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AdmissionsQuest's onBoarding School blog anniversaryAn epiphany struck us today; onBoarding Schools, our boarding school blog, launched one year ago today. Via serendipity, or just plain old "dumb luck," this first birthday coincides with this 150th post.

We've averaged almost 3 entries a week since starting with Brian doing lots of the heavy lifting. He has done a fantastic job keeping AQ's finger on the pulse of the boarding school world.

I extend heartfelt thanks to our readers & contributors who keep the questions and conversations thoughtful and lively. Our readers move the dialog; I hope you'll continue reading and commenting.

Photo credit: darkewolf
During the recent IECA conference I was able to find some time outside of the conference hotel to visit three Maryland girls' boarding schools: St. Timothy's School, Garrison Forest School and Oldfields School.

Visiting schools is the bread and butter of the consultant trade. Visits allow me to check-in and see how my students are doing and I'm able to get a feel and impression for where the school is presently. We all know what the admission materials say. I like to see where the school stands today; what are the happenings and how is everyone- faculty, students, administration- thinking.

Below, I've shared my quick impressions of these three girls schools as each applies their approaches and perspectives to girls' education.

St. Timothy's School
St. Timothy's is a small, safe, lovely diverse campus with a supportive community providing each student with a very positive and well-rounded liberal arts education. I found lots of energy on campus with the Brownie and Spider teams displaying their school sprit in a very positive manner.

Academically St. T's provides a very challenging, college preparatory curriculum based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) program (for more on the IB visit: St. Timothy's School: North America's only all-girls boarding school offering the IB). The School is very inviting for a student who would enjoy a small single sex boarding community with horses and who wants success academically, socially, personally. Additionally, St. T's offers some very interesting summer and community service programs.

I found St. Timothy's girls to be a warm, friendly and very hard working students. Administration, faculty, and students were all outstanding and the common areas and dorms were warm and inviting to all.

Oldfield's School
Oldfields enjoys a diverse student body with a college-preparatory curriculum in a rural family-like community. Oldfield's commits to meeting the needs and maximizing the potential of each student.

The school has a fine visual and performing arts program, riding, dance, and extensive extracurricular activities. Students and teachers use wireless lap top computers and smart boards.

For two weeks each year, the school's "May Program" gives each student an opportunity to explore an interest in depth. Each student breaks from their regular classes to immerse themselves in a real-world experience that connects to one of their interests. From the study of biology in Costa Rica, to the business of a horse shows, community service in Peru, or comedy television writing, students select from a dozen different options. The "May Program" has been a hallmark of the school for thirty five years and many Oldfields alumnae have gone on to careers discovered through "May Program."

Garrison Forest School
Garrison Forest provides a very challenging academic atmosphere for girl's in a primarily day school with a small boarding population.

The girls create a lot of positive energy on campus. They were self-assured and presented themselves impressively. The GFS/JHU (WISE) program for women in science and engineering stood out. Johns Hopkins University guides this program to support women in math and sciences; check it out at: . They also offer many AP's, a wide range of electives and extensive art courses (dance, photography) and a full athletic program with turf fields which also include riding and polo.

Day girls are encouraged to live on campus and participate in weekend activities on a regular basis. Each day student I met assured me that they have taken advantage on living on campus for four weeks or they themselves became a boarder for their senior year.

Need help with your boarding school search? Contact Marylou to learn how she can help guide you through the admission process.
As the past admission director at Dublin School, a co-ed small boarding school in Dublin, NH, I'm now forced to look differently at the school- with consultant's eye. I now have to think about Dublin using a consultant's critique:

"Does the school do what it says it does; what kind of students will do well here; and are Dublin's students healthy and pleased with their work; is the school healthy; how are the faculty; is the school vibrant?"
I'm happy to say Dublin does make a difference. The school has a great sense of community; students and faculty have a special closeness that comes with small school environment. All students enjoy success in some significant way be it through their academics, visual and performing arts, athletics. The school brings the appropriate level of challenge to each student. Everyone has a voice on this campus.  

Brad Bates, the new Head of School, is the perfect Headmaster with his leadership and direction. I would not think twice about sending a student or a family to visit Dublin School. It is not only safe, but probably the most caring small boarding school community in the northeast. Visit the school's website to learn more.

I had the pleasure of participating on a tour of two Western MA boarding schools & an 'early college' program (more on that below). As I did with my Ojai Valley boarding school trip, I typed up my visit notes to provide you with my impressions of each school. I hope you find them helpful.

Buxton School
Founded by Ellen Geer Sangster, Buxton School is located on her old family estate in the Berkshires. It is a small, diverse, dynamic, exciting, comfortable and a flexible boarding community where caring teachers and students form relationships in a non-graded academic setting. Students are assessed and evaluated three times a year and new students have a fourth assessment. Facilitating relationships and growth, Buxton students change rooms and roommates three times a year. I liked the positive energy on campus both from students and faculty. Buxton offers a wide ranging curriculum from writing, to fabulous art work (displayed throughout the school), to African drumming and dancing.

Students have no internet access in dorm rooms. However, internet access is available in all classroom buildings. A newly renovated academic building is light, bright and takes advantage of the beautiful setting. A new arts building will be under way this year which will only add to their mission and wonderful campus. Buxton is a very academic and intriguing school where education matters in significant life-changing and world-changing ways designed for highly motivated students. The community lives by "Buxton Customs," a one page set of community guidelines, rather than a formal rule book.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Bard College at Simon's Rock
Bard College at Simon's Rock is the only four-year college of the liberal arts and sciences specifically designed to provide bright, highly motivated students with the opportunity to begin college in a residential setting after the tenth or eleventh grade. They have small classes which are intense and rigorous; everyone is engaged in discussion. At Simon's Rock students are encouraged to test theory in practice - in the laboratory, the studio, and the field, in rehearsal and performance - to develop sense of themselves as thinkers and creators with individual voices and perspectives. A very impressive campus with a very enriching academic program both individually, extended campus projects, internships and field experience and study abroad program.

My notes from a recent visit to  The Winchendon School...

I didn't expect to be so taken by the beautiful campus; beyond beauty, the campus boasts a golf course, new academic building and  new ice hockey rink. The student body appears very diverse and multicultural.

Winchendon is working to expand the strength of its boys athletics to it's girls teams. Boys athletics sports strong PG programs in boy's soccer, basketball and ice hockey. The school will have a girl's ice hockey team for the first time this year.

Academics are influenced by Ted Sizer's principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools, with "teachers as coaches, students as workers." The curriculum emphasizes individual skill building, team effort and positive reinforcement.

Students seem happy and focused! Students with learning difference could be very successful academically at Winchendon through the support of their daily tracking and grading system. John Kerney seems a great new Head of School who has made some good changes and will make some more.

Photo credit: The Winchendon School

As an educational consultant it's important for me to visit and revisit schools to keep a pulse on the community, administration changes and on current & past students. Not to mention curriculum modifications and new courses being offered (for instance more boarding schools this year and next are offering Mandarin Chinese). With this in mind, I recently visited a group of boarding schools in California's beautiful Ojai Valley.

These schools have much to offer with the wonderful year-round weather where they can eat their meals outside and also hang out on their beautiful campuses. Students are outside using their environment for academics, skiing, hiking, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, surfing in the pacific, water polo, volleyball, swimming, etc.  Actually what's not to like about a California boarding school?
Below are my impressions (in notes form) of the schools I visited:

Dunn School: Excellent learning skills program; small; caring; talented students; artistically sound; good academics; great personal attention to students and families. Friendly hands on type of school. They're welcoming a new headmaster in July. Fifty years of experience; beautiful campus; art building houses a fantastic program!  School setting and campus are absolutely breathtaking; incredible scenery-- horse country.
Midland School: A school with a clear mission that definitely prepares kids in academics, life skills and beyond. Excellent academics along with a faculty committed to the school and its philosophy. Strong relationships between faculty and students in a simple, self-reliant lifestyle. Close to nature in teaching students to appreciate life's fundamental joys and challenges. Definitely a school community entrusting students to take leadership roles while having collective responsibility in taking care of oneself and others in the community. I loved Midland's simple lifestyle and values. Beautiful land with very bright students who are both ambitious, artistic and take advantage of their 2,860 acre classroom!
Oak Grove School: Offers a small boarding high school in which students live in a home-like dormitory. A totally vegetarian campus; growing their own organic foods that are prepared in-house. I feel this will be the first green campus among independent schools. Students were very interactive, friendly, genuinely love their school and give back to it daily. Great science facility; strong visual and performing arts; strong music program. Kids were very at ease and comfortable with their faculty. Food was excellent!  They have recently been featured in a TV show about healthy eating for kids and living green. I loved the school and they are trying to grow there boarding population. It truly is a breath of fresh air!
Besant Hill School: Visual and performing arts are outstanding. Beautiful campus complete with a yurt were they hold school meetings (a terrific space). Very talented musicians who compose & preform their own music. Interesting campus. Perfect for the self-motivated student.
Villanova Preparatory School
:  An Augustinian High School; strong academically and athletically. Has a very high Asian boarding population. Community service is very important. Lovely campus and facilities.

Here's are two list to checkout as you explore boarding schools in CA:

Ojai Valley boarding schools

All California boarding schools

Kimball Union Academy, Meriden, NH

At lunch I was able to meet with my student (freshman) and sit down with his advisor, dorm parent, and Admission Director.  On this particular visit I was made aware of the F.O.A.L.S- the Freshman Orientation and Learning Strategies program which is a required course for all freshmen during the first trimester.  This course explores a variety of material including library resources, technology, assessment and individual learning styles, organizational skills (notebook set-up, plan book use, time management), note taking, listening, memorization techniques, reading and research skills, writing skill development, test-taking strategies).  The end of my visit resulted in contacting Cynthia Howe’s Director of Learning Advancement to get needed help for my student. 
I appreciate this communication as a professional and as a parent.
Cushing Academy, Ashburnham, MA

If Cushing Academy is not on your radar screen it should be!
In a recent visit to Cushing I encountered a warm and friendly campus with a vast array of opportunities and encouragement for both students and faculty. Dr. James Tracy, the new Cushing head has brought to campus an emphasis on being global citizens with opportunities for 21st century leadership on and off the Cushing campus.  Cushing’s broad offerings include honors and AP course sections in many subjects, Mandarin Chinese, vibrant performing and visual arts programs, strong athletic teams, study abroad internships opportunities.  Dr. Tracy describes Cushing as “HCFâ€� Happy Cushing Family and so do I.
Another jewel of Northern New England!

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Marylou Marcus category.

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