Admission Foreword

Welcome to Admission Foreword - a blog about trends in education by Gerard Gonnella '89, Director of Admission and Financial Aid.

Welcome, welcome, welcome!

The start of each school year is truly special. Whether you are a returning family or new to our community, September is a moment of promise, potential and limitless opportunity.

Thank you to our current parents for entrusting us with your children’s education. It is a remarkable privilege.

Thank you, too, to my Admission Team, who successfully invited nearly 100 new families and students (and this number is still rising) to W+H to begin this school year. Welcome, welcome, welcome!

One of my most favorite things about this unique time of year is the physical re-opening of our campus. It’s the scent of freshly waxed floors. It’s the pristine, crisp shine of new books. It’s the colorfully refreshed bulletin boards and eye-catching new posters that decorate so many classrooms, hallways, and learning spaces. (Did I mention the incredibly beautiful Berry Performing Arts Center?)

But most of all, it’s the distinct white noise of laughter and bustling in our hallways; that one-of-a-kind mixture of excited student chatter and (occasional) adult direction. Nothing is quite as energizing as when our buildings are full again. In some ways, it reminds me of when my extended family comes together for holidays, minus the inevitable arguments here and there. 

I am reading a book by Charles Vogl. It’s called The Art of Community. In it, he notes how shared values and goals strengthen a community and I couldn’t help but see the applications of his theories to W+H. He writes that, “Your community almost certainly values something more than outsiders do.”

I am grateful and proud that our community continues to prioritize diversity in all its forms; that we instill an enduring love of learning; that we cultivate critical thinking and creative problem solving skills; that we empower students to challenge themselves on the playing field or discover a hidden talent in our Performing Arts Center. These very real values and goals are critical to our successful development of Pioneering Thinkers. They bind us and separate us from other schools. In ways large and small, seen and unseen, they are what make us us. 

In that same spirit of embracing and communicating our values and goals, I would like your help in welcoming new families. If you are interested in becoming one of our wonderful APAs (“Admission Parent Ambassadors”), please contact me personally.

Please note: The New Parent Reception is on Thursday, October 4 from 6-8 p.m. in the Berry Performing Arts Center. 

Also, please like us on Facebook, join and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, and feel welcome to write positive comments about your W+H experiences on any of the school search websites, such as Great Schools and Private School Review.

Most importantly, please add your child’s W+H events to your social media calendars.

Again, welcome back to our current families, and welcome to our new ones. We are glad and grateful that all of you are here with us as we begin with great hope and humble confidence in this new school year.

Posted by ggonnella on Wednesday September 12, 2018 at 03:34PM
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The Culture of Communication and Collaboration at W + H

A Guest Blog by Dr. Olga Pagieva, ELL Instructor

In the world of words, sometimes confusing and often unfamiliar to the untrained ear, it is a close and thoughtful collaboration with the international students and their families that provides those meaningful human connections in which we master the art of verbal communication from speaking because we have to saysomething to speaking when we havesomething to say. (“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”.– Epictetus) 

At Wardlaw + Hartridge, we make a deliberate effort to listen carefully to our international families because we want to make sure they feel accepted, understood, and valued as a coherent and well-integrated part of a larger school community. Sometimes, we even hear what isn’t said. Look at the picture above, for example. Two current parents, who met and became friends on campus, are posing in front of the painting that was given to the school as a gift by one of them. What isn’t said is surely universally understood and cross-culturally affluent: what an eloquent expression of humble gratitude and quiet happiness.

Thankful and thorough communication has been a dominant component in the school recipe for collaboration with the international community, but how can one measure it? Take a listen to two of our graduating students (CLICK ON PHOTO TO WATCH VIDEO): Cathy Bi, a Chinese international student, and Tiffany Le, a Vietnamese-American heritage student, sharing their thoughts and experiences. Both girls have been at Wardlaw + Hartridge since their freshman year.







 It sounds like the values of communication and collaboration – from the student perspective - are in exchanging ideas, no matter how different they are, and sometimes, being pushed from those “comfort zones” that limit our full participation in what is known as “school life.” To adequately measure these values, why not be reminded that any “great communication begins with connection. What makes us different from one another is so much less important that what makes us alike – we all long for acceptance and significance. When we recognize those needs in ourselves, we can better understand them in others, and that’s when we can set aside our judgments and just hear.” (Oprah Winfrey)

Let the culture of communication and collaboration prosper at Wardlaw + Hartridge. Let’s never stop listening to one another, so that we always hear each other.

Posted by ggonnella on Tuesday May 15, 2018 at 09:08AM
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Academic Rigor: The Deciding Factor?

A Guest Blog by Dana Matthews, Associate Director of Admission

As Admission Officers, we get asked about academic rigor all the time. Questions include: What is academic rigor?, How rigorous is your program?, How do you measure academic rigor?, and What do universities look for in academic programs?. Parents also question how academic rigor translates into an advantage to help their child gain admission into a specific university if most schools have similar classes and academic expectations. 

During The Wardlaw + Hartridge School STEM Career night, I asked our Upper School students what they think academic rigor means to colleges and how it affects their future. I found it intriguing that during the discussion not one student mentioned academic rigor. Why? The students felt that it was hard to measure every student on how challenging a class is and felt that academic rigor was subjective and could be manipulated. They felt it was less biased to measure how each student uses the knowledge they obtain. They knew that taking higher level classes did put them in a better position to be accepted to their universities of choice. However, they realized that many students are taking the same classes across the world so to compete solely on academic rigor did not differentiate them from others. 

I found it refreshing to hear our students identify that it takes more than being in a rigorous class and doing well on standardized tests to differentiate themselves from other students. Robyn Johnson, PhD, author of books such as Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching, and The Differentiation Workbook, states that “Rigor is not just about giving harder tests, assigning more homework, or providing extra credit for overachievers. Academic rigor is about creating challenging, engaging, and engrossing lessons that encourage each student to think in new ways.” 

This statement is embraced by the faculty and staff at Wardlaw + Hartridge. Our faculty and staff offer academically rigorous courses but validate the students’ aptitude on additional factors other than test scores and homework. They know each student and provide challenging lessons and meaningful projects to ensure that all students leverage their personal experiences to differentiate themselves.

So instead of asking how rigorous a school’s program is, ask how are the students applying the knowledge they are obtaining. Why should you ask this question? If your child is not encouraged to use the knowledge they obtain in a way that showcases how they think and who they are, how will your child be different from any other student applying to the same university?

Posted by ggonnella on Wednesday May 2, 2018 at 09:31AM
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Show Wisdom and Resilience at Decision Time

The first week of March is here and this means students and families will learn the admission decisions from the many independent/private schools to which they applied. Some will be excited (!), and some may be…disappointed (sigh). Some may even be accepted into their desired school but unable to afford the tuition or be ineligible for financial aid.

This experience can test a student’s resilience. One of the key factors admission offices seek in candidates is adaptability. How a student manages the news of a school’s admissions decision is a great, real-life opportunity to practice and demonstrate this resilience and adaptability. As parents everywhere know, life presents many opportunities for jubilation and disappointment across diverse educational, professional, and personal endeavors. This time might be one of those.

Do not be defined by any admission decision, whether positive or negative. If accepted, start mapping out how you would like to proceed through that school and community. If denied, adapt, reapply, or embrace it as an opportunity to do something different. Do not quit on yourself.

If you are not accepted by the school of your choice, many schools offer “rolling” or ongoing admissions throughout the year. Do your homework and find the best school for you. The writer William S. Burroughs once proposed, “The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.” What are your values? Which schools reflect those values?

Should you be accepted to several schools, invest the necessary time to revisit each institution to fully understand their community. NAIS schools provide superior and challenging academic programs but you need to see which schools match the intangible values (see Burroughs, above) that will help you grow as a person.

Now go find that school – find your school. It’s out there. Be brave. Be persistent. And know that there is a community out there that is going to be very, very lucky to call you an alumnus/alumna someday.

To visit W+H, please email Gerard at

Posted by ggonnella on Friday March 9, 2018 at 09:48AM
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Apply with Integrity

As the admission season is in full swing nationwide, scratch that… worldwide, for both secondary and post-secondary education, it is important to remind applicants of all types and levels of the importance of a truthful application. This comes in many different forms, including truthfulness in one’s own abilities, activities, academic prowess, accomplishments, community service and extracurricular activities. With so much pressure today placed on where you or your child will attend, many seek the advice of a friend, service, educational agent, or family member to help or rewrite the applicant’s application. Of course, this is done with the best intentions to make the applicant stand out a bit, to ensure the second look of the reader, but certainly not to deceive the admission officer.  In some countries, including right here in the United States, application submission has become a cottage industry. “We guarantee or something to the effect, that Johnny or Suzy will get in if you allow us to take over and complete the application and essay on their behalf.” In my 10 years working in admission, I have seen it almost each year when an application and the student sitting in front of me do not match up. My personal favorite is to read from the application during the interview and have the applicant stare at me with a blank expression or try to fumble for an answer. 

So, my advice this season and every season, is please do your own application and essay. Save your money (or your parents) and do not let someone “consult, rewrite or complete” on your behalf. Be proud of who you are and share that inner you with the reader. You will be surprised how astute admission committees are and how quickly they can decipher who has done their own application or if it was polished just enough.

Two leading experts on this topic share their views on the topic below:

Can colleges revoke admissions offers? What behaviors can cause this, and how can students protect themselves?

Yes, yes, yes. I have seen it happen. Colleges do revoke admissions if you do something to break their faith in you. 1. A huge drop in grades senior year has led to colleges revoking admissions. 2. An arrest or a huge behavior problem at school can also lead to problems. 3. Lying on applications can lead to colleges taking back offers. Schools understand senioritis, but they don't understand kids who enter what I term "black holes" senior year. So PLEASE, please make sure you don't collapse. I have seen kids get offers revoked and then have no place to attend other than a community college. Don't let that happen to you.

Rebecca Joseph, Executive Director & Founder,

Can colleges revoke admissions offers? What behaviors can cause this, and how can students protect themselves?

Yes, they can and they will if a student’s behaviors are less than becoming academically or socially. Beyond letting grades slip, evidence of unlawful or unethical activities can cause a college to revoke an offer. Keeping your Facebook page private and not being deceptive in your application should protect most students.

Benjamin Caldarelli, Partner, Princeton College Consulting, LLC

One final thought: Make sure you sign your own application and submit it. Integrity, that is one of the first things this admission officer looks for in applicants.

On a related topic but not tied directly to the application: be mindful of your social media posts. Independent schools are naturally small and intimate settings. We certainly do not want to disrupt these positive microcosms with mean and hurt language found on a quick reply to a post. Here is an article that should remind you to be careful of your social media posting:

Good luck this season and if possible always spend a day at the schools on your list. It is always the best way to know if it will be the best fit for you. 

Posted by ggonnella on Thursday February 1, 2018 at 09:21AM
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Greetings from 30,000 Feet

Due to the “Great Firewall of China” this blog is being posted AFTER the return of Mr. Gonnella from his annual trip to China to meet with international parents and prospective students and their parents.

Wheels Up!

Hello from the Flight Deck! As is customary for me at this time of year, I am cruising at 39,000 feet on my way to a six-city tour of China to meet and greet our international parents, make new acquaintances with potentially new W+H families and gain more insight into cross-cultural understanding.

I look forward to this trip every year because of the opportunities it brings for the School, the Chinese families and me personally. I truly appreciate the opportunity to bring news from the school to current parents about the community, their child’s wellbeing and what is in store for their future. For prospective students, it’s important to have them understand our rigorous academic program and how we help shape future pioneering thinkers to be informed and instructive learners. Taking the time to explain the program’s depth and breadth is so important in understanding what they will achieve during their short time with us on their educational journey.

Besides sharing information on our 135-year history, the number of APs (Advanced Placement courses), enrollment figures, number of electives and athletic opportunities offered, and news about our new Broadway quality Berry Performing Arts Center, it is a time to explain the personal approach of the faculty and staff to each student. It provides an opportunity to explain to parents that sending their child 6,800 miles away is not only a great opportunity for them but a safe one as well. Our approach uniquely watches out for each student. International students have enriched our program and community in every area. 

I try to anticipate questions thinking they must be different from domestic parents, but they are not. No matter where we reside, as parents, our concern is our child’s future, education, and wellbeing. I believe it is comforting to our overseas parents to hear face-to-face about their child. Just like world leaders, as President Trump and President Xi Jinping will be meeting while I’m in the country, sometimes nothing can beat a face-to-face exchange.

Wheels Down!

Nine days later…with WHISPA gatherings in Beijing, Shanghai, and Jinan, I am confident that the journey was successful in enhancing our two-way communications. 

Posted by ggonnella on Thursday November 16, 2017 at 12:54PM
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Welcome! 欢迎 Добро пожаловать أهلا بك benvenuto स्वागत हे ברוך הבא

No matter how one says the word welcome, the meaning is all the same. Here at The Wardlaw + Hartridge School we never stop saying welcome to new, returning families and certainly to returning alumni we always say, welcome home. The very essence of our school is found in our mission statement. Contained in these two short but powerful sentences you get at the heart of our community.

The Wardlaw + Hartridge School prepares students to lead and succeed in a world of global interconnection. We provide an educational atmosphere characterized by academic challenge, support for individual excellence, diversity, and a familial sense of community.

In September, we welcomed our newest families with a barbeque, face painting, balloon sculptures and the friendly faces of our faculty and staff.  The excitement to start the new school year was palpable.

Fast forward a few weeks we recently started welcoming recent alumni back as they experience their first break from university. I could not help myself but to ask, “Do you feel prepared for college?” The resounding reply 100 percent of the time was YES! The confidence with which they spoke was a true affirmation of how we conduct our educational experience.

W+H is uniquely positioned to bring out the best in our students through small class sizes, on average 14 in a class, a 7-to-1 student-teacher ratio, a pioneering curriculum that is globally focused, and leadership opportunities in and out of the classroom. Our elite faculty take the necessary time to work with each child to bring them to their fullest potential. This is not done overnight but over time.

This month as we move in to autumn is the ideal time to start investigating a new school, a new home, for your child. Go look at all the NJAIS website to see which ones you should focus on applying to. It is critical for the entire family to do the necessary research to find which community will best serve your child.  I hope you take the time to learn more about W+H by doing your own deep dive into our website where one will find great stories about our current students and their adventures to Peru, climbing mountains, and reaching a new personal best. You will also quickly learn of the many distinguished alumni that have passed through our halls such as Admiral Grace Hopper, who is famous for coining the term, “computer bug” and her famous line, “it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”

I wish you all the best as you begin the long process of finding your new home. I hope to see you on campus for a personal tour and detailed explanation of how you can be a leader of tomorrow. 

Posted by ggonnella on Wednesday October 18, 2017 at 09:27AM
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It's June, June, June!

At this time of year, while most are finishing up end of year projects and exams and counting the days and hours until the end of school, we in Admission are looking forward. With over 100 people in attendance at our New Family Picnic last week, our campus was abuzz with the excitement that we feel with a school year approaching rather than one that is winding down.

Newly enrolled students and their families enjoyed summer picnic fare, met their buddy families and made connections that will flourish over the summer. Our teachers chatted with new students, our Head of School greeted our newcomers and all on staff reached out with a big hello.  The youngest children, the Class of 2032, ran off hand in hand with new friends, enjoying the playground and fields while their parents had the chance to get to know one another.

How great it is to welcome new students, the students who will become integrated into the life of the school, perform in the new theatre, play on our fields, explore in our labs, publish books in their classrooms and contribute to the vitality of our school. Rodgers and Hammerstein had it right when they sensed the beauty of June: It is bustin’ out all over on our campus, and promises to give life to exciting adventures ahead.

Posted by on Thursday June 8, 2017 at 11:48AM
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Wardlaw-Hartridge School's Museum Mile

 If you’ve been to a museum recently, you know how they’ve changed! No longer do we passively view exhibits in buildings that have no windows.  Now in a variety of settings, we can be transported into other worlds. At W-H, our museum mile has stretched into classrooms in all divisions. Our student docents teach their peers all kinds of things, reshaping the way our children learn and the way we teach. Our “muses” inspire one another – the observer becomes an active participant, and our teachers are curating engaging installations.

Recently, our Upper School students hosted a Family Science Night, which was really a Science Discovery Museum.  Older students introduced younger students and their parents to a variety of scientific explorations including Newton’s Laws of Motion, Ferro fluids, and Magnetic Mineralogy. Our scientists came away with greater insights into their topics and realizations about the sheer magnitude and implications of the role of science. And the viewers delighted in the experiments they witnessed!

Fourth grade students designed an invertebrate museum where even our kindergarteners were inspired to pose questions. Third graders became the local authorities on specific states while classes visited their exposition. Fifth graders scripted slideshow presentations with google slides to teach second graders about the Earth’s biomes.  As presenters, they focused on the geography, climate, animals, plant life, and soil of each biome and designed interactive activities for the second graders.

As the culminating activity, in their research about animals and their habitats, first graders publish a non-fiction book and create a habitat project. These are shared with peers and parents, with our students assuming the role of habitat expert.

In a more traditional setting, we’ve had the opportunity to view Upper and Middle School student art work, and now look forward to the May 19 Lower School Art Show. Lower School student work will feature a wide range of art from pastels to 3D designs, samplers and self-portraits. But the dynamic recurs, with students leading and teaching others, building their self-esteem, communication skills, and enhancing the learning outcomes.

Throughout eighth grade, students are guided by an essential question. “When should an individual or a group take a stand to confront a problem?” That essential question is vital to their study of World War II and the literature of genocide. As a final reflection, students create a personal Identity Museum that captures individual essence and philosophy. “These exhibits show the power of an individual to raise awareness and convey a sense of purpose. As visitors complete their tour of the Identity Museum, they are invited to add their names to our Identity Wall, which serves as a permanent artifact for the exhibition,” Dr. Corinna Crafton, Middle School Coordinator, said.

By sharing their knowledge and talents with one another and explaining what they’ve learned to others, children develop great pride, mastery, and appreciation for the subject and their accomplishments. Whether it is a kindergarten Hundred Day Museum, a third grade Poetry Café, a Middle School Memory Museum or a fifth, eighth or 12th grade Capstone presentation, there is no doubt that when students teach their peers they themselves learn more deeply.

The benefits of Wardlaw-Hartridge Museum Mile are far reaching and changing the traditional model of acquiring information – the collection of objects - into a dynamic gallery of experiences.

Posted by on Thursday May 11, 2017 at 01:12PM
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Sustainability Through Stewardship

Katherine Heiss, my guest blogger, joined Wardlaw-Hartridge in 1995. Since that time, she has inspired students to appreciate our natural environment and take responsibility for protecting and sustaining its resources and beauty.

April is the time people enjoy the world reawakening from its winter slumber. Colors appear as tiny buds open and crocuses peek their heads up out of the ground. The world is filled with so many beautiful wonders that it is easy to forget that the earth needs our help.

It is becoming undone by our cumulative daily practices. Plastic has become part of our ocean waters. In fact, by 2050, if we continue current behavior, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans. There is overwhelming evidence from the science community that our habits contribute to climate change, resulting in devastating weather patterns and rising sea levels.

In the teaching world, we are often amazed at the number of children who have never been for a hike or are afraid to get their hands dirty in the garden. There is actually a term for this – NDD – Nature Deficit Disorder. So, what do we do?

We do what we can. Every day you wake up you are presented with choices. Straw or no straw. Organic or not. Local or trucked in. Paper, plastic or your own. Tech, TV, or a walk. Slow yourself down. Take a walk, plant a garden, be outside. Listen to the sounds of nature. Collect rocks. Walk through a stream. Find time in your scheduled life to be part of the beautiful world that we have been given.

There is a lot of buzz these days about living mindfully. That concept aligns itself perfectly to our relationship with Mother Earth. Be conscious about your actions because collectively, multiplied by millions, our actions have an impact on our world. What kind of world will you give future generations? It is in your hands. 

Posted by on Wednesday April 12, 2017 at 08:07AM
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