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Denver Waldorf High School

5 Biggest Reasons Waldorf High School Students Excel at Top Universities

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education recently conducted research to better understand the benefits of Waldorf Education with the purpose of examining how the unique, child-led education model prepares young people for the future.

The results were staggering— read them here.

The study takes a systematic approach to labeling why Waldorf high school students do so well in intense university programs and carry that success on to meaningful careers.

It’s important to gather empirical evidence to support why we believe in Waldorf Education. Now, we’d like to share what our experience and observations have uncovered about the attributes of Waldorf high school students and why our students are so successful in college and beyond.


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Intrinsic Motivation. How do we determine which actions have value and which do not? How do we prepare our children to do the right thing, to follow the difficult path even when there is no measurable reward on the other end?

We empower them to motivate themselves.

Where behaviors motivated extrinsically depend on a clear and measurable reward, intrinsic motivation comes from within. Those who are intrinsically motivated, who develop the ability to motivate their own behavior, are more consistent in their pursuits, and therefore more successful long term.

Academic Confidence. It’s long been understood that confidence, one’s belief in themselves, is the spice of success. However, overreaching confidence can become detrimental when not focused. Academic confidence is specific. Waldorf high school students are challenged to learn that they can learn. They leave high school confident in their ability to identify problems and investigate solutions.

Experience. What is experience, and how can teenagers get it? Experience is failure. For many parents, it’s difficult to let our children fail. We want to spare them the pain. We fear failure will hurt their confidence. We believe the road to success is paved with achievement. It’s not until college, or even later, when our children fail for the first time in their lives, that we discover we failed to prepare them to recover and learn from their mistakes.

During high school, youth are driven to make sense of the world. They build assumptions and beliefs they’ll take with them into the rest of their lives. Experience, particularly the experience of overcoming failure, helps young people develop into resilient adults.

Self-direction. In a world where change is the only thing we can count on, it’s not enough to wait for instructions. To be successful, one must be able to assess circumstances and direct their own actions. This is so not only for employment, but for life.

A self-directed individual can look beyond the norm to piece together a fulfilling life for themselves based on their own needs and joys. These are the individuals who are least susceptible to mental illness and spiritual fatigue.

Courage. Talk about character is constant, but breaking it down and naming the components is rare. Problems manifest from this oversight in the form of focus on developing confidence, when what our children really need is courage.

Confidence is important, of course. Confidence in one’s belief in themselves or their ability. We’re particularly partial to academic confidence. It’s internal, and reflects the self.

Courage is a little different. It refers to one’s ability to overcome doubt derived from the perception of danger from outside one’s self. That danger can be physical, but is typically social.

Waldorf students are nurtured to test and grow their courage as a matter of course. We know that without courage, thoughts and ideas are kept inside, never getting a chance to change the world.

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