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Because of the current financial crisis in our country, people are hesitant to consider applying to independent schools thinking they can't afford the tuitions. I am writing to tell the readers not to despair... all boarding schools offer generous financial aid to families who can demonstrate financial need.

Yes, the application process can be daunting, but the end result may be admission to a terrific boarding school program where your son or daughter can shine. And the great thing about financial aid is that your request for aid does not have any impact on admission to the school. Admissions decisions are separate from financial aid decisions. This does not mean that every family who applies for aid will get it. Schools usually get many more requests than they can meet. Sometimes your son or daughter may be accepted to the school but get put an a waitlist for financial assistance. In addition, aid is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis and failure to meet the firm deadlines of the Financial Aid Committee may eliminate you from consideration. So be very cognizant of the deadlines. Priority for aid is oftentimes given to returning students.

All schools use the School and Student Service for Financial Aid (SSS) to collect basic information on income, assets, family size and the number of siblings in private schools charging tuition. SSS prepares a needs analysis which the school uses as a basis for its award. You can contact SSS for a copy of the Parent Financial Statement (PFS) at 866 387 2601 or online at www.nais.org/go/sss. Admissions Directors at the various schools and private Educational Consultants can help you navigate through the application process.

As stated earlier, don't give up on your dream of enrolling your child in an independent school because of finance. Take advantage of the generosity of schools through need based financial aid programs.

Good luck!!

College Admission Carnival Part II

Before I close down for the night, I wanted to let everyone know that AQ contributed a blog post & podcast episode to the second edition of Mark Montgomery's College Admission Carnival.

The podcast (College Admission Carnival) is an interview that I recorded with Mark for the Boarding School Podcast. In it we talked about the reasons why he founded the Carnival along with his plans for the future.

On the blog front, we submitted the Boarding School Mom's first entry to her Parent's Boarding School Admission Journal.

Many thanks to Mark for inviting AdmissionsQuest to contribute.
An article in the LA Times, "California boarding schools? It's not an oxymoron: Long a fixture of the East Coast, such campuses are gaining interest in the Golden State," highlights a couple of recurrent boarding school themes that we consistently revisit over the years.

1. The boarding school world is broader than most people know and great boarding school options exist in all four corners of the country- even the Hawaiian islands.

2. Boarding school and its intense busy life can be life changing experience for many students. But, boarding school is not for everyone.
Heading off to boarding school from Texas years ago, my parents often encountered the whispered phrase "What's wrong?" when friends, family, and neighbors learned that we were going far from home to live and learn.

The answer was straightforward; the benefits of boarding school outweighed the opportunities and setting of our large public schools. Boarding school seemed a good way for us to go to school and grow-up.

You've probably come across this kind of exchange if you live beyond New England's concentration of boarding schools, boarding school culture, and boarding school families.

My folks educated themselves and learned about school options for us and that's what it's all about.

If you have a student interested in boarding school or if you're interested in exploring boarding school options for your child, a myriad of options from types of schools to geographic regions abound. Research and explore the schools. They're all different. But one may be a great place for your student to learn and grow.

You can checkout the LA Times piece here or visit our list of California boarding schools to learn more about the available options.

Photo credit: davidrossharris

Editor's Note: "A Parent's Boarding School Admission Journal" will move to a regular Thursday publication schedule. Check-in each week to read the Boarding School Mom's latest entry.

One of the benefits of working with a consultant is that she was able to provide feedback from the interviews. Some of this was positive, but from others we learned that our normally voluble son had been uncommunicative and distant. I was also dismayed when sometimes he would hardly speak to the tour guide. Nevertheless, I made sure he followed-up promptly with a thank-you note, and we proceeded confident that he would be accepted at a competitive school. In fact against the advice of the consultant, he only applied to four schools.  Of these schools, three he would have been happy to attend and one we would have been happy to have him attend.

Then came the dark day when the consultant called to tell us that he had been rejected at two schools and wait-listed at two schools. As we recovered from the blow, she was terrific at helping us explore our options. One, we could push to get off the wait lists. By this time we only considered one of the wait list schools an option based on some things we had learned about the other school, but our son felt the school's strength - outdoor winter sports- didn't align with his interests. Two, she felt some of the schools at which he had interviewed but to which we hadn't applied, might accept him. We considered this as we had liked the feel of these schools very much, but felt that if they were the right fit, we would have applied there initially. Three, she suggested he attend a junior boarding school for a year and reapply the next cycle.

We knew next to nothing about junior boarding schools but our consultant gave us background information on the three she felt were most appropriate. All were within two hours of home and all terrific schools, but one she felt would be the best fit for our child. She arranged for us to visit on short notice. The tour guide was an intelligent, friendly boy and our son said that despite the rain, the school had a happy feel. The paperwork was submitted immediately, facilitated by the brevity of junior boarding school applications in comparison to the many essays required by prep schools. In one of the nicest touches we've experienced in our admissions journey, the school's Director of Admissions called shortly thereafter to tell us personally that our son had been accepted.

That Speed-bump Worked-out for the Best
He had a great ninth grade year at that school. In a supportive environment that truly understands boys, he studied with bright, engaging teachers, was coached by enthusiastic, talented adults who encouraged good sportsmanship and dedication, had terrific opportunities to participate in theater and the academic team and had the fun of living with boys from all over the world and this country without the pressure of trying to impress girls. He was able to prove that he could thrive in a boarding environment and that he could succeed at sports he had never been exposed to in his small school at home. He also had a fresh set of references from a school well-known to the high schools to which he next applied.  

The school has a great placement office with which we worked, but we also chose to retain our consultant again. She knew our son better than the placement office and also was supporting a smaller pool of kids. This time we again looked at nine schools, six of which were new to us. Although we understood the benefit of looking farther afield, we were clear that we wanted him within two hours of home.

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, our author writes under the pen name "Boarding School Mom" and all family, child consultant, and school names will be changed or omitted. You can reach AQ's Boarding School Mom at [email protected].

Photo Credit: bwats2
With Peabody House, Proctor Academy's new dormitory for 16 students and two faculty apartments, the school brings to life and ties together a history and growing commitment of stewardship to resources and the environment.

Proctor has a long history of environment connection and awareness through projects such as the school's woodlot and efforts to become carbon neutral.

With Peabody House, Proctor brings a system of responsible efficiencies to bear on community living. Peabody Hall will benefit from superior insulation, geothermal heating and cooling, electronic window management and boilers that can consume both oil and wood chips.

Headmaster Mike Henriques explains, "We teach by example.  These investments in ecological sustainability are ultimately cost-effective for the school."

You can read more about it on Chuck's Corner, a blog written by Chuck Will, a long time Proctor faculty member. Checkout the Concord Monitor's coverage here and here.

Photo credit: Proctor Academy
We're always expounding on the boarding school experience and the fact that relationships set the boarding school experience apart. For students and faculty, the crux of the boarding school experience is what you make of your opportunities and relationships.

We recently found this reflection by a Phillips Andover alumnus and we like it- a lot.  It doesn't sugarcoat the boarding experience, but the author makes a nice, concise argument as to why boarding school is a great fit and experience for some students.

Read Chelsea Page's column from the Georgetown Voice.

Midland School's Director of Admission, Derek Svennungsen, spoke with AdmissionsQuest boarding school blog about the school and progressive education. Midland, located in Los Olivos, CA, is an all-boarding, co-educational college preparatory school. If you're not familiar with the school, here's a brief description from their site:

"As other schools get larger and build more buildings and create more overhead, Midland makes do with redwood classrooms and cabins, an intentional and profound educational philosophy, and a belief that students, and adults, benefit greatly by living close to nature. As our students learn to do more with less, they also live--on a daily basis--the values of independence, interdependence, and stewardship of the land. As we continue to stay close to our mission and philosophy, Midland remains a powerful antidote to society's excesses and materialism."

We thank Derek for participating in our Q&A series.

Question: How is Midland a classically progressive school?
Derek Svennungsen: Connection is core of Midland's program. Academic classes connect students to the land in powerful ways. Freshmen take Midland 101, a class where students are on the property at least once a week. Students learn how to use maps and compasses, study the school's geography and history, learn the native and non-native flora, and take several camping trips whose purpose is to connect their learning to their lives.

Other classes, such as Writing with a Sense of Place, Geology, and Naturalist Studies, all make extensive use of the outdoors. Sophomores, in their chemistry class, install a solar array to help power the school. And as a culmination of their academic experience, each senior writes and presents a senior thesis, an extensive paper based on some question they want to answer.

Our facilities further contribute to the experience; classrooms are simple redwood cabins, one of which has only three walls, and are wood heated. This simplicity connects students to the natural world, and to each other, because there is nothing artificial to interrupt the specific and unique learning experiences that Midland offers.

Beyond the classroom, Midland's job system puts kids in direct control over the running of the school. Midland hires no custodial or wait staff; all campus jobs are done by students, and the job program is overseen by senior job heads. When a 14-year old is learning how to do dishes with a 17-year old, and they work together every day for an entire semester, an invaluable sense of pride, empowerment, and connection emerges.

Even in our rusticity and labor-intensive approach to living and learning, Midland is steeped in progressive values.

Q: What does progressive education cultivate in students?
DS: Today's youth don't spend much time working on the behalf of others. In our "do this for me" society, it is rare to be of genuine service. Midland counters this attitude by directly involving students in the academic and job programs. So instead of looking for others to solve problems, Midland students learn to be active and engaged, and look for ways to contribute. What occurs, then, is a unique combination of independence and interdependence. Students learn how to do things on their own, but most of what they do at Midland is done for the greater good of the community. This is a powerful lesson that can only be taught experientially and on a daily basis.

The best example of this is our Shower Fire system. The student showers are heated by wood fire, and each day, it is a different student's responsibility to make and stoke the shower fire. So the student is sifting ashes, cutting wood, and starting and maintaining a fire, all on his or her own. And every other student benefits from this one student's efforts. There is very little resistance to these job requirements, because it is the way the school is run, and the seniors are in charge of all these systems. So being of service becomes a natural, even a welcome, part of each student's experience here. It gets in the blood.

Q: How is progressive education valuable today?
DS: Most schools present themselves as places where a wide range of things will be done for the student. The promotion of this value has dangerous effects on students, who learn to expect things to be done for them and available to them.

At Midland, we look at it the other way: if you come to Midland, think of all the things you can do to benefit the school. This is a progressive and student-centered way of looking at what education is really for. And the results are students who don't expect to be pampered, who are accountable, and who want to be connected. This is why progressive education, and The Midland Experience, are so valuable today.

Q: It seems like understanding and connecting and sharing with others is a Midland cornerstone?
DS: We have two all-school assemblies each day, run by the two senior head prefects. Everyone has a chance to contribute during these assemblies. Five nights per week, we have family style dinners, in which faculty and students are mixed together by the senior head prefects, and each student stays at that assigned table for the week. This nightly chance to talk, eat together, and teach appropriate table manners is a centerpiece of our community. There is always something from our garden in the meal, often harvested by students earlier in the day or week. After dinner, many students study in faculty homes, which further connects students and adults.

It sounds like empathy is one the qualities that Midland students grow to understand? Midland is a tough place to go to school. The daily demands of academics, jobs, athletics, the environment, and living in a small community pose challenges that no other school offers. Midland students, having made the choice to be a part of this unique experience, are naturally empathetic. They understand that it's difficult, and they understand that everyone is making sacrifices here as we work against society's "me first" attitude. They've made the choice to be here because they believe in connectedness, in hard work, and, whether they know it or not, progressive education. We think John Dewey would feel right at home here at Midland School.

For more information on Midland School, visit their web site of submit a catalog request.

My Introduction to Online Tutoring

I'm a relative newbie when it comes to web tutoring so I was more than happy to hop on a call with the owners of ziizoo.com to learn about their online tutoring company.

ziizooTutors that partner with ziizoo set their own rates and students grade the quality of their work, which in turn is posted to the public tutor profiles. Think e-bay for tutoring.

It's a simple (and from what I gathered) effective way to ensure delivery of quality services to each and every client. Of course, the other thing I found very cool is their web platform that combines web 2.0 tools like instant messaging and online whiteboards.

Most tutors focus on the core academic courses (i.e. Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, High School English, etc.), but a few list SSAT prep as an offering. Let me know if you decide to check them out. I'd love to hear how ziizoo works for you.


Hillside School joins a growing roster of schools incorporating energy efficient green technology into their newest generation of buildings. The common thread among these schools is a growing dedication to environmental responsibility and stewardship.

Hillside's Academic and Health Center features "specially tinted glass to better manage solar heating throughout the building; the implementation of recycled materials in the center's flooring, ceiling tiles, window blinds and acoustic tiles; and the use of environmentally sound materials in the manufacture of classrooms, student desk and chairs and lab stools."

The building achieves even greater efficiency by using a geothermal energy system that pumps cool water, stored in wells below ground, throughout the building's piping system.  Additionally "green roof" technology allows for growing grasses and other greenery on the roof, which can further reduce heating and cooling needs.

"In many ways, the new Academic and Health Center is representative of Hillside's continuing growth and commitment toward achieving excellence in junior boarding school education."  Hillside Headmaster David Beecher explained.

You can read more about Hillside's Academic and Health Center in the Community Advocate (Westborough, MA).

Photo credit: Hillside School
Our son attended a small, private, K-8, day school in our rural area. There were twelve kids in his graduating class. He had had the opportunity to sit in on a history class and have a tour of one, highly-competitive, boarding school in seventh grade and was sure that's where he wanted to go. His school didn't really have a high school placement effort, so we made a wise investment in hiring an educational placement consultant. We are now on our third cycle with her and have found her support and counsel invaluable.

She interviewed our son and provided us with a list of schools to explore via view books and web-sites and, from which, we narrowed the list to nine at which we would eventually interview. She wisely advised us to consider schools considered less competitive along with the "name" schools. She also encouraged us to look beyond the 100-mile radius we had initially imposed as schools seek geographic as well as ethnic diversity.  

By mid-September all nine visits were scheduled and the navy blazer had been purchased, and we set forth sure that our son, being the great kid that he is, would have many choices.  We were astounded by the facilities of many schools which seem to rival college campuses. A strong sense of community and caring embraced us at some schools, while at others we were dismayed when we saw athletes injured on the playing fields whose teammates couldn't be bothered to give them a hand up and ask if they were o.k.

We saw schools with more structure and restrictions than we impose at home, and we saw schools with what seemed like such little oversight, he might as well have his own apartment in the city. At some schools the admissions staff clearly were pleased that we were considering their school and made every effort to make us feel welcome, but at some we had the impression we were wasting the admission officer's time.

In my next post, I'll talk about a speed-bump and how the consultant helped us work through the process.

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, our author writes under the pen name "Boarding School Mom" and all family, child consultant, and school names will be changed or omitted. You can reach AQ's Boarding School Mom at [email protected].

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