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Review of: Trinity College School


"I felt like the luckiest person in the world"

Jocelyn Murphy - Alumnus    (Jan 26, 2018)
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Overall Experience

My time at Trinity was so special. I spent four years there in both day and boarding programs, and I am so grateful for that opportunity. Beyond academic rigour and stellar athletics and arts programs, I'll never forget my first day of grade 9, looking up in Osler Hall and seeing some forty flags hanging from the ceiling. Around me was this incredible mini United Nations of kids and I felt like the luckiest person in the world. My exposure at such a young age to a diverse, multi-cultural, multi-lingual student body taught me understanding and compassion and opened my heart to the beauty of our differences. To that end, if I am to answer whether or not I feel that the school prepared me well for my life's next steps - that I currently work in humanitarian diplomacy among the 'real' United Nations in some of the most challenging countries in the world should be evidence enough. Prospective students should expect to find a community that will become their extended family. They'll find caring teachers and coaches, unlikely friendships that will span a lifetime and the most beautiful campus in Ontario.


School Leadership

During my time at TCS, we had an incredible administration team. The Headmaster, Deans and academic support staff in their office were truly integrated into our community. Their families were as much a part of the school as they were and this made them all approachable. Many did double duty by coaching our sports teams, leading debates or simply being present at mealtimes. Broadly speaking, they were well liked and loved. At its core, TCS emphasizes the importance of community on campus and to this end, the leadership was able to foster a positive academic and living environment. Teenagers are complicated beings and I felt that the school often went out of its way to support those experiencing disciplinary issues to address the root causes before administering any sanctions. Further, they always went through these proceedings in a confidential manner that respected the privacy of the student in question. During the rare instances where I'd seen a disciplinary issue impact the community at large, the administration was forthright with the student body and would take the time to speak with us. Further, they would communicate with parents for transparency and peace of mind. I think that this was appreciated by students, particularly when confusion can make a situation more jarring.


Teaching

The relationship between teachers and students at TCS is appropriately informal, which is one of the school's great strengths. Teachers are also coaches and advisers and housemasters which makes it impossible to have a formal relationship. That being said, teachers were able to maintain boundaries within such informal relationships so as to best guide students. I found most teachers to be passionate about their work. They were dedicated to our learning, both inside class hours and during periods of 'academic assistance' (supplementary teaching over lunch hours) if we were struggling. I remember most of my teachers as inspired, humorous and quirky - qualities that I needed in an educator in order to be engaged. Many provided opportunities to learn outside of the classroom through travel, cultural visits or simple engagement with the news. I can think of three teachers who directly impacted the trajectory of my life and supported the early goals I set to get to where I am today.


Academics

TCS has an ever-expanding array of academic programs that can challenge students based on their needs, abilities and performance. For lack of a better explanation, I was a very bright student in high school and academics came easily to me. My teachers recognized this, along with the fact that this brightness made me lazy at times, and they personally pushed me to take Advanced Placement courses, study languages and keep my options open by committing to studying both humanities and sciences throughout my career there. My teachers recognized my abilities and my weaknesses and supported me to tailor my course load accordingly. This attention taught me the importance of challenging myself to strive for something greater when I went to university, as there was no one there to hold my hand. One of the reasons that I went to TCS in the first place is that my parents wanted me to study in a place where it was 'cool' to be smart. They wanted me to be challenged by my colleagues both academically and philosophically, and to expand my worldview through diversity in the classroom. I would say that this goal was certainly achieved.


Extracurriculars

Extracurriculars are unparalleled at TCS. Between arts, athletics and community engagement, nothing is lacking. During my time, students were expected to participate in all three competitively or in an organized-but-recreational way. At the time, there were certainly students that resented being 'forced' to do these things, but I think that we were all better for it. As a student there, I played on three Bigside (Varsity) teams, was in the brass band, volunteered for Amnesty International, did service/learning trips abroad and chaired various student-led social justice programs at school. I wanted to do 'everything' and never felt that there were any opportunities lacking. Beyond being a 'competitive' applicant for universities, I learned commitment, time management, camaraderie and compassion by participating in such a variety of extracurricular activities.


Students

The student body at TCS was small (roughly 120 students for each of grades 9-12), close-knit and enthusiastic. We often used to say that we were at an academic summer camp because we had so much fun with one another. Outside of being generally bright, TCS doesn't really have a 'typical' student because we come from all over the world, and the common assumption that a boarding school student is a rich, white kid doesn't stand. TCS has a robust financial aid system that serves further to diversify the student body both among Canadians and international students. As a recipient of financial aid myself, I certainly felt that my presence at TCS was the great equalizer and that my family's net worth had nothing to do with my ability to be a part of the community. My family sent myself, my two sisters and my cousin to TCS. There is a significant age gap between myself and my younger cousin, and it's been a pleasure to watch the school both evolve and stick to its roots since I first set foot on the campus. The school's collective values have not changed - integrity, connection of the heart and the mind, responsibility, courage etc... But it has also become a place that is more open to debate about key issues that impact the diverse student body - ethnicity, language, origin, socio-economic standing, gender and sexuality. Intersectionality is something that I value and I respect that the school has evolved to prioritize it.


School Life

I loved going to TCS. I loved it. It is one of my homes and I have no regrets about having attended. I went to TCS because I wanted to be surrounded by students who were as engaged and passionate about the world as I was and largely, I think that my classmates felt the same way as I did. I ate well, my bedroom was comfortable, we had good internet and I felt safe. Our campus was beautifully maintained, the buildings had character and it was truly an enviable place to live. My quality of life was pretty spectacular. As a perfectionist, I certainly experienced a good amount stress as there were so many things for me to do and be involved in while also maintaining good grades, but I never felt that it negatively impacted my quality of life. If anything, I found that the stress lit a fire that enabled me to engage and to succeed.


Community

TCS is very engaged with its alumni. There are branch dinners in major cities around the world and we are always excited to go and see one another. Parents are actively encouraged to be a part of the community and to visit for sports games, musical or theatre performances and debates. Some of my closest friends from TCS are still my closest friends as an adult. We attend eachother's weddings, visit when we happen to be in the same city anywhere in the world and talk on a regular basis. It is a community that continues to give.


School Location

TCS is situated in a small town about an hour outside of Toronto. It is surrounded by farmland, Lake Ontario and old cottages. It's one of the most charming places I've ever been and is beautiful in every season. Students venture into Port Hope after school or on weekends to grab something to eat, walk along the lake or explore. It's a rather quiet town, so while it is very safe, there isn't much to do which can make the school an island at times. That being said, I know that TCS has done a lot of work in recent years to break down some of the barriers that exist between the school and the local community.


Admissions

During the application process, I was so stressed. I was an anxious kid and felt that my entire future was on line if I wasn't accepted into the school of my choice. However, the moment I went to TCS for a tour and an interview, all of that melted away and it became peaceful. I remember talking with my interviewer for a couple of hours about all of the books that I'd read, the goals that I had for the future and how I felt about the world. I felt heard, respected and safe, and she made me feel like I would fit in. Beyond my own self-imposed doubts, the admissions team at TCS was wonderful.


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