Today’s blog post comes directly from a conversation I recently had in the course of admission work. After describing their student’s struggles and accommodations that were supposed to be happening as per an IEP, prospective parents simply asked, “What makes Oak Hill Academy different from other college prep boarding schools I’m finding online?” Because this is a very common theme in our admission work at Oak Hill Academy, I want to share my response here – it is very likely that you will find it relevant to your boarding school search too.
Although we are not a learning differences specific school, the small class sizes at Oak Hill Academy enable us to provide many of the common accommodations we see in the IEPs of incoming students. For example, the average class size is 9, therefore all seating is preferential and the level of engagement is extremely high. Students with attention issues (and the often accompanying executive functioning challenges) benefit from our teacher’s ability to coach skills as much as cover course content. Things such as organization, note-taking, critical reading, redirection, etc. are part of the normal classroom experience here. Our teachers are intentional and receive a lot of professional development on differentiated learning practices, so we also pride ourselves on being individualized. The small classes also enable us to be incredibly relational with our students– this is often the difference maker and why we have a tremendous amount of experience working with students with learning differences who need academic support.
Given our mission as a “Turning Point” school, many of our students come to us with self-confidence or self-esteem issues having struggled academically, and often socially, in their previous setting. This often presents as a lack of motivation that is often a defense mechanism hiding a strong desire for change. In short, our students are in need of a “win.” Intentionally, we offer as much, if not more, academic support and encouragement as rigor. The relationships possible in small classes and a campus life that is shared by teachers and their families allow us to approach students individually and with a degree of investment that is often the Turning Point. That is what makes us different in the college prep boarding school world. Of course, as students get their feet under them and come to a greater capability for academic challenge, we offer increasingly rigorous courses up to the 6 college level courses available to our juniors and seniors (currently 3 AP and 3 Dual College Credit on-campus offerings). There are also office hours for teachers every day to work with students one on one either in a scheduled tutorial, or as needed (or requested by the student!). Our college freshman often share that they continue being very comfortable using academic support available to them in college.
Oak Hill Academy also has a tremendous reputation for our basketball history, having produced nearly 40 NBA players over a 40 year tradition. We attract many students for whom basketball is a part of the picture. This ranges from preparing for a college recruitment to just really enjoying the game. Our three teams in the program offer an appropriate level for most male students wanting to participate. It is also a big part of the social scene. We view pursuing a passion (we also have very strong music, art, equestrian, soccer, and tennis programs) as complimentary to the work we do in the classroom and the dorm life in regards, especially, to character development – accountability, commitment, self-discipline, resilience to name a few key pieces. Additionally, many of our students go on to college careers and they learn how to balance the student-athlete equation here.
We believe we offer the most unique balance of college preparation, structure, and relationships built in a tight-knit community of students transforming their futures to which your research is likely to lead you. To discuss your student in detail, please reach out to the Oak Hill Academy admission department through an inquiry for more information or simply call us at (276) 579-2619.