Natasha (“Tash”) Thompson was accepted at Vassar, her top-choice college, when a torn ACL sidelined her from her senior year of soccer. It was then that she knew a gap year was for her.
Once Tash decided to defer her freshman year at Vassar, she and her parents searched for a postgraduate program – an exploration that bounced from Canada to the East Coast and even to Switzerland. But when she found Walker’s, it all came together.
“It was the all-girls’ experience, the overwhelming sense of community, and the idea of women’s empowerment that really struck me,” says Tash, one of two recent high-school graduates on campus for the academic year as part of Walker’s postgraduate program. It was important to Tash to continue to prepare to join the soccer team at Vassar and liked that Walker’s has a competitive sports program to keep up her game plus a physical therapist accessible on campus.
Now that Tash is on Walker’s campus and fully integrated into the community, she says it has exceeded everything she has known about private-school life. Having attended a small boarding school in California, roughly similar in size to Walker’s, she says one of the things that sets Walker’s apart is the “amazing” teachers. “They are excited about what they are teaching. If teachers are excited, you are excited.”
Like Tash, Walker’s postgraduates (PGs) take advantage of the opportunity to continue to grow academically, personally and athletically. They also have full access to a premier college counseling program and Walker’s capabilities approach to the acquisition of life-long skills.
“Our postgraduates are highly motivated and want to take a year to strengthen their focus in a particular area or expand opportunities,,” says Aline Rossiter, Walker’s Director of Enrollment Management. “We are able to provide a very tailored experience that helps postgraduates bring their next steps into a clearer view – all in a campus environment that provides lifelong memories and friendships.”
Marie Längst, a postgraduate from Germany, says that her choice to spend a year at Walker’s has definitely been the right decision. “I love it here,” says Marie, who is on campus as part of the competitive international exchange program called ASSIST. “The next step is a really big one. I actually wanted more time in an environment where I’m safe and I know people around me. Being a postgraduate allows me time to explore what I want to do.”
Marie has been using her year to experience new interests and subject areas. The German education system, she says, doesn’t allow for a lot of flexibility, so she’s been jumping into new subjects. She also appreciates how Walker’s unique classroom experience has her engaged in classes that never grabbed her before. For example, she is taking a Visiting Writers’ Seminar in the English Department and says that it was never a big interest, “but I discovered a love of writing here.”
Importantly, as an international student, Marie says the community was welcoming from the start and she easily integrated into the senior class.
Tash agrees. “Your label is PG, but you do everything a senior does. A girl just found out I was a PG yesterday.”
As for next year, Tash will head to Vassar and play for the soccer team. She also decided to major in a STEM-related field, which she had considered before attending Walker’s but feels more confident in her choice since her time on Walker’s campus.
Marie is still taking the time to decide about next year. “The campus gives me a lot of experience to talk to people about what I might do next.” And while her path may have her stay in the U.S. or return to Germany, whatever it is, she says she will carry fond memories of this year. “I’ll remember my friends, the community, and the way the faculty all want the best for their students.”