How early does college prep start? At NSU University School, the answer is age 4. The school includes what they call junior kindergarten through 12th grade.
"We have a slogan here at University School, we bring out the best in you, and it may not be always in academics, arts or athletics but we find a place where every student can shine because we all have strengths and weaknesses," said Dr. Bill Kopas, the Head of School.
Bringing out their best means providing a myriad of programs and opportunities, ranging from one of the state's best debate teams to a butterfly aviary designed by a student to media arts bolstered by a multi-purpose, TV and music production studio.
"Our belief is that the students who do the work do the learning, so here is your opportunity to have experiential, hands-on learning, those are the students who really go out into the world and are able to be leaders in their industries," said Danny Swerdlow, the school's art director.
U School, as it's popularly called, is known for sending students to the nation's best colleges every year. Kopas says they do it by providing all the things needed for students to thrive and set themselves apart from the crowd.
"When college admissions officers look at a student, test scores and GPA are very much the same across the country but it's trying to find something extra and that's what we're able to do with our students," Kopas said.
In what they call the Innovation Lab, we watched second-graders coding a robot, third-graders working on a solar-powered car, and other kids tinkering with engineering projects.
"We do lots of project-based learning and give them a goal that they have to reach but not really tell them how to get there, and they have to figure it out on their own," said Darren Stern, robotics and coding teacher in the Lower School.
It's all about learning to be problem solvers. The elementary-age kids have their own robotics teams, forming the farm club for the high school team, which has made it to the world championships six years in a row.
A unique strength of U School is its location, on the Nova Southeastern University campus. The high school kids are able to do fellowships and internships with NSU professors in medicine and law.
You could say the Sharks have a feeding frenzy of opportunities.
NSU University School is a private school. Tuition for one year of high school can be up to $28,000. The school recognizes that most families can't afford it, so there are a variety of need-based scholarships available. About 30% of U School's students are receiving financial aid.