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A Switch to Saddle River Day School Made All the Difference for Two Upper School Students

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Aanika Patel and Gus Kraft both entered Saddle River Day School at the beginning of their junior year.

For most of us, change isn’t something we seek or, for that matter, welcome. Routines, and familiar faces and places, are more comforting and appealing than the unknown. It’s far easier to stick with what we know. But for two 2023 Saddle River Day School graduates who embraced change and made the momentous decision to transfer to SRDS at the start of or during their junior year, their leap of faith paid off during their last two years in the Upper School and has set them up for success as they head to college in the fall.

Aanika Patel and Gus Kraft both entered Saddle River Day School at the beginning of their junior year. Aanika arrived at the start of the school year, but Gus transferred about two months in. The small class sizes and evident rapport between students and their teachers were big factors in their decision to attend SRDS. Both students had immediate, direct access to their teachers, allowing them to establish lines of communication and relationships that were hugely beneficial as they acclimated to the rigorous curriculum and navigated the many AP classes offered to Saddle River Day School juniors. Both students also noted their appreciation for the fact that, from Day 1, they were encouraged to advocate for themselves, a skill they know will be valuable to them as they head off to college in the fall and need to interact effectively with professors and administrators.

Gus, who plans to study philosophy, politics, and economics at the University of Southern California this fall, and Aanika, who will be heading to Lafayette College in Easton, PA to study economics and neuroscience, say that the college process, while stressful, was made far less so by the college counseling office at SRDS. The hallmark of the CCO is the personalized plan the students and counselors craft together to meet each individual student’s goals and needs. Gus and Aanika note that once again, asking for help was critical as they edited their essays and completed their applications. But they are both grateful for the attention and support (and the occasional nudge) they received from Ms. Ferretti and the college counseling staff, who seemed to know exactly what they needed, and when.

In fact, the sense of belonging and community at SRDS was one of the first things both students noticed. Aanika participated in the summer AP Bootcamp so, was familiar with a few of the faculty members and students prior to the start of the school year. She says the “friendly, open, warm environment” was conducive to her quickly making friends not only with students in her own grade but with kids in all the other grades as well. Since Gus arrived at the school in the middle of October, it would be reasonable to assume that he had to work a little bit to fit in socially. But he says being a part of the basketball team put him in the fortunate position of immediately finding friends among his teammates. Both students emphasize that connections with friends and classmates are easy to make, particularly due to the wide range of extracurriculars and activities in which students are encouraged to participate.

To that end, Gus noted that a hallmark of students at Saddle River Day School is their passion. He observes that each of his classmates had something: sports, the arts, robotics, technology, or broadcasting, to name a few, in which they had, or were pursuing, broad knowledge and deep skills. This focused interest was one of the motivating factors in his decision to enter the SRDS Class of 2023. Gus says he knew almost immediately on visiting the campus that SRDS was the place for him. In fact, the advice he would give to any other students who are considering a move to Saddle River Day School is, “trust your gut – you’ll know if this is the right place for you.”

What advice does Aanika want to share? She says, “Making the move to SRDS might be unorthodox and a little scary, but if you feel like it’s the right decision, you should go for it. High school goes by quickly and at SRDS you really get the chance to grow as a person.”

For more information about the Upper School at Saddle River Day School, or to arrange a tour of our campus, please contact Kris Sweeny in the Office of Admissions:



Now is the right time to invest in your child's education. CLICK HERE to receive more information about our rigorous academics, signature programs, community, and extracurricular opportunities. At SRDS we teach students how to think and not what to think, and we prepare students to be innovators, thinkers, and leaders.

We want to make it easy for your family to connect with Saddle River Day School. To register for an on-campus tour, virtual information session, or open house, CLICK HERE.


  • Thursday, September 28 at 6:00 pm - K-12 Open House

  • Saturday, October 14 at 10:00 am - K-12 Open House (stay for our Homecoming BBQ!)

  • Friday, November 3 at 9:00 am - Pre-K 3 & Pre-K 4 Open House

  • Monday, November 13 at 6:000 pm - K-12 Open House

Email or call Kris Sweeny in the Office of Admissions to register for a visit day - or (201) 327-4050.

Saddle River Day School, Saddle River, Bergen County Moms


Saddle River Day School

Pre-K3 to Grade 12

147 Chestnut Ridge Road  •  Saddle River, NJ 07458  •  Tel: 201.327.4050

Saddle River Day School On-Campus Open House, Bergen County Moms

Watch your child grow from a student into a scholar—and into a lifetime of success.

From exploring Spanish, music and lab-based science beginning in Pre-K to hosting a TEDxYouth Conference in high school … from active play to competing on a championship Rebel Athletics team … inspiring success starts right from the beginning at Saddle River Day School.

Here, learning begins with an intriguing problem to solve, a story that captivates or a question that provokes curiosity—and the personal connection between teachers and students motivates everyone. To develop holistic, “right-brain” thinkers, we integrate science, technology, engineering, art and math, and celebrate different ways to solve real problems.

SRDS graduates from recent years are thriving at top colleges like Boston College, NYU and Stanford. They are creative individuals inspired to think, solve and achieve—in academics and in life.


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