Not just a set of novels or a television series that shows an exaggerated interpretation of “Manhattan’s elite” at an all-girls’ independent school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Truth be told, the fictional Constance-Billard School for Girls is based on my real all-girls’ independent K-12 school on the Upper East Side (but its name is “a secret I’ll never tell” – unless you can figure out the clues I sprinkle throughout the piece).
While some of the women I called my classmates had been at the school since kindergarten and had mothers who attended the school as well, I entered in the 7th grade as a financial aid student through an academic program that targets high academically-achieving students of color in New York City public schools.
My dream school as a 12-year-old applying to these independent schools was co-ed and on a campus that housed huge fields for their sports team, exactly what you would see on Friday Night Lights.
However, the program required all students to apply to a single-sex school, something my father was truly ecstatic about and something I cried about (I was very boy crazy at 12).
Due to my birthday being in September and my mother signing me up for pre-kindergarten at the age of 3, most schools wanted me to repeat the 6th grade so that my age could align with my future classmates.
However, the all-girls’ school that I did not want to apply to was the only one that decided to take a chance on me and allowed me to continue onto the 7th grade.
The months leading up to my entrance through the blue doors of the famed school felt like a crash course: having to pick up books that I never imagined having access to, preparing for the academic differences between the public school I was so used to and the independent school that housed women whose worlds I would not understand at first (and at times still do not), and buying a uniform that was beyond any clothing budget I could imagine.
However, by the time I graduated from the school, I wore my plaid blue, white, and grey skirt that always would just make the length cut-off with my head held high (each all-girls’ school had their own unique skirt).
As the co-head of tour guides my senior year, I received many questions from admitted students regarding my experience, many of which oozed with confusion and concerns.
Well, now is as a good a time as ever to pass along the advice that came from these conversations.
Here’s what’s it really like to go to an all girls prep school:
1. Yes, you will interact with males.
You do not move to another planet.
I will admit that my heart did flutter whenever I saw someone of the opposite sex; however, I think that happens whenever you are going through your first set of crushes.
2. Going off of that, take advantage of the opportunities given to interact with your brother school(s).
It is nice to have friends from there when you are forced to do plays and community service together.
3. You will not feel uncomfortable if and when you decide to go to a co-ed college.
If anything, I felt more confident.
I had strengthened my voice during my 6 years at my school.
I knew how to speak up and to speak with confidence.
Just because some testosterone was added to the mix when I started college did not mean I forgot how to raise my hand and share my opinion.
4. You will get many questions asking if you are now an uber feminist.
Always say, “Hell yeah. We never shave our legs, burn bras, never wear make-up, and you don’t even want to know what happens at school.”
You won’t get the dumb question again. Only a face of mixed emotions.
5. Be grateful that you are in a place that knows the importance of women in this world.
Faculty and staff go above and beyond to ensure your success because they know how much you are needed.
6. Also be grateful that you can shout about needing a tampon or pad without the confused, horrified, or joking reaction of men.
Be free, and happily catch that tampon that is thrown across the room.
7. You will become attached to your uniform skirt.
You will never want to throw it out.
You will take it with you to college and most likely use it as part of a costume.
8. I graduated with a class of 38 other women, and with such a small group, you are bound to know A LOT about each other.
You all may be at very different stages of our personal lives.
Do not feel as though you are lagging or are way ahead.
Everyone goes at their own pace, and it just may intensified because you see the same small group every day.
9. Almost everyone at your school will become a familiar face.
Be happy about it, especially when the cute little kindergarten student waves every time she sees you.
10. There are many moments when you will feel a lot of love accompanied by hugs.
11. Remember the moment you enter the blue doors (or whatever color your school’s doors are) as well as the moment you leave them behind. The experience you gain at an all-girls’ school is a very unique one that can never be replicated.
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Cover Photo Credit: William Murphy/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0)