SEM is an independent day and boarding school for college-bound girls. Since 1851 creative, independent thinking has been valued; now a STEAM curriculum further prepares girls for remarkable futures. SEM's urban campus maximizes the benefits of city living: historic parks, notable architecture, galleries, shops, and cafes are steps away. Convenient 5-day boarding offers girls total access to clubs, sports, community service, extra-curriculars, and supervised study during the week, and family on the weekend.
Helen Ladds Marlette, Head of School
How lucky I feel to be taking the helm at SEM at this point in the history of the school. I know my good fortune is the direct result of the hard work
of all of those who have preceded me - work that was fueled by a love of SEM and girl focused education. It is my charge and my duty to carry their passion and work forward to ensure that each girl today receives the same exceptional educational opportunities as those who have preceded her, to ensure this school is worthy of each girl’s promise.
What does a SEM education look and feel like in 2016? Our look has changed dramatically. The exterior of
205 Bidwell is being restored to preserve its glory. The Chapel has been refurbished to highlight its beauty and improve the functionality of the space. The Magavern- Sutton Courtyard, connecting our five student and faculty residential houses, is absolutely stunning. The buildings and spaces at SEM matter; they are the framework for the unique community that is SEM.
As is tradition, we will begin each day in the Chapel because it is the Chapel which gives us a sense of place and meaning. It is the very center of our school. It builds our confidence, brings us joy and celebrates our individuality while strengthening our community. The courtyard connecting the buildings of our campus will allow for individual reflection, small group gatherings and a large green lawn for recreation and socializing - bringing us together in ways we have yet to imagine. These beautiful places and spaces ground the people at SEM, but it is the people at SEM who give the spaces and places life. The spirit of individual teachers who are passionate about their academic field, devoted to their students and each other, and who work together creatively combined with the energy of students who are kind, curious, engaged, and supportive of one another is unbeatable.
Although the faces change and our campus has grown, the essence of SEM has remained the same. When you walk in our hallways and walkways you will see students and faculty engaged with each other, hear laughter and feel the sense of belonging that is SEM: a school guided by our tradition, living in the present and cherishing our time together, all the while pushing the boundaries to prepare us for an exciting future. The result? SEM is a nationally recognized all-girl school whose graduates are capable problem solvers, knowledgeable, resilient, kind, involved citizens who possess outstanding character. It is a privilege to be charged with leading this incomperable school where the tradition is forward thinking, into the future.
What SEM says: SEM prepares girls for remarkable futures. Academics are rigorous, technology is integrated, STEAM classes and Harkness table learning ignite inquiry, trust is intrinsic, and creative, independent thinking is valued. Located in a historic neighborhood, residential girls have access to the best of city living.
Traditional Math typically teaches a method or algorithm FIRST, and THEN teaches the applications for the method. Traditional algorithms are emphasized and practiced regularly: repetition and drills are frequently used to ensure foundational mastery in the underlying mathematical procedures. The traditional approach to math views math education as akin to building a logical edifice: each brick depends on the support of the previously laid ones, which represent mastery over a particular procedure or method. Traditional Math begins by giving students a tool, and then challenges students to practice using that tool an applied way, with progressively challenging problems. In this sense Traditional Math aims to establish procedural understanding before conceptual and applied understanding.
Learn about the different mathematics approaches
What SEM says: Logical reasoning, problem solving, and the ability to organize information enhance each girl’s ability to think critically become tools for lifelong success. Reasoning, problem-solving skills, and the ability to communicate mathematical ideas verbally and in writing are the foundation of our approach.We coordinate with the science teachers to teach math skills required in physics and chemistry.
Textbooks and supplementary materials: Math XL, supplemented by white boards and laptops and software.
Calculator policy: All students use graphing calculators.
Science programs that balance expository and inquiry learning equally will likely have an equal blend of tests and experiments; direct, textbook-based instruction and student-centred projects.
Learn about the different science approaches
Teaching approach: From the Freshman STEAM curriculum with its engineering, coding and Maker Movement class to the honors and AP level classes in biology, chemistry and physics, to the senior electives like Scientist for Life which encourages young women to pursue science in college, career, and for recreation, to classes in astronomy and oceanography, science is taught in an equal balance of expository and inquiry based methods.
Topics covered in curriculum:
Treatment of evolution:
|Evolution as consensus theory|
|Evolution as one of many equally viable theories|
|Evolution is not taught|
These literature programs draw in equal measure from “Traditional” and “Social Justice” programs.
Learn about the different literature approaches
What SEM says: The English program is about learning to love to read and write. It is also about mastering the poetics of media and culture. We seek to produce introspective and informed young women who can express their views effectively. While establishing a firm foundation of reading and writing skills, our courses expose students to a broad range of works in traditional print literature. Students are also trained in critical analysis from the perspective of psychology, philosophy, history – any discipline that uses interpretive texts.
These programs represent an equal balance between the perennialist and pragmatic approach to teaching the humanities and social sciences.
Learn about the different humanities and social sciences approaches
What SEM says: We emphasize academic skills essential for college-bound students, such as reading both primary and secondary sources; separating fact from opinion; effective note-taking; writing for history-related topics reflecting both meaningful use of fact and critical thinking; and informal and formal oral presentation. Students learn research techniques and do research-related writing. Global and American geography and map study are also integral to a program designed to promote a passion for the past and a broader love of learning.
These programs feature an equal blend of the audio-lingual and communicative styles of language instruction.
Learn about the different foreign languages approaches
What SEM says: A student learning a language at SEM will be proficient in interpretive communication (reading and listening); interpersonal communication (writing and speaking); and presentational communication (writing and speaking). We expose students to their target language at all times through an immersion approach. Students learn in an environment that emphasizes participation, creativity, and a tolerance for diversity.
Languages Offered: • Chinese-Mandarin • French • Spanish
These programs have an equal emphasis on receptive and creative learning.
Learn about the different fine arts approaches
Visual studio philosophy:
What SEM says: SEM presents a comprehensive survey of the arts, designed to promote each student’s personal growth through artistic expression. Guided by the fine arts faculty, students examine the history and philosophy of artistic expression, and actively participate in art, music, theatre, and dance. Each girl is challenged to test her own limits, and to discover and explore her unique potential.
A major effort is made to integrate the development of digital literacy throughout the curriculum and in everything students do. Digital literacy is understood to be a fundamental skill in the 21st century: it therefore follows, the idea goes, that teachers should find ways to connect every lesson back to technology. Effort is made to ensure the use of technology is meaningful and advances students’ skills beyond what they would otherwise be from using computers outside the classroom.
Learn about the different computers and technology approaches
What SEM says: Women are perpetually under represented in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art & design, mathematics) fields, and as an all-girls school SEM is particularly well-suited to address the deficit. Research shows that girls' school graduates are six times more likely to consider majoring in math, science, and technology and three times more likely to consider engineering careers compared to girls who attend coed schools. SEM's unique freshman STEAM curriculum features trimesters in engineering, coding and the Maker Movement and sophomores take a research and information literacy class. We have a digital printer, NAO robot and MAC lab available for students to learn and create with.
What SEM says: The athletics program emphasizes excellence, commitment, participation, and the cultivation of the whole person. A student athlete will grow as an individual while learning the values of teamwork, sportsmanship, responsibility, and dedication. SEM's Health/Leadership four-year program aims to cultivate and develop knowledge, skills, and empower conviction.
SEM's approach to sex-ed: This information is not currently available.
Religious Curriculum (percentage)
|We have no compulsory religion courses|
|Up to 25% of our courses are religious courses|
|More than 25% of our courses are religion courses|
Approach to teaching religious and secular curricula
|Completely segregated |
We completely segregate or separate secular and religious curricula. We don't teach them together or combine them in any ways.
|Mostly segregated |
We mostly segregate or separate secular and religious curricula. We teach very few, if any, secular and religious subjects together, and we don't combine them in any significant ways.
|Completely integrated |
We completely integrate the secular and religious curricula. We combine the teaching of religious and secular subjects for the entire, or almost the entire, day. Almost all of our units integrate secular and religious instruction.
|Mostly integrated |
We have a highly integrated curriculum. We integrate most of our religious and secular subjects. We teach a few secular and religious subjects on their own, though.
|Not applicable |
This doesn't apply to us because we don't have a religious curriculum.
Approach to teaching religion
|Scripture as literal |
Our religious scripture is a factual text that is literally the word of God. Our task is to understand it and clarify its meaning.
|Scripture as interpretive |
Our religious scripture, while the word of God, is open to interpretation and discussion.
What SEM says: This information is not currently available.
The main curriculum accelerates beyond the pace of the provincial one; ALL students do the work of OLDER public-school peers in tangible and measurable ways. This accelerated pace is maintained by the teachers and school, (through textbook selection, topic selection, grading, assignment standards and expectations, etc).
|Flexible pacing style||= offered|
|Multi-age classrooms as standard|
|Ability-grouping (in-class) as common|
|Frequent use of cyber-learning (at-their-own-pace)|
|Regular guided independent study opportunities|
What SEM says about flexible pacing: SEM accomodates and aids athletes and dancers who have training schedules. Seniors currently complete a month-long senior internship and presentation. With the Class of 2018, a year long capstone project and thesis will be inaugurated.
A school with a “rigorous” academic culture places a high value on academic performance, and expects their students to do the same. This does not mean the school is uncaring, unsupportive, or non-responsive -- far from it. A school can have a rigorous academic culture and still provide excellent individual support. It does mean, however, the school places a particular emphasis on performance -- seeking the best students and challenging them to the fullest extent -- relative to a normal baseline. High expectations and standards – and a challenging yet rewarding curriculum – are the common themes here. Keep in mind this classification is more relevant for the older grades: few Kindergarten classrooms, for example, would be called “rigorous”.
What SEM says: As an independent school, SEM provides a comprehensive curriculum that emphasizes the humanities, arts, digital and technological literacy, and opportunities for personal growth, community service and leadership with a focus on college preparation.
What SEM says: SEM believes that school is not only a formal education, it is also where character is built. Here, academics are rigorous and creativity and debate are encouraged. School is where students learn what is expected of them as adults. We provide opportunities to learn by giving back to school and the larger community through extracurricular activities such as clubs, organized sports, and required community service.
SEM offers limited support for students with learning difficulties or special needs.
|Support Type||= offered|
|Learning strategy and study counselling; habit formation|
|Extra support and minor accommodations for children experiencing subclinical difficulties|
All students enrolled at SEM are on an accelerated curriculum -- whether they are classified as gifted or not. This means they perform the work of older peers in the provincial system..
Dedicated gifted programs:
|Full-time gifted program (parallel to rest of school)|
|Part-time gifted program (pull-out; parallel to rest of class)|
Curriculum delivery: This information is not currently available.In-class adaptations:
|Custom subject enrichment (special arrangement)|
|Custom curriculum compacting (special arrangement)|
|Guided independent study (custom gifted arrangement)|
|Cyber-learning opportunities (custom gifted arrangement)|
|Formalized peer coaching opportunities (specifically for gifted learners to coach others)|
|Custom subject acceleration (special arrangement)|
|Career exploration (custom gifted arrangement)|
|Project-based learning (custom gifted arrangement)|
|Mentorships (custom gifted arrangement)|
What SEM says: This information is not currently available.
In grade 12, Buffalo Seminary students perform an average of 1.5 hours of homework per night.Nightly Homework
|SEM||90 mins||90 mins||120 mins||90 mins|
|Site Average||72 mins||83 mins||98 mins||112 mins|
How assessments are delivered across the grades:
|Lettered or numbered grades||9 to 12|
|Prose (narrative)-based feedback||9 to 12|
|Parent-teacher meetings||9 to 12|
|Track & Field|
|Foreign Language Club|
|Grade range that need-based aid is offered:||9 to 12|
|Percentage of grade-eligible students receiving financial aid||0%|
|Average aid package size||$0|
|Percentage of total enrollment on financial aid||0%|
|Total aid available||$0|
This school works with other. for processing financial applications
Interview (via Skype if necessary) Personal essay Entrance exam Transcipts English, and math or science teacher recommendations
|Buffalo Seminary Merit Scholarships|
|Eligibility Details: Students grade 9 to 12—|
A student can apply for any or all of these scholarships. Amount varies per student. Decisions are based on completed application, transcripts, and recommendations. Please note that the Deborah Dann Reed Arts Scholarship also requires the submission of a portfolio.
The L. Gertrude Angell Leadership Scholarship
The Deborah Dann Reed Arts Scholarship
The Buffalo Seminary Math/Science Scholarship
The Niswander Family Outstanding Scholar Award
The Buffalo Seminary Summer at SEM Scholarship
Oishei High School Scholarship
|Application Details: |
We require an application, personal interview, personal essay, school transcripts, three teacher recommendations and the SEM entrance exam. We strongly encourage students to visit for a shadow day.
We also accept the SSAT as an entrance exam.
|For more details, visit: www.buffaloseminary.org/admission|
|Average enrollment per grade||56|
|Gender (grades)||9 to 12 (Girls)|
|Boarding offered||Gr. 9 - 12|
|% in boarding (total enrollment)||21%|
|% in boarding (grade-eligible)||19%|
|Interview||9 - 12|
|SSAT (out of province)|
|Entrance Exam(s)||9 - 12|
Application and fee, personal interview and/or visit, teacher recommendations, transcripts for previous three years, personal essay, and entrance exam (either SEM's or SSAT accepted) or English Language proficiency test (boarding only).
Type of student Buffalo Seminary is looking for: Strong work ethic, intellectual curiousity and desire to engage in the school and community at large.
Student Entry Points
|38 - 45 (60%)||2 - 5 (60%)||2 - 5 (60%)||0|
|5 - 7 (60%)||5 - 7 (60%)||5 - 7 (60%)||0|
|Average graduating class size||50|
|*Canadian "Big 6" placements||3|
*Number of students in 2015 who attended one of McGill, U of T, UBC, Queen's University, University of Alberta, or Dalhousie University.
**Number of students since 2005 that attended one of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, University of Chicago, Oxford or Cambridge (UK)
What Buffalo Seminary says:
|Tara VanDerveer||1971||Stanford University Head Women's basketball coach, recipient of the "Legends of Coaching" award and coached the US women to a gold medal in 1996 Olympics.|
|Mara Hoffman||1995||Renowned fashion designer based in New York City.|
|Nicole Lee||1994||Human rights lawyer. First female president of TransAfrica. Liason to Nelson Mandela's family.|
|Lauren Belfer||1971||Author of NYT bestseller "City of Light," fiction based in Buffalo Seminary's history.|
|Isabella Bannerman||1978||Award winning, syndicated cartoonist.|
|Elizabeth Swados||1968||Writer, composer, musician, theater director.|
|Tara Ellis||1988||President and CEO of Meals of Wheels for Western NY.|
|Grace Munschauer||1974||President of Deronde Door & Frame, Business First "WNY Woman of Achievement."|
|Gwen Yates Whittle||1979||Two-time Academy Award nominated sound editor.|
|Sally Spitzmiller Vincent||1964||Executive Director of the Ronald MacDonald House Charities of WNY, Buffalo, NY|
|Roberta Rich||1963||Author of The Midwife of Venice (2011, Anchor Books) and The Harem Midwife (2013, Doubleday)|
|Maddie Larkin Gacioch||2013||Country music singer/songwriter signed to SONY/ATV Music Publishing|
|Virginia Horvath||1975||Virginia Horvath, president, State University of New York at Fredonia – Appointed president of Fredonia in 2012.|
|Amy Holden Jones||1972||Screenwriter, director|
SEM pushed me through what was comfortable to resee the world, to question, and then to stand-up for my beliefs with confidence. SEM truly helped shape who I am with its caring faculty and unique curriculum. It's a profound place. I'm proud to be a graduate.
Arianna was a member of the Cum Laude Society and a crew coxswain. She is Georgetown University, Class of 2017....
SEM is where I learned to speak and share in class. The Harkness tables in the humanities classrooms made learning intimate and yet challenging. Discussion based teaching meant everyone was expected to contribute, in fact, to take turns leading the discussions, and everyone was heard.
In one of my college classes this year, a small seminar, another girl and I were the only girls who raised our hands in class. After speaking with her, I learned that she also came from an Independent all girls school! I am truly thankful for what all girls education can do for girls around the world.
Grace was a member of the National Honor Society, Mock Trial and Model UN teams, and crew. She is University of British Columbia, Class of 2017.
SEM provided the learning environment which was perfect for me. Having such small classes helped develop positive relationships with teachers and provided the opportunity for extra help when necessary. The school’s culture is based on honest and honourable values. These values are rare in today’s society. But the more young women who learn the value of such integrity will bring it further into their communities. In time honesty and honour will not be so rare."
Amy Andres ’05, Mooloolaba, Australia...
SEM does not aim to simply churn out graduates, rather, each student who leaves SEM is a dreamer, a leader and a good citizen. A SEM girl can choose to pursue whichever path she desires and does not feel pigeonholed; here she is able to thrive in her own right.
It is important to keep in mind what it means to be a SEM girl. We strive for academic excellence. We serve others in need. We have a strong obligation to our community. We appreciate the rich history and traditions of our school.
Molly was School Government Association president and a member of the National Honor Society, Mock Trial and Model UN teams. She is Queen's University, Class of 2018.
Buffalo Seminary is a very special place, inclusive and full of opportunity. I was active on science and math academic teams and participated in the athletic program. I showcased my passion for music in a variety of ways at SEM. I performed a senior music recital. I also wrote arrangements for, and, on occasion, conducted the Ensemble. Whatever I needed, SEM was always there to help make it happen.
The value of SEM's preparation became apparent soon after I arrived at Yale. SEM gave me a quiet confidence, a belief that there were no limits to what I could accomplish and the knowledge that good leaders lead by example. That confidence allowed me to play in and manage a student orchestra, run the school's largest community service project, and pursue a science degree in a field that is not generally receptive to women. The decision to major in science has led me to be a contributing author on a research paper to be published in a national science journal, and ultimately allowed me to obtain a research position at MIT's world renowned Whitehead Institute under the direction of Susan Lindquist, a nationally known and award-winning scientist. T
he most important lesson SEM imparts to its students is the determination and belief that women really can do anything. Graduates of the class of '04 are proof of the school's influence. Two are enrolled in medical school, one is completing a biostatistics master's program, and two others are applying to Ph.D. programs. If that is not proof that SEM girls believe that they can do whatever they desire, I'm not sure what is!
All of my life I have had the privilege of affiliating myself with fantastic educational institutions - Buffalo Seminary, Yale, MIT - but I will always consider myself to be, first and foremost, a SEM girl....
Helen L. Marlette, new head of school, will have two new assistant heads of school to support her - Natalie Stothart and Sophie Michaud. ...
Interning is a ritual and a requirement at SEM - the final step the school takes in preparing students for life after high school. ...
Helen L. Marlette, assistant head of school, will be head of school when Jody Douglass retires in June 2015. SEM's board voted unanimously. ...
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