The college preparatory experience at Incarnate Word High School begins on Day One. Every student at the historic, all-girls Catholic school embarks on a modular schedule that mimics a college schedule -- with blocks of free time sandwiched between rigorous classes that often meet only three times a week.
Every faculty member provides thoughtful, challenging work—much like a professor at an institution of higher learning. Students learn to tackle an advanced curriculum. They explore electives, like photography and art. They volunteer at school and in the community. They learn to manage their time.
"I'm starting my sixth year," says April Garza, junior-senior counselor at Incarnate Word, "and we've been sending 100 percent of our students to college the entire time I've been here."
Since awarding diplomas to its first high school graduates in 1903, Incarnate Word has become a premier college preparatory institution for young women. Its mission is to prepare students for academic excellence, Christian service and social justice.
Garza attributes much of the school's success to faculty and scheduling. "We simulate the college experience in high school," she says. "Classes are lecture based. Tests are given in a testing center. Students must look and see what day they must take their exam."
The college-like atmosphere can be intimidating, if not overwhelming, Garza says, especially to freshmen. But new students receive help from advisers. Upperclassmen provide mentoring. Teachers are available for extra help.
The system works beautifully. Year after year, students adjust, excel and matriculate to college.