Boarding School VA

Growth Mindset at Oak Hill Academy

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Today, I want to share with you a very fundamental concept that I encounter in admissions.  It happens to relate directly to a topic our administration, faculty and staff are studying through a very important book by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.d called Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success from 2006.  I’ve been familiar with Dr. Dweck’s high profile for sometime as I taught the psychology course here at Oak Hill Academy for several years.

The central concept is that there are two general categories of viewing learning and dealing with challenges that we all seem to adopt.  These are either a “fixed” mindset or a “growth” mindset.  The “fixed” mindset leads people to really believe that abilities are set and cannot be developed.  The “growth” mindset leads people to believe, and act, in seeing challenges as improvement opportunities and that our abilities are not set in stone and people can, through effort and experience, improve their capacities and abilities.

Here’s how this relates to my work in admissions:  Very often, I encounter prospective students, through their families, who are stuck in a “fixed” mindset and this shows up as a lack of motivation, frustration and a disengagement in their education.  I’m often asked by families during admission calls to describe the kinds of students we work with best.  I feel that Oak Hill Academy occupies a very unique niche in the boarding school spectrum.   As I study Dr. Dweck’s work, it has become abundantly clear Oak Hill Academy’s mission is, and always been, developing this “growth” mindset with our students.  This realization adds another layer to the description of the Oak Hill experience, shared by many of our students over the years, as “transformative.”

By providing a structured and supportive academic environment, our students are learning perseverance and making the connection between consistent effort and achievement.  With very small class sizes, this experience and support is very personal for our students.  We are very intentional in this area and I invite you to contact me for more information and discussion.

Campus Tours at Oak Hill Academy

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Easily my favorite part of the job, giving campus tours is a great way for families and our admission committee to determine if Oak Hill Academy is a fit for your students goals and needs.  The summer months make up the busiest tour season, but I enjoy welcoming prospective students and their families throughout the school year.  Here, I’d like to describe our goals and what you can expect from a visit to Oak Hill Academy.

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I place a priority on meeting people from all parts of campus life for each tour.  We do not do the “open house” or “group tour” approach because I want to exemplify what many find to be the most outstanding feature of our school community: a personal approach and relationship building.  Therefore, as we visit different areas of our school, please be prepared to be welcomed and engaged in conversation with a variety of people.

Typically, I meet families in the Vaughn Administration Building, in the center of campus.  This is a great opportunity to meet many in our Administration, such as our School President, Dr. Michael Groves.  From there, I like to give an overview tour of the entire campus with a ride on our Alumni Golf Cart (It seats 6, so bring your family!).  We will begin the cruise of our  campus from the girls’ side (dorm, equestrian center, Noonkester Park and Lake Samuella) giving a glimpse at a much bigger campus than most expect.  Next is a stop at our Ussery Archives to get a sense of the history of our school, founded in 1878.  A tour of our 3 main boys’ dormitories will follow (if appropriate) followed by a quick run out to our athletic fields on the far end of campus.

11785We will tour the English Academic Building including a significant conversation with our Principal and Guidance Counselor to talk about curriculum and learn your student’s academic goals and needs.  The Turner Gymnasium, home to our basketball, volleyball and physical education classes, is adjacent to our school building.  When school is in session, a Student Ambassador will join the tour to provide the “student perspective.”  Depending on the time of day, the student will usually accompany the family for lunch in the Dining Hall for a great meal prepared by our Meriweather-Godsey team.

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No tour is complete without visiting the “bookends” of the school day:  The Fletcher Chapel where homeroom and various campus activities take place and the Alumni Campus Store to get a look at what many consider the social hub of student life after school hours.  Along the way, expect to be greeted by a variety of people from our school community and be prepared:  our students love visitors to campus!

From an Admission Office standpoint, a campus visit is also great opportunity to conduct an admission interview.  By this time we’ve spent a lot time together and it should feel more like a conversation.  Questions are encouraged, both from the applicants and families, throughout the tour.  There is not a strictly set agenda for a tour, but I typically spend 2-3 hours with each family to help you plan.  Please contact me today to schedule your campus visit!

Oak Hill Academy and sense of community

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Graduation day always amazes me here at Oak Hill Academy.  Living together in a boarding school environment, particulary a small one like our school, means that we become so familiar that we can take for granted how strong the bonds are that we are forming.  Graduation day brings that into focus, and to a smaller degree, the end of any school term highlights how close we’ve become both as a staff and student body.

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On July 25, I had the pleasure of seeing two of our veteran students be acknowledged in a small graduation ceremony in front of their peers who attended our summer session.  What stands out is that many of the heartfelt well wishes and hugs came from students new to our school, for whom the summer session was their first term at Oak Hill Academy. These kids hadn’t known each other five and a half weeks earlier.  It still amazes me how quickly students find their place in our community and among their peers and form relationships.  This is a special place and graduation day reminds me of that every time, even if it was a small ceremony at the end of our summer session.

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My best wishes and congratulations to two of the best of Oak Hill Academy as they enter the next phase of their lives:  Min Yeol as he returns to Korea for compulsory military service before going on to college and Kimy as he begins a soccer career at Iona College in New York.  You’re both leaving your mark on Oak Hill Academy and I know you’re taking a part of Oak Hill with you!

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