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OHA adds admission agreement with Mary Baldwin University


We are pleased to announce that Oak Hill Academy and Mary Baldwin University entered into an admission articulation agreement this week. The agreement essentially guarantees Academy graduates entrance to the university once baseline requirements have been satisfied. MBU is a small, private, coeducational university in historic Staunton, Virginia.

Campus of Mary Baldwin University

In establishing this agreement, Mary Baldwin University becomes one of a growing number of post-secondary partners who have established such agreements with OHA. Our partner universities are eager to accept Oak Hill students in light of their obvious college-readiness.

Partnerships like this bring added value to the college placement work accomplished by the Academy, and also benefit our university partners in their efforts to admit high-quality students. Oak Hill Academy is committed to offering our students the best possible array of college options, and will continue to work tirelessly in establishing meaningful partnerships with our colleagues at the college level.

Todd M. Giszack
Oak Hill Academy

Oak Hill Academy, Bridgewater College sign guaranteed admission agreement

From Augusta Free Press January 11, 2020:

Bridgewater College and Oak Hill Academy have entered into a partnership to support their shared goal of creating clear pathways to success for their students.

The guaranteed admission agreement, signed Dec. 2, 2019, by Bridgewater President Dr. David W. Bushman and Oak Hill Principal Todd Giszack, guarantees that students at Oak Hill, a coeducational college preparatory school located in Grayson County, who meet all BC requirements in place at the time of the application will be admitted to the college.

In addition, the Oak Hill students will receive a $26,000 McKinney ACE scholarship with a total value of $104,000 over eight semesters, along with an Out-of-State Incentive Scholarship or the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant, depending on the student’s state of residency.

Guaranteed admission agreements are often seen among two-year and four-year higher education institutions (such as the guaranteed admission agreement between Blue Ridge Community College and Bridgewater College signed in April 2019) to help establish a pipeline of qualified students. Jarret Smith, Director of Admissions at Bridgewater College, said the college will continue to explore similar partnerships with regional private schools whose students understand the benefits associated with a private school education.

Oak Hill Academy Principal Todd Giszack, who initially contacted Bridgewater about establishing the admission agreement, said the partnership will be attractive to both current and prospective Oak Hill students.

“We are really excited about this partnership with Bridgewater College and believe there will be great interest in this among our students,” Giszack said. “One hundred percent of our student body is admitted here because we believe they can be successful in college and in our college preparatory curriculum.”

Giszack said Oak Hill, which serves students in grades 8-12, will counsel current and prospective students and their families about the admission agreement with Bridgewater and its benefits. He said Oak Hill students often flourish at smaller, private liberal arts colleges, in environments similar to their high school education. Per the GAA, Bridgewater College admissions representatives will visit the Oak Hill campus up to three times a year to speak with prospective students and to share more information about the college.

“This partnership is an ideal fit because both Bridgewater and Oak Hill Academy have long histories of enrolling students who are looking to build connections for life,” said Bridgewater College Vice President for Enrollment Management Michael Post. “It recognizes our shared goal to enhance access to high-quality education at the high school and college levels.”

Oak Hill Academy is a coeducational, college preparatory boarding school located in Grayson County, Va., that serves approximately 150 students in grades 8-12. Established in 1878, the school attracts students from 13 countries and 27 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.

Bridgewater College is a private, four-year liberal arts college located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Founded in 1880, it was the state’s first private, coeducational college. Today, Bridgewater College is home to nearly 1,800 undergraduate students.

OHA student commended by National Merit Scholarship Program

Will ’20 after the presentation.

The President of Oak Hill Academy, a historic college prep boarding school in southwestern Virginia, announced today that 12th grader William H. of Severna Park, Maryland, has been named a Commended Student in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program. President Michael Groves noted that this recognition requires a student’s PSAT score to be among the best in the nation. Heard’s score placed him among the top 2% of all test takers.

A spokesperson for the NMSP commented that “Those being named ‘Commended Students’ have demonstrated outstanding potential for academic success. These students represent a valuable national resource. Recognizing their accomplishments as well as the key role their schools play in their academic development is vital to the advancement of educational excellence in our nation. We hope that this recognition will help broaden their educational opportunities and encourage them as they continue their pursuit of academic success.”

The 2019-20 year is Will’s second at Oak Hill Academy. The framed commendation certificate was presented to Will by Dr. Groves at the school’s morning assembly Friday, September 27. The OHA school community congratulates Will on this amazing accomplishment!

How does boarding school motivate, engage, and help students become successful?

A structured, personal environment where academic and character growth is nurtured helps develop students’ self-confidence to express themselves and move toward their goals.  Small, college-prep classes address learning styles and engage students at a level they may be missing in their current school’s environment. Oak Hill Academy’s supportive approach fosters competency and academic achievement. By giving students enough responsibility to achieve a sense of independence in a safe, supervised, and motivating setting, our boarding high school often becomes the place where fear, being hesitant or easily influenced by peers in a negative way are replaced with determination and mature decision-making processes.  We are proud of the pivotal, life-changing transformations experienced here at Oak Hill. These changes happen in part because students are encouraged to experiment and develop their own leadership styles.  There are numerous campus leadership positions available such as Honor Court member, ambassador, dorm assistant, and club/activity officers. Additionally, many of our students develop interpersonal skills and service leadership through peer interactions, being peer tutors, and acting as mentors for younger students.  A new environment can be a “turning point,” and is an opportunity to break old patterns. Oak Hill Academy allows students to redefine themselves in a fresh and supportive setting.

We invite you to schedule a campus tour to experience, for yourself, the special community here in the beautiful mountains of Southwestern Virginia.  If you would like to discuss how Oak Hill Academy may become the Turning Point for your student, please contact the Admission Office today.

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Oak Hill Academy Boarding School Promoting Confidence and Motivation

With Oak Hill Academy’s 95% college acceptance rate over the last 12 years, we are squarely positioned in the college prep boarding school market.  However, it is our unique approach, and emphasis on personal growth, that makes Oak Hill Academy stand out from the crowd.  Our ideal student fit is one in which growth is the goal.  Families often find us when their student’s challenges center on needing to address issues of confidence (often showing up as a lack of motivation) and finding renewed excitement about an academic future, including college preparation.  Today, let’s talk a little about how Oak Hill Academy is intentional in an approach that fosters a return to motivation, positivity and a growth mindset.

  • Our classroom size is often the game changer for students.  With an average size of 10 students per classroom, the environment is much less intimidating, and promotes relationships between teachers and their students.  In these small-group classrooms, students are also more comfortable asking questions and finding their voices through participation in class discussion.
  • Overwhelmingly, students are choosing to attend Oak Hill Academy to grow.  They are coming here to redefine themselves and change their paths.  Most of our students are not happy with how school has been going for them, so they come to us seeking a new approach that either addresses a learning style or learning difference, or an issue with school anxiety that has made success in their current school elusive.  This means that our students are not judgmental of each other. Neither do they feel that they have to hide or avoid challenges.  There is an overriding attitude here that we are all stepping outside our comfort zones in order to grow–and that’s okay!  This attitude shows up in the way our students like to study together, and they share a non-competitive spirit of encouragement in our school building.
  • Our teachers understand that our students are in need of being built up.  Our approach is not to water down our academics. Instead, our relationships allow us to push students past their self-imposed limits in a very personal way.  Tutorials and extra help are the norm here.  We believe that once a student tastes success and connects positive habits with academic achievement, they want more of it. And in turn, they come to expect more from themselves.  Many of our upperclassmen are taking college credit or AP classes, after beginning their enrollment with us missing that kind of aspiration. I’ve come to view this phenomenon as evidence of how our students grow while at Oak Hill Academy.

Please see Hannah’s story below to see what this kind of growth looks like:


If you are looking for a boarding school option to address your student’s issues of self confidence or motivation, I invite you to look closer at Oak Hill Academy.  We view this kind of student as 100% “mission appropriate,” and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss your goals for a great boarding school fit.  Please reach out to the Admission Department through an inquiry form  or an email, or simply pick up the phone and call (276) 579-2619. We are happy to show you our personal approach.

Anxiety Issues Addressed in a Small Boarding School Setting: Oak Hill Academy

For the current generation of adolescents, anxiety issues are becoming THE biggest obstacle to being able to function at a high level, according to many mental health reports. According to a recent Small Boarding School Association presentation given by James Madison University’s  A. Renee Staton, Ph.D., LPC, the trends are notable:

  • 25% of children ages 13-18 have mild to moderate anxiety.
  • Anxiety in children and teens often overlaps with depression.
  • Anxiety is among the earliest of developing pathologies.

Before we talk about where this anxiety seems to be coming from, let’s look at its effects in the context of the families who reach out to Oak Hill Academy seeking a new approach for their students.  Anxiety often has a significant detrimental effect on academic performance, which echoes into a student’s self-image.  As studies have long indicated, students need to feel secure in themselves before they can most effectively tackle cognitive tasks or worry about personal growth.  Where there is insecurity or anxiety, there often is an academic downturn. If not addressed, poor performance rather quickly looks like a lack of motivation.  It’s important to remember that this “motivation issue” very often has real roots in an environment full of anxiety-producing circumstances: large classrooms where struggles go unnoticed; gaming as a path to self worth; social media feeds that present unsustainable lifestyles and evoke unhealthy comparisons; being the target of mean-spirited social media comments that cut to the quick and make kids feel exposed, to name a few.  Looking for a new environment (and often a new peer group) is what spurs families to begin investigating boarding school options.

Why does Oak Hill Academy stand out in a boarding school search like this?

Size:  Our size makes us unique in the boarding school world. With an average enrollment of 150 students, and a class size average of 10, our size is conducive to a low-pressure social environment. Everyone knows everyone.There are so many overlapping circles of friends that cliques disappear. And, except for our basketball program (which is highly competitive), competition for a place in clubs, sports, and activities like drama and music is at a minimum.  Students become less reluctant to try new things, and pursuing a special interest engenders confidence that crosses over into other areas. In our small classes, teachers are able to address different learning styles and facilitate class discussions beyond just lecturing. Relationships flourish because our teachers interact more personally with each student, and the students are able to be much more collaborative. The difference can be as basic as a student having more courage to raise their hand in a small class. Our size and relational approach also means that we know each other well and our faculty and staff can spot needs quickly and reach out with support on those inevitable tougher days.  Nobody gets “lost” at Oak Hill Academy.

Growth:  Everyone is choosing to attend Oak Hill Academy for the same basic reason: to grow.  Most obviously, the growth is academic, but for many of our students this includes social and personal growth.  With everyone focusing on self-improvement, there is a lot less pressure and competition in our classrooms and dorms. Our students would much rather study together and have each other do well than to compete for a class ranking. As students find their footing and confidence, they feel good about how they are doing and become encouraging to each other.  After years of needing (and often not receiving) support in a classroom setting, many of our students are extremely proud to be in a position to give support. This phenomenon is transformative. Peer tutoring, both through our formal program and through the social network of dorm living, is a big part of the picture at Oak Hill Academy. Socially, as each student is working on their own growth, we become more forgiving of each other, and do not give up on each other.  Our college prep community fosters new feelings of acceptance, belonging, and competence.

Routine: Oak Hill’s structured environment includes scheduled study time each evening, daily extra help sessions, and office hours for teachers, which means that our students can establish a healthy routine.  Routine is often the catalyst for stress reduction for our students.  Having the safety valve of knowing that our teachers are not only willing, but scheduled, to provide extra help is an immediate stress-reliever.  This shoulder-to-shoulder time, called “8th period,” is a game changer. It’s where relationships are deepened, strategies are learned, and confidence is found.  There is as much coaching going on here as teaching.

Cell phone and social media limits:  Our structure includes healthy boundaries on cell phone and internet use that, over time, provides substantial stress relief.  Our cell phone policy (weekends only) and filtered internet access (no social media) most definitely makes us stand out in stark contrast to other college prep boarding schools.  Initially, most of our students worry that reduced access to social media and the world of texting will cause MORE stress–you know, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). For some students, our limits remain the biggest single obstacle to seeing the bigger picture of opportunity that Oak Hill Academy offers.  Here’s what actually happens is almost every case:  Life becomes simpler, face-to-face conversations become more meaningful, and relationships become deeper and more supportive.  There is less judgment to deal with, and students can be themselves without having to present an image or compete with other people’s images.  It is a breath of fresh air for our anxious students. And they can now focus on the important tasks of taking care of business, caring about their grades, and discovering new interests.

If your family is looking for a boarding school option where addressing your student’s stress or anxiety is part of the goal, we welcome your call at (276) 579-2619.  Please continue to look closely at our school’s website and reach out to discuss your student with our Admission Department.  If we are encouraged that Oak Hill is a potential fit, we can then look toward a campus visit very soon.  We operate with rolling admission, considering appropriate applicants for mid-year entry, summer school, or Fall 2019-20.