What makes the Nueva Upper School different from other high schools?
The Nueva School is an internationally recognized independent school with a nearly 50-year track record of focusing exclusively on gifted and talented education and innovation. Known for its distinctive inquiry-based, interdisciplinary studies, Nueva offers constructivist, project-based learning and pioneering work in social-emotional learning, design thinking, and engineering. The school also offers specialists in numerous other core and elective areas, including STEM, humanities, entrepreneurship, the arts, and athletics, to name but a few. The Upper School program is a natural extension of the school's long-standing focus, educational philosophy, and program. As with its award-winning PreK–8 program, the secondary program fundamentally re-envisions the traditional high school experience with an exclusive focus on the needs of gifted and talented learners, rigorous core interdisciplinary academics ranging from college preparatory to college level, expansive student interest-driven academic electives, robust arts and athletics programs, independent study and internship options, and a balanced focus on student health and wellness.
Our culture honors and embraces:
- Rights, Respect & Responsibility
- Spirit of Inquiry
- Diversity of Perspectives
- Community & Connectedness
- Creativity & Innovation
Signature elements of the Upper School:
- Advanced college preparatory academics
- Interdisciplinary studies and applied learning
- Science of Mind program focused on resiliency
- Block schedule for balance and wellness
- Primary scientific research
- Student internships
- Integrated study trips for cultural immersion
- Nueva Quest for deep inquiry in areas of interest
- Competitive athletic teams and individualized options
- Personalized college counseling
Graduates complete high school well prepared for the challenges and leadership opportunities of the new global environment, able to distinguish themselves as:
- Lifelong learners
- Critical problem-solvers
- Ethical decision-makers
- Resilient and passionate individuals
- Empathetic citizens of the world
The program has been designed with input from educational leaders and innovators at some of the country's most notable colleges, universities, and public, charter, and independent schools. In many ways more like a university than a traditional high school, the school offers broad-based interdisciplinary studies coupled with deep explorations into specific areas of interest. Students combine theory and practice in real-world problem solving. Students discuss and debate the critical issues confronting our world and develop the skills required to contribute as actively engaged citizens and leaders.
Nueva is at the forefront of a broader movement to readjust educational paradigms to the rapidly changing global and technological environment.
What inspired the design of the new high school division?
The expansion of the school was always a part of Nueva's mission and vision, and the commitment to pursue it began over a decade ago when first explored in a previous strategic plan. More than five years ago, a Stanford University Alumni Consulting Team (ACT) confirmed that conditions were right for a new high school on the Peninsula. Nueva launched task forces and began a three-year design project encompassing extensive demand analysis, competitive surveys, in-field research, and design workshops began. Nueva had long been interested in creating an environment in which high school students could foster their love of learning and their individual interests. Current educational debates revealed that the skills now universally sought for success in higher education were ones Nueva had always supported. Seizing the unique opportunity to pioneer a new way of thinking about high school that was aligned with, and an extension of, its primary program, the school invested four years in task-force studies and visited over 50 different signature programs at schools in the United States and abroad. After hosting a College Presidents' Round Table in 2011, the Board voted to build a high school to extend Nueva's signature programs and to prepare gifted students for the challenges of our new century.
Is Nueva's Upper School an extension of the Lower and Middle Schools?
Yes. We are one school, PreK–12, with the same mission and vision for all our students. The new Upper School shares the same core values and educational hallmarks of the PreK–8 school founded in 1967, as it expands the curricular focus and programs to levels appropriate for the developmental maturity of high school students. Most critically, the school remains united around its mission to serve gifted students by inspiring lifelong learning, fostering social-emotional acuity, and developing each student's imaginative mind. Meanwhile, we recognize that the conversations and challenges that high school students have are different from those in the Lower and Middle Schools. Therefore, the Upper School program appropriately and specifically creates a culture of learning to meet the needs of these older students.
How challenging is Nueva's academic program?
We want students to challenge themselves. Nueva's students are innately curious and self-motivated. The integrated studies program at Nueva offers them accelerated college-like academics, allowing for extensive individual choice, advanced studies, and guided internships and apprenticeship opportunities. The program provides a robust conceptual foundation in the core disciplines (mathematics, science, history, languages, English and humanities, and the arts) as well as in methods of thinking and reasoning. Balanced graduation requirements ensure competence across disciplines as well as deep inquiry into topics of individual interest (i.e., each student undertakes an individual "Nueva Quest"). Advanced electives and independent courses of study allow students to progress and accelerate at their own pace.
Does the Upper School offer AP courses?
Nueva's curriculum moves beyond the standard AP program, instead focusing on deeper intensive units, seminars, projects, upper-level Advanced Topics electives, and longer college-level research papers. While Nueva will not "teach to the tests," the curriculum certainly prepares students to take SAT II and AP tests with deep mastery of core concepts and intensive electives, and the expectation is that many students will take the tests. Nueva is already an approved site for AP testing, as many Middle School students take (and excel at) these exams every year.
What is "apprenticeship"?
During their later years at the Upper School, students can develop a personal plan of study with an apprenticeship component that honors individual student interests and takes full advantage of the resources available to us in the Bay Area. As part of the Quest program, individual apprenticeships match students with experts who will act as mentors, provide feedback on student work, and counsel them on real-world applications and skill development. Students who pursue apprenticeships engage in primary field research, internship programs, and other applied learning opportunities before graduation.
What college counseling and support services are available?
Nueva's commitment to its students' success includes preparation and support for and through the college application process. The collaboration of university academic and admissions leadership in the design of our program has afforded unique insights into the factors critical to successfully getting to and through college. In addition, the personal attention of the head of school and division heads, experienced college counselors, close student-teacher relationships, and guidance from grade deans and advisors provides students with a strong support network. Students work with counselors and advisors beginning in grade 9 to create a course of study that prepares them for college and also allows them to enjoy high school as a time of exploration, learning, and growth.
What other academic support and guidance services are provided for students?
Social-emotional acuity, health, and wellbeing have always been core values at Nueva. Our Science of Mind and Advisory programs are integrated and provide each student with focused study of the latest cognitive science and emotional literacy research and practices. These programs support the needs of our high school students as they grapple with the challenging issues of adolescence, transition toward increasing independence, and ultimately prepare for graduation and college. Teaching and learning workshops, counseling, and parent education are all also embedded parts of the high school program.
How are students assessed?
One of the hallmarks of a Nueva education is the use of robust narratives from teachers to discuss and describe student progress. These narratives allow faculty to communicate a more meaningful assessment of how students are developing their skills and competencies against absolute benchmarks, to encourage students to take academic risks, and to motivate them to achieve their full potential. Assessment in the high school continues this long-standing tradition of narrative feedback and a focus on continuous learning. In addition, in recognition of the requirements for college applications, the Upper School follows "Standards-Based Grading" practices and accompanies these narratives with detailed templates of core learning competencies and objectives, outlining explicit outcomes and standards for students in each course, discipline, and level. Nueva's reporting practices focus on continuous feedback and the need for students to learn from their mistakes as they tackle difficult problems and extensive long-term research projects and investigations. Given the recursive nature of learning and the findings of the latest research into best practices in teaching and learning, revision is central to our approach to both the writing process and creative problem-solving. Nueva's individualized approach to learning also allows students to progress at their own rate, demonstrating mastery and pursuing accelerated studies as appropriate.
What extracurricular activities are offered?
In addition to extensive visual and performing arts and athletics and fitness offerings, Nueva supports numerous student-led clubs and other extracurricular activities. Graduate students, practicing artists, entrepreneurs, professionals from diverse fields, and part-time faculty help support these activities. Offerings include Intel Science Talent Search (STS), FIRST Robotics, Future Problem Solving Program, Model UN, Mathletes, Young Writers, microfinance and investments, newspaper (Nueva Current), film, chess, organic gardening, anime, peer leadership, Amnesty International, and student government, among others. The Nueva Upper School campus, like the Lower and Middle School campus, is a vibrant, dynamic environment with visiting academics and artists in residence, a lively calendar of events and activities, and the active involvement of all the community members who are drawn to this energetic, intellectual hub. Our Quest program and our January Intersession both bring in extraordinary resources and individuals to enhance the opportunities for exploration and discovery for our students and the community.
What sports are offered?
Our robust athletics program, which fosters the social, emotional, and physical benefits of healthy competition, offers choices of team and individual sports, club and interscholastic athletics, and dynamic fitness class options. 2016-2017 Physical Education offerings include conditioning, yoga, squash, fencing, climbing, urban hiking, and dance.
Track and Field*
How would you describe the Nueva community?
Nueva's mission makes it a convergence point for people who share a vision of how joyful and meaningful education can be. We consider the families of our students to be a truly integral part of our community. We are supportive of each other, the school, and the wider communities and neighborhoods to which we belong. Nueva has many community-building events throughout the school year and summer. We celebrate individuals and value the diversity of our community and the world.
How would you describe the new Bay Meadows campus?
At the heart of the new Bay Meadows transit-oriented development in San Mateo, our state-of-the-art Bay Meadows campus is located 11 minutes southeast of the Hillsborough campus. It is ideally situated, near Highways 92 and 101 and numerous public transit options. The mixed-used development — a dynamic, vibrant, evolving community — provides unique synergies for the new high school as a model of innovative urban planning and sustainable development.
Like the award-winning Hillside Learning Complex in Hillsborough, certified as LEED Gold in 2007 and also designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, the new Bay Meadows campus is designed as a LEED Gold building. LEED design elements include:
- Natural ventilation and lighting
- Radiant slab heating
- Potable water conservation
- Integrated indoor-outdoor environments
- Reintroduction of local and lost ecosystems and habitats
- Renewable and recyclable building materials
- Integrated instructional elements such as usage meters
The design and operation of the new campus also promotes responsible environmental practices to reduce pollution and energy consumption through proactive transportation demand management programs, environmental education, and recycling and waste management.
In addition, the new campus design is informed by the latest research and industry innovations on spatial design and pedagogy, including flexible, dynamic environments that allow for collaborative learning; integrated smart technologies; sophisticated laboratory and R&D spaces for innovation and design engineering; a state-of-the-art writing, research and information center; and extensive venues for the sharing of work and best practices.
Finally, there are potential collaborations and internships with the site's neighboring corporate tenants, and the site's interpretive landscape lends itself to observation and research about Bay Area ecology. There are also the retail, commercial, and urban amenities of the immediate area, and the potential for faculty, staff, and families to live close to the school.
How do students get to and from school?
The Bay Meadows campus is conveniently located at the intersection of highways 101 and 92, with ready access to extensive public transportation options. Caltrain, SamTrans, and AC Transit all offer daily direct regular service from throughout the Bay Area — from San Francisco to San Jose to the East Bay — to the Hillsdale Station (at Hillsdale Mall) three blocks from the campus. Caltrain passes are included in tuition and fees. Nueva also supplements public transit options with daily private bus service to and from San Francisco, throughout the Peninsula, and between its two campuses in the morning before school, in the afternoon after school, and in the evening following afterschool activities. Nearly 50% of our students and many of our faculty and staff use public or private shared transportation services, carpool, bicycle, or walk to and from school regularly or occasionally.
What about the food?
Flik Dining is one of the leading food service providers to independent schools in the United States, and its parent company Compass Group is one of the largest and most successful food service providers in the world. Schools, companies, and organizations committed to sustainable practices, organic products, and healthy eating and living choose Flik. In a state-of-the-art kitchen and café, chefs provide exceptional quality and choice in delicious, healthy meals, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and international fare. Daily entrees, soups, salad and sandwich bars, and whole fruits ensure something for everyone every day. Students, faculty, staff, and visitors rave about the food, and we think you will too!
How diverse is Nueva?
We believe diversity is essential to achieving our mission of educating gifted students to make choices that will benefit the world. Gifted youth are present in every socioeconomic, ethnic, religious, gender, sexual orientation, and racial group and in families with diverse structures. They each bring particular gifts and talents to the Nueva community. Nueva believes that the best education occurs when students, faculty, staff, and families are able to share their talents in a community drawn from all these backgrounds. We are dedicated to building and sustaining a community that welcomes and celebrates diversity.
For example, approximately 49% of our current student population is of color, as defined by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Approximately 18% of our current students receive a total of $2.9 million in need-based financial awards. And students come from throughout the Bay Area, including the North Bay, San Francisco, the Coast, and Silicon Valley. Roughly 34% of the Nueva community comes from the Mid-Peninsula, another 37% comes from the South Peninsula, and about 15% lives in the San Francisco area. We seek students who reflect our diverse community ethnically, socioeconomically, geographically, and otherwise.
What is your current student enrollment?
Current PreK–12 enrollment is over 800 students for the 2016–2017 academic year; 318 are enrolled in grades 9 through 12.
How many students are accepted at each grade level?
Nueva's Upper School started with a freshman class and has added a new class of grade 9 students each year. Enrollment is targeted to reach approximately 100 - 110 students per grade over the next few years, for a total high school enrollment of 400 - 450 students. Each year, new students are welcomed into the rising eighth grade cohort from the Nueva Middle School. We expect to add approximately 40 new students to next year's ninth grade class. We will also accept applications for transfer students for grades 10 and 11: we expect to add two to five students to our sophomore and junior classes.
What does Nueva look for in Upper School applicants?
The admissions process for Nueva's Upper School is designed to ascertain student interests, academic strengths and talents, personality, social and emotional maturity, internal motivation, intellectual curiosity, independent thought and depth of ideas, creativity in problem-solving, collaborative skills, and much more. We hope to build a cohesive, compassionate, dynamic class and community. We conduct parent interviews and individual interviews for each applicant, and in addition to completing a unique application, students have campus (shadow) visits and attend an activity session where they partake in active problem solving.
Can I visit the school before submitting an application?
Students are welcome to attend an Open House before applying but must submit Part I of the Upper School Application and the $90 application fee before their admissions campus visit is scheduled. Parents can attend one of the weekly tours of the campus every Thursday morning during the fall.
What happens at an Open House?
Open House events feature student panels, sample lessons, curriculum and program overviews, facilities tours, and an opportunity to meet Nueva students, parents, faculty, admissions staff, and administrators.
When are Parts II and III of the application due?
Part II of the application is required before scheduling the parent/guardian interview and student activity session. It is helpful for the school to receive Parts II and III before the scheduled parent and student interviews. The complete application is required by the time of the student activity session or the application deadline of January 14, 2016, whichever occurs first.
What happens if I miss a deadline?
All applicants are asked to meet our stated deadlines. Only applications that are complete by the deadline will be considered for admission.
When will I be notified of the admissions decision?
The Admissions Committee carefully reviews complete applicant files and will mail decision letters on Thursday, March 10, 2016. Email notifications will be sent on Friday, March 11, 2016, after 4:00 pm. Upper School applicants receiving a financial award must notify the Admissions Office of their decision to accept or decline the offer by 12:00 noon, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Upper School applicants not receiving an award must notify the Admissions Office of their decision to accept or decline the offer by 12:00 noon, Friday, March 18, 2016.
What is the wait pool?
Unfortunately, Nueva cannot accommodate all qualified applicants. Otherwise eligible applicants to whom we cannot offer a space are placed in an unranked wait pool and considered if an opening occurs. The Admissions Committee considers factors such as gender balance, learning style, academic standing, and social and emotional maturity within the existing group when making an enrollment recommendation. The wait pool remains active until the first day of school in the fall.
What is the tuition for the Upper School?
The Upper School tuition is in line with competitive independent school programs in the Bay Area. Please visit the Tuition and Financial Awards page for tuition and fees totals by grade.
Do you offer financial aid?
Yes. The Nueva School's financial award grants are based solely on financial need. Our awards across all three divisions total more than $2.9 million. Admissions decisions are independent of financial considerations. Nueva expects to continue to increase its investment in and support for financial awards.