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 I 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 https://www.oak-hill.net/admission/ or an email firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply pick up the phone and call (276) 579-2619. We are happy to show you our personal approach.
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. Please continue to look closely at our school’s website and reach out to discuss your student with our Admission Office. If we are encouraged that Oak Hill is a potential fit, we can then look toward a campus visit very soon. Our upcoming summer school session (June 18-July 20) offers a great opportunity to see students on campus during the break between school years.
Oak Hill Academy is a small, coeducational, college prep boarding school for students, grades 8-12, seeking growth. Many of our students had been struggling or under-performing in their previous school settings for a variety of reasons. Our college acceptance rates over the last 12 years (well over 90%) means that our students are growing and creating great college options for themselves. While our faculty and residence life staff are big partners in this growth, so too is our committed and invested College Counseling Department that works closely with each student individually as they approach college application time as juniors and seniors. There is a “college-going” culture that permeates the Oak Hill Academy experience down to our underclassmen, so it is not uncommon for younger students to begin their college research journey in our College Lab after school.
Please see this month’s update on College Lab News to see for yourself the many opportunities for students to engage and be guided toward their futures. You’ll also see that parents and guardians are involved in the process as we partner with them in their student’s plans and share important information along the way.
I receive many inquiries from families looking for a boarding high school that works with struggling students. This struggle often centers on a learning difference such as ADD or ADHD, but it often has a lot to do with self-esteem and how the students are seeing themselves. A lack of academic success can lead to a host of issues regarding confidence and motivation. It often has very little to do with ability. We understand that here at Oak Hill Academy.
Our coeducational, college prep boarding school, located in southwestern Virginia, specializes in the under-performing student. “The Turning Point” most often lies in developing a sense of competency and confidence. We understand that the missing ingredient may truly be a relational approach that develops within a structured environment that values accountability. Because we understand this dynamic, we seek to be found by parents (and occasionally, students themselves) who are dealing with it. Being positioned as the boarding school for academic support means that I often speak with parents who want to know, up front, how we determine acceptance—especially if they are coming in with a transcript that doesn’t really reflect their student’s ability.
Today, I’ve decided to address this very common question with an infographic (below) that summarizes the top 5 things I’m looking at when working with a family applying for admission to Oak Hill Academy. If you are relating to the scenarios I’ve outlined above, I invite you to reach out, call or visit our website (www.oak-hill.net) to complete an inquiry form. I want the opportunity to speak with you about current openings or the next school year.