500 Words on... How North Shore Prepares Graduates for College

500 Words on... How North Shore Prepares Graduates for College by Lisa Doi '09.
My mom was apprehensive about my transition to college. It was hard for her to imagine that a small school in Winnetka and my 42 classmates could have really prepared me for an Ivy-League university and a class of 2,500. I had been a big fish in a small pond, but could I make it in the ocean?
North Shore prepared me better than she could have imagined. And it was the two things that I valued most about North Shore, building meaningful relationships and the School’s motto, “Live and Serve,” that made my college experience successful.
I arrived on campus a few days before college started to participate in PennCORP, the community-service pre-orientation program. I knew I wanted an experience that would help me ease into college; after all, my mom wasn’t the only one worried about transitioning to a class of 2,500. My North Shore experience formed around the idea of “Live and Serve.” From our 7th grade service-learning project collecting and refurbishing computers to my senior-service project at Cook County Hospital, I learned the most about myself and the world around me through service. I am still struck by the Cesar Chavez quote outside of the Hall Library, “The end of all education should surely be service to others.” PennCORP was a touch point that allowed me to learn about the relationship between the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia and get involved in student organizations focused on social and racial justice.
What I didn’t know was that on my first day of PennCORP I would meet my best friends, my academic advisor and my professional mentors. North Shore’s emphasis on community and relationship building meant that I crafted small spaces in a large university. Socially, I used the student organizations I was involved in to craft a tight-knit circle of friends that made my college experience feel smaller. Academically, I expected to build relationships with professors in a lecture hall of 200 students the same way I expected to build relationships in my North Shore classrooms of 15. More to the point, it made me seek out smaller academic spaces so that my average class size across four years of college was closer to my class sizes at North Shore. Professionally, I made connections with my peers and university staff that helped me see ways to turn my academic journey into a life after college. In a university known for producing CEOs, I was affirmed in my belief that what impact I make matters more to me than how much I make.
My parents arrived on campus a few days before graduation to see me receive the James Brister Society’s Senior Service Award for service to the university. This was the appropriate bookend to my college experience. I felt I had come full circle. It was North Shore that focused me on meaningful, transformational relationships and service to society. At this point, my mom understood I could make it in the ocean.

This series of "500 Words" is authored by faculty and others in the School community to examine and address those areas important to understanding the School’s culture, philosophy, pedagogy and what distinguishes us from other schools.
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North Shore Country Day School is a junior kindergarten through 12th grade, college-preparatory school founded in Winnetka, Illinois in 1919.  With rigorous academic pursuit as the cornerstone, North Shore provides many opportunities for all students to excel – in the classroom and the laboratory, on the stage and the playing field, in their communities and beyond.