USPA parents often talk about how different our approach is as a digital school. Our entire team has leveraged their past experiences in education and has been very focused on how we can re-create those positive experiences, remaining flexible to our student body’s needs, and most importantly, providing smaller details that truly support our students in preparing for the next step in their education. If you were to ask me to choose our biggest strength, I’d say that it’s those smaller details that set us apart.
In a casual conversation by the tennis courts with a young man about his school experience, I was able to clearly see why details matter. This young man had attended a few different digital schools, didn’t love one or the other, but noted that each seemed to provide an adequate experience. He was headed to Columbia to play tennis and was in the middle of the application process, working with coaches and admissions liaisons throughout the summer and fall. He indicated how frustrating it had been to get guidance on the process from his school. He had reached out countless times as someone scanned his file and offered up the standard college quips. It really came to a head when he started wading into the recommendation process. I gave him a puzzled look, and he said “no one really knew me!”
He hadn’t worked with any one person for any real period of time or seen another human’s face. They certainly didn’t know how to solve the recommendations issue as a digital school. For him, it felt like he was asking them to do something extraordinary. At the time of our conversation, he still didn’t have his problem solved, and I really had no great advice for him, other than to keep working and bugging people about it. We then moved on and talked about old haunts around Columbia that I used to visit when I was living in NYC and going there for my graduate degree. I have no doubt he will be very successful there, and I’m sure he will eventually solve the recommendation problem. Little did he know, that he highlighted an issue that for many might seem extraordinary, but for us at USPA, is just normal.
What does it look like to get to know a student at a digital school? At USPA, we address it in multiple ways. Our students meet with their learning coach multiple times a week. The meetings are filled with everything from weekend stories, sports accomplishments, to the latest on our favorite shared TV show. The point is, it isn’t all about the numbers, the classes, but about the relationships that create building blocks. We then leverage these building blocks in different environments whether it’s an all school meeting, parent coffee, or something as easy as a college recommendation. At USPA, these aren’t extraordinary things; they’re normal, necessary, and certainly not something we take lightly.
You should have seen this young man in tennis practice; hitting serves right on the paint while making it look effortless. I’m sure if I were to ask him, he would start in on the subtle details of the toss, his foot placement, the routine, all these smaller details that ultimately lead to each serve landing inside the tape. At USPA, it’s a very similar approach. The details are important and shouldn’t be overlooked. They are very important building blocks and how the school achieves that is a great question for any prospective parent to ask. These are details that aren’t extraordinary, and, in fact, should just be the standard.