Mid-Atlantic Boarding Schools: Appeals, Advantages, and Perspectives
Each region of American boarding schools offers and assumes some regional flavors and perspectives in their approaches to education. Reflecting their environments, Mid-Atlantic boarding schools combine pieces of local culture, geography, and climate to build identities, practices, and perspectives, creating special programs and opportunities.
Just as the Mid-Atlantic states do geographically, Mid-Atlantic schools, quite literally, bridge New England and the American South. The Mason-Dixon Line runs along the border of four Mid-Atlantic States, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia. Mid-Atlantic Schools embody the physical straddling of this geographic and cultural boundary through combinations of, Southern and New England education and culture.
Growing out of the region’s long history, some Mid-Atlantic schools are older than their Southern, but younger than their New England counterparts. Culturally, Mid-Atlantic schools tend to take-on more traditional philosophies in their work and expectations of students.
Fred McGaughan of The Knox School makes a succinct case for Mid-Atlantic cultural and geographic richness:
“While many people associate our nation's historical roots with New England, the Mid-Atlantic region is just as rich in tradition, and many of our boarding schools are two hours or less from some amazing historical and cultural sites that make for project based learning or just plain educational touring.”
Single Gender Education
Like their Southern counterparts, Mid-Atlantic boarding schools offer a wide variety of single gender education options. The region is home to several well-known boys and girls boarding schools and some admission officers share that single gender schools find more receptive families in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Dr. Parnell Hagerman of Oldfileds School explains the appeal of single gender education in the Mid-Atlantic region:
“Having been part of northeast boarding schools for 30 years, the approach in the more southern states reflects the current belief that separation of the sexes at the adolescent age is positive for intellectual and emotional growth. Single sex education south of Philadelphia seems to be very effective and accepted. This fact alone makes the mid-Atlantic boarding schools attractive to many domestic and international families.”
Family proximity, as we’ve explored in earlier writings, has become a strong consideration in many families’ school considerations. Whether it’s safety or staying involved with their child, many parents seek to maintain a physical connection to their child that affords them the ability to participate in school and extracurricular events.
Boarding school considerations don’t require families to set aside their desire to stay close to their student.
Dr. Hagerman shares how he’s seen this trend over the the last decade or so:
“...over the last 10-15 years parents have grown up with their children in their day schools, being used to participating in school affairs. Their concern for their child's education is carried into the secondary years. They want to be part of the school with their children. Consequently, parents draw a radius around the distance they will go for schooling, to be able to get to games and performances without too much travel. Parents in Mid-Atlantic states tend to stay closer to home and choose a school based on distance and since many of them come from boarding school background or see boarding schools as a way for a more protected life for those formative years, choose mid-Atlantic states as the home base for them.”
Mid-Atlantic boarding schools offer regional families the opportunity to stay involved with their children couple with the comfort and safety that parents seek in their school choices.
Proximity to Washington DC, Major Cities other cultural sites.
With all due respect, New England is not the center of the universe. I know Boston refers to itself as “The Hub” (as in the hub of the universe). But, Jamestown and Washington, DC aren’t part of New England. With roots and institutions as deep as Jamestown, mixed with history and perspective, the Mid-Atlantic region offers unmatched proximity to historical sites and cultural institutions.
New York City, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Virginia, and Maryland. Need I say more?
Mid-Atlantic Schools unabashedly build programs to take advantage of offerings available in these metropolitan areas:
Jesse Roberts, Director of Admission, at West Nottingham Academy shared:
“...geography is a TREMENDOUS asset to schools in the mid-atlantic. With 4 major cities within 2.5 hours drive (From WNA, mind you), we take advantage of the cultural and social landscape that is afforded us. Many of our peer schools on the 95 corridor use the major cities to allow their students to experience a diverse, dynamic and robust co-curricular academic life. Whether it's visiting the Spy Museum in DC, the birth place of Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore, eating dinner at Moshulu (a decommissioned clipper ship, now a floating restaurant) in Philly, or a weekend at the Met in NYC, our students benefit from the world that is at their fingertips.”
Fred McGaughan of The Knox School added, “Speaking for those of us closest to the coast in the metro New York area, it is so easy to arrange class or even all school trips to NYC, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Morristown, NJ and much more.”
Excepting winter sports diehards (hockey players and skiers), the Mid-Atlantic’s four seasons and a milder winter can feel mighty nice with extended outdoor seasons for mild weather pursuits.
WNA’s Jeese Roberts shared his appreciation of the Mid-Atlantic seasons:
“... Being able to experience all four seasons is fantastic, and makes for a great outdoor life. Part of the boarding school experience is learning lessons for the enjoyment of your entire life, and whether it's hiking, tennis, or golf, being able to experience those individual pursuits year-round is fantastic.”
I’m most partial to Dr. Hagerman’s appreciation of mild winters. “To be able to go coatless in December and January has it's advantages.” That says it all to those who like to stay warm.
Make Mid-Atlantic Schools Part of Your School Seach
Connecting New England and the South, Mid-Atlantic boarding schools offer great boarding school options through a combination of educational approaches, history, culture, programs, and proximity to cultural centers.
“The Mid-Atlantic schools have tremendous history, pedigree, and success in their missions. From the mountains, to the cities, to the bay and the ocean, there is a school for every type of student here. Having worked in schools all over the US, I am proud to call the Mid-Atlantic region home...,” Jesse Roberts
Read the full replies of Parny Hagerman (Oldfields School), Fred McGaughan (Knox), and Jesse Roberts (WNA) on our call for contributions, "Mid-Atlantic Boarding Schools: Call for Ideas and Contributions:" http://www.admissionsquest.com/onboardingschools/2009/08/mid-atlantic-boarding-schools-call-for-ideas-and-contributions.html
Explore AdmissionsQuest Mid-Atlantic Boarding Schools:
“Oldfields is a great blend of tradition and innovation....In many ways, we are hard to categorize. We are not a school for one particular kind of student. We are able to meet the academic needs of a variety of students because of our commitment to maximize the potential of each student.”
-Taylor Smith, Head
St. Timothy's School
“At St. Timothy’s, our goal is to prepare students for lives of meaning and consequence. We provide a comprehensive and flexible academic program in a supportive, richly resourced, and beautiful setting. Boarding and day students – as well as our parents, alumnae, and friends – appreciate the individual attention, the community atmosphere, the spiritual richness, and the high standards that characterize the St. Timothy’s experience. Each member of our tight-knit community – students, faculty, and staff alike – have special talents and gifts that help fulfill the mission of the School.”
West Nottingham Academy
“At West Nottingham we work with each and every student in a spirit of mutual respect, honesty and commitment to develop to her or his gifts and talents to their fullest potential. Central to achieving this goal is each student’s dedication to engaging fully in his or her own education.”
-D. John Watson, Head of School
“If there is a philosophy that embraces all we do here, I would tell you that the faculty and I seek to balance two goals—goals that direct the mission of this School. First, we understand that the years spent at Blair must be purposeful in preparing each student for college (and college admission)...The second goal concerns our responsiveness to the individual, an approach through our Advisor and Monitor systems to treat each boy and girl as an individual while maintaining the high academic tone and the expectations for personal growth in all we do. This balance between high academic and personal expectations and a willingness to provide individual focus is, if not unique to Blair, perhaps our greatest strength.”
-T. Chandler Hardwick, III Headmaster
“Purnell is a place where one grows and learns in the most significant ways because of the relationships that are developed here... At Purnell, our staff create, develop and implement programs with such care, enthusiasm and dedication. Purnell's faculty are creative with their classes, responsive to the needs of adolescents, and dedicated to the founding mission of the school...Our students graduate ready to take their stand in the world as women and leaders who are successful, confident, and educated...”
-Ayanna Hill-Gill, Head of School
“Dr. Tibbits (Hoosac founder) possessed two core beliefs – that his school should strive to educate the whole student, academically, athletically, socially as well as spiritually, and – that his school should remain of such a size that every student would receive full care and attention... ...We at Hoosac believe that this education of the individual, this recognition of the importance of discovering and developing the unique best each student has to offer, represents the highest goal of education. We also believe it will have more success in a student's preparation--not only for college but for life--than any other approach.“
The Knox School
“Our school has created an environment in which individual and intellectual growth are prized and valued. With the support of an exceptional faculty, Knox students explore appropriate modes of observation and expression, cooperating as they develop their individual strengths and points of view. Our students find and refine their "voices" during their years here. The small size of our community and classes guarantees that each student is known and that all are valued. We are committed to helping students grow as unique individuals and to respect what is unique in others.”
-George Allison, Headmaster
“The Ross educational experience aims to impart to young people a 21st century skill set and the inspiration that will motivate them to keep their minds actively engaged in learning. Ross School offers a dynamic environment where students take an active role in their learning...Children learn that each domain (i.e., discipline) is a valid tool for exploring topics, addressing real-life situations, solving problems, making informed decisions, and expressing findings. The connections across disciplines are highlighted both as reinforcement of the ideas presented and as a reflection of the nature of the world.”
The Storm King School
“But the greatest pleasure and excitement, however, are reserved for when you take a risk and grow. ...Therefore, at Storm King, we look at our world and know that we need, both as students and faculty, never to avoid risks, challenges and debate. We can do all this only if we connect, both younger and older among us, with all the good people up here "on the mountain." ...we urge our students to give their best, call for assistance, hang on to the end – all these things that make us stretch, bend and grow. When students participate, they are never going to be alone. Our mission is to make their journey understandable and stimulating. There is much to discover and ever more tools necessary to address the tasks essential for the fullest education of us all.”
-Helen Stevens Chinitz, Head of School
“Trinity-Pawling School has the ability to transform lives. Boys arrive as adolescents and graduate as young men. Like all good things in life, our students may not realize how good they have it until they are forced to move on to the next phase of their young lives. But the lessons we teach in the classroom, the messages the boys hear on the playing fields, and the bonds formed between boys and adults have an enduring impact on a student’s life. Our mission is to give our students the tools to lead a happy, productive, and successful life... ...Within this community of boys, we strive to teach our students what it means to be a man. Contrary to the impression given by our society or the media, being a man is learning how to care for others, how to express emotions, and how to respect the difference in individuals. We form friendships, we show respect, and we work together as a community. Now in our second century, this mission will stand us in good stead.”
-Arch Smith, Headmaster
The Hill School
"Founded in 1851 as “The Family Boarding School,” The Hill may be distinguished from other college preparatory schools by its commitment to sustaining an ideal “family” learning environment. Indeed, The Hill was the first school in the country to have students live with faculty in their campus "home away from home." Simply put, Hill offers structure seldom found at similar schools. The order of our daily routine is visible in our neat dress code, our seated meals in the Dining Room, and our evening study halls. At the same time, we provide personal attention and support; we nurture our students in “mind, body, and spirit” and prepare them for both independence and success in college, careers, and life."
"At Mercersburg Academy, learning is rich, purposeful, and life changing. In small classes, students and faculty work eye to eye and mind to mind, as they deepen their understanding of their subjects—and of themselves...Outside the classroom, students immerse themselves in theater, sports, music, competitions, and camaraderie. They develop deep friendships with students from next door and from across the world. They explore new concepts and push past their limits. Mercersburg is a place of transformation. Students transform themselves—as they prepare to transform their world."
"Perkiomen School is a traditional and structured coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school...focused on creating an effective environment for individual growth and for the development of personal ethics. ...As a school, Perkiomen strives to develop individuals who appreciate learning and who work to acquire the skills necessary to learn. Perkiomen works to create an awareness in its students that education is a lifelong pursuit. We help our students focus on ideals which are purposeful, reasonable, consistent with traditional values, and spiritually balanced. We seek to nurture common sense, a sense of justice, a sense of honor, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of humor."
“Solebury is crafted to be intentionally small. Our size fosters quality communication among our students, teachers and parents, and enables our teachers to really get to know their students as individuals. At Solebury the individual is prized. Solebury students do not fit a mold, but in their dress, their avocations and their passions, they are encouraged to express themselves and to strive for their personal excellence, intellectually, artistically and athletically. The result is a magical learning environment characterized by a wonderful tension between creativity and diversity balanced against an ethos of cooperative learning between students and teachers.”
-Tom Wilschutz, Head of School
Blue Ridge School
"We serve young men who respond well to small classes, a structured environment, and a strong sense of community. We challenge each boy to reach beyond his current level of performance and expectation to discover his potential. To develop character in each boy, we nurture qualities such as integrity, courage, perseverance and empathy. Blue Ridge School has been built upon the values of integrity, civility and a strong sense of work ethic. Our code of conduct is unique in the way that it is written for our students and the adult members of our community. Additionally our code incorporates the concept of Brothers' Keeper - promoting a peer culture of responsibility and obligation to each other."
Fork Union Military Academy
Fork Union Military Academy was founded in 1898 and is a military school steeped in the long tradition of "southern military schools." We use the best aspects of a military-style system to create an environment focused on academic achievement and leadership development. The goal is not to create "soldiers" but to build "solid citizens" who embody the values of integrity, honor, duty, self-discipline, and service to others."
Hargrave Military Academy
Hargrave Military Academy is a college preparatory secondary Boy’s military boarding school for grades 7th-12th and one post graduate year, that espouses Christian values. The Academy provides a safe learning environment, and the daily structure provides a higher level of accountability and responsibility that is not present today. This basic concept enables young men to maximize their full potential. A Hargrave student is held to a much higher standard.