Month: March 2014

Letters of Recommendation

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I sometimes encounter parents and guardians who are very concerned with whom they should ask for letters of recommendation. Our admission process includes the requirement of a minimum of two such letters, from two distinct areas: the professional/academic realm; and the personal realm. Forms for both recommendation types are available on our website, on the “Admission Process” page.

The Principal/Teacher/Counselor letter should be from someone who knows the student in the classroom setting. Obvious good sources are teachers, preferably of core subjects like English or math. But a guidance counselor or other school administrator who knows the student can be a good choice, as well. The Personal Recommendation is designed to give us more insight into the general character and personality of the student. Consider asking an employer, a coach, a youth minister or family friend. In most cases, we do not encourage a relative of the student to complete the Personal Recommendation form, as it is hard for family members to remain as objective as we would like.

Requiring recommendations fits with how very much we value getting to know the student. We want OHA students to be successful in every regard. To predict that success, we first must determine if we can meet the student’s needs, and meet them    24-7 in our boarding school environment. That is why it is vital that we receive candid opinions from people who have shared experiences with our applicants. Getting an accurate and complete picture of the student is much more helpful than any generic or “glossed over” recommendation.

Parents or guardians should not be overly concerned about getting the “perfect” or most “glowing” letters of recommendation. During the interview process, our Admission Team gives the student the opportunity to address or clarify any areas of concern we may have. The student also will have the chance to highlight particular strengths or interests along the way.

In the end, honesty and forthrightness on the parts of parents, students and recommenders help lay the groundwork for making responsible decisions and setting realistic goals–key components of the success we all want.


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     A popular P.E. teacher on campus is fond of telling his students: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” This adage most definitely applies to the experience many of our students have during their time at Oak Hill Academy. Judging from the feedback we receive from alumni, the feeling of being challenged to change may be the memory that sticks with them the longest. In a recent workshop, current students participating in a leadership training group identified “transformation” as one of the key features of an Oak Hill experience.

I often remind prospective students, just as they are learning and getting excited about the opportunities offered at Oak Hill Academy, that coming to Oak Hill will be, in many ways, one of the hardest things they do. Success at OHA requires two main things: an outlook that includes the recognition that being here is an opportunity; and the ability to persevere. Students work hard at Oak Hill Academy (they have their fun, also!) and our structured, intentional routine means that each day matters. By being demanding and supporting, our campus culture fosters the development of this ability to persevere, which is perhaps the most lasting benefit of a student’s time here. Growth is not always comfortable, nor fast, but the strength of an Oak Hill experience is not that it is a “quick fix,” but that it provides a steady journey to personal goals. This journey, though not always characterized by linear growth, is marked by achievements and confidence-building moments of success.

If this is the transformative journey you are seeking for your student–and that they are seeking for themselves–Oak Hill Academy may be a great fit. Please contact me to discuss this and help me learn about your student.