury School, and he replied, “I am a unique puzzle piece, and my piece of the puzzle didn’t fit in anywhere else.”

Solebury School provides students with a chance to think creatively and to explore their innermost passions—including those they didn’t even know they had. It also helps them delve into and cultivate new interests that they might not have discovered somewhere else.

“One thing that makes Solebury School so special is that you don’t have to be great at something to try something new,” says Leone. “I was in chorus; I wasn’t great, but I wasn’t afraid. Every new experience is welcomed. Solebury is a place where you can try new things without being uncomfortable.”

Solebury School
6832 Phillips Mill Road
New Hope, PA 18938
215-862-5261 | www.solebury.org