Is College Easier than Lawrenceville?

Mahika Kasarabada ’26 in Features | May 28, 2023

Education is a lifelong journey and plays a vital role in shaping us. While many believe that college is the pinnacle of academic challenges, it is worth noting that some private high schools like Lawrenceville offer such rigorous curricula that they surpass the difficulty of many colleges and universities.
Lawrentians tend to grow increasingly overwhelmed by the idea of college as application deadlines draw near. As a hot take, many parents and alumni claim that “Lawrenceville is harder than college.” But how valid is this claim? 
 Jacqueline Chen ’21 is a sophomore at Georgetown University who studies Healthcare Management & Policy on the Pre-Med track. Chen was a proud member of Carter House, and claims her academic experience at Lawrenceville was rigorous and challenging, which pushed her “to become a better writer and a more confident speaker, which prepared [her] for college courses.”
 A difference Chen noted between Lawrenceville and Georgetown was “the larger class sizes primarily due to the lecture-based classes of 200+ students.” She recalled her experiences around the Harkness table that enabled her to make more meaningful contributions, as opposed to college which reverted back to the more traditional “hand-raising” setting. Chen also explained how “the vast opportunities and supportive community was appealing,” and that it was always easy to find new opportunities to delve into at Lawrenceville. Whether it was her time prefecting in the Dawes House, acting as a teacher’s assistant in Science Teacher Nicole Lantz’s IBES class, or conducting a research project in her molecular biology class with Stanford University, there was always another challenge for her to engage in. Chen was also able to find similar experiences at Georgetown which reflected the sense of community she found at Lawrenceville, such as immersing herself in clubs like the Tour Guide Society and the Consulting Club. 
In terms of the academic workload of both schools, Chen found that she “spent less time in classes” at Georgetown, but still found that the workload during her IV and V Form years at Lawrenceville were comparable to her college workload. Whereas participation meant progress at Lawrenceville, at college, Chen found that “participation hardly mattered, and performance on exams primarily dictated someone’s final grade at Georgetown.”  Chen found that Lawrenceville  was more academically structured, providing“time to meet with faculty advisors and teachers, and offering a built-in feedback system during the midpoints and endpoints of each term,” whereas at Georgetown, students need to “schedule time during office hours to make an active effort to seek help,” since  many professors spend time working on research projects of their own. 
Summer Qureshi ’22, a freshman at Columbia who is currently a Neuroscience and Business Management major, pursues a combination of pre-med and pre-law programs. She was a member of the McClellan House, and spoke positively about the sense of community in all aspects of life as a Lawrentian.
In particular, she was fascinated by the diversity of the student body and how that played out “in the social landscape.” Qureshi considered the multitude of perspectives at Lawrenceville an “eye-opening experience” that one wouldn’t experience at most high schools. As for her experience at Columbia, Qureshi described the location of the college as “interesting” with “elements of diversity interwoven in the city which is amplified within the college campus.” When asked about how well prepared she felt after her time at Lawrenceville, Qureshi said that “the skills that you learn at Lawrenceville help you navigate the college environment, in terms of time management and juggling clubs and academics.” She felt quite prepared in her first trimester at Columbia “based on the tools that Lawrenceville provided [her] from Harkness to her approach to assignments which [she] felt were more intense at Lawrenceville.” Though she found that some courses at Lawrenceville were slightly more difficult than those in Columbia, Qureshi felt “well prepared with Lawrenceville’s extensive academic support system,” whereas in Columbia, “due to the less peer to teacher contact, [she] navigated the academic workload independently.” To Qureshi, “Lawrenceville does a good job in creating a baseline to explore areas of interest, while college has more flexibility in terms of choosing things that interest you.”
Harkness at Lawrenceville was something Qureshi wished would carry forth in college, similar to Chen, and remarked how “[she] didn’t value it as much as she should have.” The continuous collaborative environment which Lawrenceville fosters “helped [her] to navigate both in class discussion-based settings and beyond.” Upon being asked how Columbia fared in comparison to Lawrenceville, Qureshi referred to the first trimester at Columbia as “an academic summer camp coming out of Lawrenceville,” which speaks to how well prepared Qureshi felt after high school. “It is all about maximizing opportunities and challenges that come your way,” she explained. In order to feel more prepared coming into college, it is crucial that when opportunity knocks, students open the door and embrace it with open arms, for “you might also find college easier with this mindset.” 
College is undoubtedly a physically and mentally draining challenge. But Lawrenceville provides an extensive academic curriculum and a comprehensive college counseling system that parallels that of many colleges. With an emphasis on personal development, college, in certain ways, pales in comparison to the multifaceted nature of Lawrenceville. With its discussion-based classroom model, diverse coursework, and tight-knit community, Lawrenceville equips students with the tools they need to effectively shift from high school to college. 
It is hard to pinpoint what exactly characterizes difficulty, but it is safe to say that with the level of preparation Lawrenceville provides, the path to college is not as daunting as it is for many other high school students. Hopefully, these experiences renew a sense of assurance as Lawrentians make the transition into the real world and thrive in both academic and personal endeavors.