CollegeEducationHigh School

Boarding school is a foreign concept for a lot of people. Some people might mistakenly think that boarding schools are just for wealthy, privileged, white kids, who are troubled and whose parents want to get rid of them. In reality, a boarding school is almost like a college for younger students. The application process is similar to colleges’ too – you need to submit PSAT test scores, TOEFL for international students, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and often have an interview. Some students say that they’ve worked harder in boarding school than college.

Boarding school prepares you for college. While other freshmen in college might be experiencing home sickness and having difficulties adjusting to living in a dormitory, boarding school alums have already gone through these experiences, and moving to college is as stress-free as moving into a new dorm. Boarding school’s rigorous schedule prepares you for the future. Students are typically in class until 4PM, and then they usually have mandatory sports, dinner, “study hall” (usually an 8-10PM time period for students to do homework; social media websites, like Facebook, might be shut off during that time), and at 11PM, lights are turned off and the Internet shuts down. This schedule helps students develop their time management skills and leaves no room for procrastination. Students must also give back to their community and fulfill a certain amount of community service hours. Classes at some schools are based on the Harkness table principle (oval table with enough room to seat 12 students and a teacher) and revolve around discussion, rather than lectures. Once you graduate, you’re more than prepared for college and have a powerful alumni network and lifelong friends, who are like brothers and sisters.

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Myth #1: Boarding school is like Hogwarts!

Books, movies, and TV shows have created a “classic” image boarding school life. People compare it with shows and movies, like Zoey 101 and the Harry Potter series. While boarding school students do have fun on and off campus on the weekends, surviving boarding school takes a lot of work, dedication, motivation, and self-discipline. The shows are right, however, about eccentric personalities and the formation of long-lasting friendships.

Myth #2: Diversity is rare at boarding school.

Boarding schools draw students from a variety of backgrounds and different geographic areas domestically and internationally. They actively seek diversity in order to create meaningful opportunities for students to interact with each other – not only do they study, play sports, participate in various extracurricular organizations, and volunteer together, but also live together. The conversations in the classrooms and beyond force you to be open-minded because people from various backgrounds share their diverse opinions. Students challenge each other’s views, but also respect each other tremendously. Boarding schools do everything to be safe and inclusive spaces for students, at the same time requires them to step out of their comfort zones. Most importantly, a boarding school is a home for students, faculty members and their families, and pets.

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Myth 3: Kids don’t have fun at boarding school.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that there are a lot of rules and curfews at any boarding school. If you want to go off campus, you have to sign out and back in, and if you’re leaving overnight your parents or guardians have to approve your visit and your host has to confirm you’re coming.

Even though strong academics are a key focus of boarding schools, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Throughout this journey, you make incredible friends. You bond easily in various situations; if you’re an honor-roll student, some schools make “study hall” optional as a reward, so you and other honor-roll students can go to a café and play ping pong or watch TV. Maybe you bond while traveling to other schools and playing a sport competitively; maybe you connect through the conversations you have in the dining hall or activities on the weekends.

Some boarding schools don’t allow you to drive a car if you live on campus, but the school provides buses during the weekends to take you to various events or trips, you just have to sign up. Want to go to a mall, or a movie theatre? They’ll take you!

Myth 4: Boarding school is for kids who are having trouble at home or school.

There are two types of boarding schools – college-preparatory boarding schools and therapeutic boarding schools. Sometimes the two are confused, which causes misperceptions that boarding schools are only for “troubled” children.

College-preparatory boarding schools are for motivated students who are already doing well academically and are looking for new challenges. All the schools profiled in Boarding School Review are exclusively college-preparatory boarding schools. While preparing students for college is also a goal at therapeutic boarding schools, they are equipped to work with students who face various challenges, such as behavioral or emotional problems, learning differences, or substance abuse.  Boarding School Review does not list therapeutic boarding schools.

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Myth #5: Everyone wears uniforms.

While this might be true at some schools, others have dress code requirements, not uniforms. For example, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday might be required professional business attire, Wednesday is a casual “Polo shirt” day, and Friday might be formal where you have to wear your school’s blazer and colors.

A lot of thought should go into your decision whether a boarding schools is right for you. You should be able to answer the following questions: Do you feel ready to move out from your house and step out from your comfort zone? What sort of goals do you hope to achieve with the help of the school? Do you have good grades? Can your family afford your education or would you rather save money for college? Boarding schools are costly, with board and tuition ranging from $40 to even $70 thousand dollars. Of course, you can apply for financial aid and scholarships. Finally, is it worth going to a boarding school if you have great public or private schools in your area? Another option is attending a boarding school as a day student, if you live near by. It is also a good decision to enroll as a post-graduate (PG) student to raise your GPA if you don’t have the grades that would get you in to your dream college.

Images courtesy of Demi Vitkute

Culture

It’s that time of year again. Love is in the air, but you don’t have to save it all for your significant other. Parks and Recreation had its ladies gather on February 13th for a “Galentine’s” Day celebration. While the show is a comedy and depicts the holiday in a comedic way, embracing the idea is a great opportunity for you to take a break from your love life to hang out with your girl friends. My friends decided that the day following Valentine’s Day worked better for us – it’s all about finding time to appreciate your friends and spend time together. Here are some ways you can enjoy your own celebration:

Brunch

Who doesn’t love brunch? You get a wide variety of food because of the hybrid morning/afternoon time. It’s the perfect time to catch up with your pals and hear what kind of Valentine’s Day they had. This is a good way to squeeze in some time with your friends if you’ve all been busy at work and haven’t had time to see each other. Save your breaks and take a long lunch!

Candy and Gifts

You don’t have to get your friends a gift. However, the day after Valentine’s Day provides a lot of sales. You can get a lot of discounted candy to munch on or a nice movie to watch with your friends.

Relaxation

Holidays can be stressful but hanging out with your friends never has to be. My friends and I are movie fiends, so we do romantic comedy movie marathons. If your significant other refuses to sit through Sleepless In Seattle with you, you can watch it with your friends the next day. Another option is a group spa day. Do what you like and enjoy yourself.

These are just a few ways you can celebrate. You can do a book trade or a shopping trip together. It doesn’t have to be just your friends – your coworkers or family members can join in! The point is to show love for everyone in your life.

Image: Flickr

Culture

February 7th is National Send a Card to a Friend Day. I know it might seem like an excuse to sell greeting cards, but let’s not let that detail overshadow what good it can do. This blast from the past could be just the thing you need in the present. Wouldn’t you like to get a card in the mail?

Technology has evolved rapidly over the years. We can contact someone via email, Facebook, Skype, text and even more forms of social media. In dire situations, we call someone. We are essentially used to getting an immediate response from people. While that can be incredibly useful, speediness doesn’t necessarily need to be the most important thing in every situation.

Think of how you would feel getting something in the mail other than a bill or an advertisement. Did you ever get love letters in high school because texting wasn’t allowed in class? Or even get a nice note from a friend? I still have these treasures and they are nice to look back on. You are instantly transported to where you were in your life and the people you surrounded yourself with. It can be invaluable to have something substantial in front of you. You can take time to gather your thoughts and really put meaning into a letter or a card. Unlike a text that will get lost in a million others, letters have a better chance of standing the test of time.

We have forgotten how easy it is to do this. Here are a few benefits to sending a card:

  1. You only need a few supplies. All you need is a pen, a card or paper, an envelope and a stamp. You probably have all this stuff at home. If not, they are extremely easy to get.
  2. You can be as creative as you want. You could make a card from scratch and decorate it yourself.
  3. Don’t forget the message. You can also send an e-card if that is easier. The true point is to reach out to those closest to you. This an opportunity to make a lasting statement to someone. Don’t waste it. This is a way to show someone you are thinking of them on a day other than their birthday or a holiday.

So take the time to reach out to a friend. It’s never a bad time to do so. You might even brighten someone’s entire day. It’s a surprise that no one is expecting.

CollegeEducationHigh SchoolLearn

Everyone has that one teacher or professor that they just can’t stand – the one who seems to glare at you whenever you walk through the door, or maybe they don’t look at you at all and ignore you when you raise your hand. Everyone has one of those, but then there are the opposite kinds of teachers.

When you meet a teacher who isn’t a bore, a bully, or bothersome, you should get to know them. Maybe you already have a good friendship with that teacher, or maybe you’re on neutral terms but you’d like to get to know them better. It’s not sucking up or becoming the teacher’s pet. A genuine, solid, friendly relationship is a really reliable and comforting thing, and there are a few reasons why.

Mentorship.

When you become friends with a teacher, you’re more likely to get help from them for your assignments or projects. You need an advisor teacher? There you go. You’re struggling with a project and you’d like some tutor time during a lunch break or after school? Most likely, they’ll be willing to help. A lot of people don’t consider asking their teachers for help, but it shows your commitment to the class, and in return they will see your efforts.

*Keep in mind: when you apply for college, you need those teacher recommendations…

Advice.

Teachers have gone through high school and college. They’ve experienced the turmoils of teenage angst, the sense of confusion (“What am I going to do with my life?”), and everything in between. Most likely, they have gone through or know someone who has gone through what you are experiencing, and you can ask them for some life advice. You might get some interesting stories from them.

Connections.

You never know who your teachers know, especially college professors. When you’re looking for an internship or a job, even a side job such as being an assistant or babysitting, your teacher might know someone or somewhere that needs someone like you. Not only can your teachers recommend you, they can directly get you in touch with people at your future internship or job. Sometimes I feel icky asking for things like that, but I get offers without asking too, and that’s a great feeling. It means that the teacher/professor really thinks you can do it. Part of it is because they’ve gotten to know you so well.

Friendship.

Well, this one is a given. After graduation, you’re going to go to college or go work and you’re going to find yourself wondering how so-and-­so is doing. Once you’ve reached that comfort level with a teacher or professor, you can actually go get coffee or dinner with them. Once a year, I would meet up with an art teacher from high school to see how she is doing. Over the span of years since I’ve met her, she’s gotten married and had a son. Just as you would feel happy for a bestie who’s gotten married, there’s a soft spot inside for a teacher who was good to you, too.

Being friends with a teacher is an amazing thing. They’re helpful and reliable, and there is so much to be gained from a solid friendship. At the very least, it beats having to ask that grouchy math professor from junior year for a recommendation. Do your best to appreciate what your teachers are doing for you. If they aren’t so great, well, you can get through it. If they’re amazing, here’s your chance to get to know someone really interesting. Who knows, maybe they can help you out one day over a cup of tea!

Image: Bunches and Bits

CultureLearnSkills

One of the main lessons we learn growing up is that it is always okay to ask for help. That is very true. Yet, people have trouble receiving help in this new era. People who post their feelings on sites like Facebook are often accused of whining and needing attention. If you need advice, you need to ask for it directly. Your true friends will be there for you.

What do you do when you get bad advice? Trust your instincts. (If your instincts disagree with this statement, feel free to disregard it). If you think someone does not have your best interests at heart, you do not have to listen. Peer pressure is a good example of this. If someone wants you to have a drink and it’s legal, it is fine to indulge. However, if you have already had enough, then you do not have to drink to be cool. You know yourself better than anyone else does. You probably also have developed some sense of right and wrong. Even if you are lost and confused on issues and you ask for advice, it is not rude not to take it. The important thing is to respect that person who tried to help you.

Here are some tips to make sure that happens:

  1. Listen. Listen to someone’s advice even if it is not what you want to hear. It may be what you need to hear.
  2. Think about it for yourself. It may make you see things in a new light even if it does not solve your problem immediately. As I noted before, trust your instincts.
  3. Say thank you. Say it in words or a gesture such as buying them coffee. Even if what they said did not work out, at least they tried.

Giving advice can also be hard because you do not want to be responsible for leading someone down the wrong path. Sometimes you have not gone through what someone else is going though. The best you can do is just be there. If someone is coming to you for help, it makes them brave but vulnerable. Do not betray that trust. You are giving the gift of your experience. This could save someone from making a mistake that you have made yourself. You are also giving someone the benefit of your friendship, which will last much longer than any problem. The most important note is that in giving advice, it is not about you. It is about helping someone else. 

Here are some tips to make sure that happens:

  1. Make sure the person is ready for the information. If someone does not want to be helped, they will not accept any help. Specifically, see if they ask to know what you think. Sometimes people just want to be heard.
  2. Think about what you do know about the situation. Do your best to make an informed statement even if you feel out of your depth. If you have no idea what they are going through, it is okay to admit that. It gives them the chance to see if they still want your opinion.
  3. Be honest but be kind. The truth is important but it is not worth making the person you are helping feel judged. If they feel like you are against them, they might not accept your help. Try to see things from their perspective.

No matter what, you have to trust that what you’re doing is right. You have to be kind. You can always ask for help if you need it.   

Image: morguefile