Frequently Asked Questions

What’s a semester school, and how can it benefit a student who attends?

Much like a “semester abroad” during college, a semester school gives high school students a chance to step out of their regular school and into an exceptional educational setting, while still continuing their required academic studies. Semester schools are a growing and increasingly popular phenomenon.

Attending a semester school can:

  • Intensify a student’s interest in and motivation for learning.
  • Allow a student to pursue an area of interest in-depth.
  • Broaden a student’s range of skills and interests, and increase their maturity level.
  • Boost a student’s chances in the increasingly competitive college admissions process by:
    • Providing them with a unique and eye-catching experience that sets them apart from other applicants.
    • Associating them with the prestige of the Lowenstine Honors Scholarship competitive application process.
    • Giving them a unique and meaningful experience to highlight in college application essays and interviews.
    • Introduce students to a diverse group of highly motivated peers with similar interests and goals.
    • Give students a head start on developing the independence, good judgment, and life skills necessary for living away from home -- before they go away to college.

What grade level or age do I have to be to attend Conserve School?

Grade Levels:
  • Juniors in high school
  • Sophomores if they can demonstrate a readiness for success with a junior-level curriculum
Age Range:
  • No younger than 15 on the first day of the semester
  • No older than 18 on the last day of the semester

Does Conserve School accept seniors?

No. Conserve School is primarily for juniors, but can accommodate sophomores who are ready for junior-level work. In addition, it is our expectation that Conserve School students will return to their sending schools ready to contribute, in positive ways, for at least one full school year.

How soon can I apply?

Conserve School's application season begins in September of each year, and applications are accepted during the school year prior to the semester for which you are applying. See the chart below for more information.

Desired Semester of Enrollment When Applications are Are Accepted
(This is not a deadline, it is when we start accepting applications.)
CS15 or CS16
(Fall 2017 or Spring 2018)

Beginning September 1, 2016

CS17 or CS18
(Fall 2018 or Spring 2019)

Beginning September 1, 2017

CS19 or CS20
(Fall 2019 or Spring 2020)

Beginning September 1, 2018

CS21 or CS22
(Fall 2020 or Spring 2021)

Beginning September 1, 2019

How many applications do you receive for each semester?

Generally speaking, we receive two applications for each available opening. More specifically, we find that we receive three applications for each available female opening, and 1.5 applications for each available male opening. As such, because we accept students on a rolling basis, it's best to apply earlier in the admission cycle.

Will my high school accept your credits?

Conserve School is accredited by the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), an accreditation division of AdvancED. Our highly educated and experienced teachers design courses in accordance with national academic standards. While we work closely with sending schools to ensure that credits transfer, we encourage students and families to discuss credit transfer with a counselor or administrator at your sending school.

What are the academic requirements (GPA) for admission to Conserve School?

Conserve School screens for applicants who can demonstrate an ability to succeed with junior-level, college preparatory academic classes. As a rule, we look for students who have earned primarily As and Bs in their classes (with a minimum GPA of 3.0), and who score in the 50th percentile or higher on nationally-normed standardized tests. Because all Conserve School students are enrolled in AP Environmental Science, successful applicants must provide evidence of having passed, with a grade of C or better, high school biology or environmental science, as well as basic algebra (Algebra I). We occasionally accept students whose academic history does not match this profile, if there are relevant circumstances that have contributed to it.

Are your classes considered "honors" courses?

Our courses and academic standards are rigorous and designed for high-achieving students. We therefore consider all of our courses to be at an honors level. However, we refrain from marking the courses with an “H” on our transcript because standards and designations vary so much from school to school. What might be labeled an “honors” course at one high school could be referred to as “accelerated” at a second high school, “advanced” at a third high school, or be given no special designation at a fourth. In addition, because we do not ourselves offer courses at a variety of levels, we do not have a need to distinguish honors level courses from standard courses.

How much does it cost to attend Conserve School?

The Conserve School Board has created the Lowenstine Honors Scholarship Program to remove the barrier that concerns about affordability creates. Every accepted student is awarded a Lowenstine Honors Scholarship. The scholarship is valued at $25,000 and covers full tuition, room, and board.

Families are responsible for a small enrollment fee (currently $200), incidental costs, and transportation to and from school (at the beginning and end of the semester, as well as the fall or spring break). Families are also responsible for providing their students with the required gear as outlined on the “What to Bring” list. Note that specialty items like tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags are available for check-out from the school.

Click here to read more about the affordability of the Conserve School experience.

How is the school funded?

Conserve School receives the majority of its funding from the earnings of the Lowenstine Trust, which was set aside by its founder, James R. Lowenstine. In addition, Conserve School reaches out to its alumni and friends to help support the school through their participation in the Annual Fund.

It is Conserve School's hope and expectation that Conserve School alumni and their families will regularly participate in the Annual Fund, to ensure that future students will be able to continue to experience the wonderfully unique, life-enriching experience that a semester at Conserve provides.

Do I need a lot of prior experience in outdoor skills?

No. We just expect that students are motivated to learn new skills, and be fit enough to take part comfortably in challenging outdoor activities. We’ll teach you all the necessary skills. Physical fitness requirements include the following:

  • The ability to walk or snowshoe up to five miles per day
  • The ability to paddle a canoe up to four hours per day
  • The ability to carry on student's back a pack weighing up to 25% of their body weight, for up to 1/2 mile
  • The ability to bike on hard-pack trails at any given point
  • The ability to sleep on the ground (on a portable sleeping pad) for up to five consecutive nights

What if I need a particular course to fulfill my high school’s requirements?

Students choose one or two electives in addition to core courses. If a student is required by a sending school to take a course not offered by Conserve School, then the student should explore with their sending school options for meeting this course requirement, including summer school, or rearranging their sending school schedule to take the course during senior year. While we do not recommend it, a student, if necessary, may enroll in an online course, at the family's expense, that matches the sending school's requirement. In this case, Conserve School will reserve an elective block in the student's schedule for the online course (which means the student may take only one other elective). The student should arrange with their sending school to take an online course that will meet the requirements of the sending school. Conserve school does not transcript online courses.

Will attending Conserve School help or hurt my chances of getting into a selective college? If I attend Conserve, I might not be able to take as many AP courses as I had planned.


It's important to note that the answer to this question depends on your individual desires and circumstances. Generally speaking, though, our experience is that a semester at Conserve, or at any other semester or year-long enrichment experience, makes your college applications more attractive to college admissions staff. We base this assertion on our conversations with college admissions professionals, as well as feedback from Conserve students who have spoken with college admissions staff. It's true that, in deciding to attend Conserve School, students are sometimes choosing to forgo the chance to take one or two upper-level or AP courses at their sending school. Our experience is that, more often than not, college admissions staff view a semester school experience as more valuable than one or two more AP classes, as it demonstrates that a student has taken initiative to enrich their learning, and has experienced the increased autonomy of living and learning at boarding school. If this is of particular concern to you, we recommend that you consider speaking with college admissions professionals, who can share their perspective on the matter.

Can I take the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or AP exams while at Conserve School?

While fall semester students are given the option to take the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) during their semester here, and we administer necessary AP exams on campus in the spring, we do not offer the ACT or SAT during either the fall or the spring semester. It's been our experience that sitting for these college entrance exams, and preparing for them, diverts student time and energy from the unique experiences offered during the Conserve School semester. As such, students and their families should make plans to take these college entrance exams while at home. Visit the ACT or SAT websites for information about test dates and locations near your home.

Is there a difference between activities offered during fall and spring?

While the activities offered in each semester are quite similar, the timing and frequency of any given activity is affected by what our climate and weather dictate. In the fall semester, there is ample time for warmer-weather activities (hiking, boating, biking, etc.) before winter sets in, typically in November. Usually, in the final weeks of the fall semester, students will have the chance to experience winter activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. The spring semester essentially reverses this progression, as students arrive in mid-winter, with plenty of time for winter activities. After the snow has melted and the ice goes out on our lakes (typically sometime in late April), students participate in the warm-weather activities.

What is the mission of Conserve School?

It is the mission of Conserve School to inspire young people to environmental stewardship through academics and engagement with the forests, lakes, and wildlife of Lowenwood.

It was Conserve School founder Jim Lowenstine's hope that students at Conserve School would share in his love for Lowenwood, his Northwoods wilderness retreat. He believed that living and learning at Lowenwood would instill in students an ethic of environmental stewardship that would guide them throughout their lives.

Can Conserve School accommodate special dietary needs?

Conserve School offers vegetarian options at each meal. In fact, some meals are entirely vegetarian. The variety of foods and food production practices that Conserve School is able to support are necessarily limited due to location and climate, and therefore we are not able to accommodate all dietary needs and requests, including kosher diets. Vegan diets may be limited to our salad bar and hummus bar, as not all entrees are prepared for the vegan diet. Prospective students with a medically-based need for a restricted diet should discuss these needs candidly with Conserve School admissions and health care staff members during the application and enrollment process. Conserve School may request medical documentation of special dietary requirements, and will determine on a case-by-case basis if special dietary needs can be met in a satisfactory fashion.

Does Conserve School provide students with college application assistance?

Since Conserve School enrolls juniors and advanced sophomores, we do not provide regular, formalized college application assistance. Conserve School staff, in their role as student advisors, assist students, as necessary, with activities related to college admission (such as discernment of college choices, writing recommendation letters, etc.). Conserve School typically hosts, once each semester, a college fair attended by colleges that offer environmental and outdoor programs.

Can I take music lessons, or practice my musical instrument, at Conserve School?

Conserve School does not offer music classes or lessons, but we do provide dedicated music practice rooms that students may use to practice music during their free time.

Can I participate in interscholastic sports while at Conserve School?

Because of our small student body and our focus on mission-related activities, we do not offer opportunities for participation in interscholastic sports. Students do, however, regularly engage in pick-up games of soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, basketball, etc. in their free time, and enjoy activities such as hiking, trail running, canoeing, kayaking, trail biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.

Can Conserve School accommodate students with special learning needs?

Conserve School is not designed specifically for students with learning difficulties or disabilities like ADD, ADHD, or dyslexia. As an independent school, Conserve School is not obligated to provide the support services typically available through public school systems. While Conserve School staff members believe in tailoring education to make it as personalized and meaningful as possible for each student, our focus is on environmental stewardship. Our staff members do not have specialized training, experience, or responsibilities related to learning difficulties or disabilities. However, it is possible that students who compensate well for learning issues may be able to succeed here. Prospective students should contact the admissions office for more information about accommodations for special learning needs. Click here for more detailed information about learning accommodations.

Is the school a nonprofit?

Yes, Conserve School is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is officially registered with the state of Wisconsin and the IRS. That means that contributions to the school may be tax deductible (check with your accountant to maximize your donation).

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