Oak Hill Academy Admission Desk | Tagged Boarding School

Oak Hill Academy: East Coast Boarding School in the Blue Ridge Mountains

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There is a broad spectrum of factors to consider when looking at boarding school options for your student.  Just as people have unique personalities, so too do boarding schools and finding the right match requires some research that often goes beyond the website.  Oak Hill Academy has a busy campus tour season that coincides with students being present on campus for our summer session running from June 20-July 22 and when families visit us, here are the top 3 things I want them to see that go beyond what is found on our website:

  1. The people.  While our website does a decent job of relaying the tidiness and beauty of campus, only a visit can truly showcase of most outstanding feature – the people here.  Our location in Grayson County, Virginia makes us one of the most rural boarding high schools on the east coast, but it has the side-benefit of helping to create an outstandingly tight-knit faculty and student body.  I’ve raised my 4 children alongside my colleague’s children as they’ve grown up in faculty housing on campus.  Our students rely on each other to create, in the classic sense, community – as there is no surrounding town, so each year, we create our own community.  This is something that is easily felt during a tour as our students stop to speak with families throughout.  Spend 5 minutes in the Alumni Campus Store and the easy relationships are evident.
  2. Diversity.  Many boarding schools tout an international population and that is one of the classic benefits of a boarding school experience.  I urge you to look a little deeper at those numbers.  At Oak Hill Academy, we are not relying on a single source of international students.  The result is an international population representing 16 countries.  Economic diversity is another thing that is hard to convey through numbers, but Oak Hill Academy’s position on the affordable end of the boarding school spectrum is an important contributing factor to diversity on campus.  Our student body does not feel entitled, instead we are a “roll your sleeves up and work together” environment.
  3. Mission.  Our mission statement is very clearly communicated on our website.  However, what this “feels” like is much more effectively communicated through a visit.  Faculty sharing a snack with a student on the Alumni School Store deck after school, a college guidance counselor helping a student connect with a college admission representative on the phone, and a teacher loading a van of students to visit a local elementary school are three vignettes a recent tour noticed.  As the overwhelming majority of our faculty and staff live on campus, their investment in our students knows no time clock.

The Admission Department will be conducting campus visits and interviews throughout the summer.  Please contact us to discuss a good time to visit and you are urged to “go beyond the website.”  It is the best way to truly know what is special about Oak Hill Academy.

Oak Hill Academy -Boarding School with late enrollment

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At this time of year, many of my admission calls begin with the question, “Is Oak Hill Academy still accepting applications?”  We are, and I would like to take some time to explain the philosophy of late admission and rolling admission.

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A review of our school’s website will uncover that Oak Hill Academy is a small, coed, college-prep boarding school that serves the very unique niche of focusing on the student who has not been having the kind of success of which they are capable.  As grades come out at the end of the school year, parents and students are having the conversation that a change is needed.  For some, poor grades expose a need for a change of academic environment, a change in peer group, or even a change in home dynamics.

When a student (and family) recognizes that attending Oak Hill Academy is an opportunity to make these kinds of changes and to redefine themselves in a new environment, we want to be available.  We also intentionally keep space available for families who are having these conversations early in the school year.

Please visit our website http://www.oak-hill.net  to understand these opportunities in greater detail. Our enrollment cycle accounts for families who are making these decisions at this time of year – well into the summer months.  As the Director of Admission, I am happy to consider applicants who are a fit for this mission and I am currently conducting campus visits and interviews.  Contact me now to discuss.


New Course Offering at Oak Hill Academy: Critical Reading for College

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A new class has been added to the English Department at Oak Hill Academy in response to the identifiable needs of our students as they enter college:  Critical Reading for College.  This course is designed to assist students in improving their skills in critical reading specifically as it applies to types of reading they will be doing as college freshman and as applicants for college.  A special emphasis will be placed on the redesigned “Evidence Based Reading and Writing” section of the SAT.

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The relationship between writing skills and improved reading skills is the basis of this class.  Students will review a variety of writing conventions – persuasive, research, comparative, and editorial to name a few.  Due to the heavy volume of reading and writing, especially in introductory level college classes, we’ve identified this as point of emphasis in preparing our students for college.  This new class represents a response to information we’ve received through a continued contact with our alumni base and feedback they’ve provided as to the most practical preparation we can offer to our students as they become college freshman.  The goal with this class is continue to grow our student’s preparedness with an increased understanding of sentence structure, flow, and transitioning elements in the kind of writing (and by extension, reading) they will encounter most in college.


What do Oak Hill Academy and Thoreau have in common?

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It’s time for a philosophical post.  In On Walden Pond, Thoreau explains his motivations for wanting and needing to live the simple life:  “I went into the woods to live deliberately…”  The quiet of Walden Pond enabled Thoreau’s self-reflection and development of a self-discipline he saw as essential for a fulfilled life.  It occurred to me recently that this is very similar to what I experienced as a student at Oak Hill Academy and one of the themes I explain to prospective students as central to what will be their “Oak Hill experience.”

                                            running pic meadow

Oak Hill Academy’s setting in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of Soutwestern Virginia is one of the things that contribute to our student’s success.  No matter how busy they get, or if they are feeling academic pressure, they can breathe here. That setting, coupled with the structure and size of our school means that life is pretty simple here and the important things in life emerge for our students.  Let me explain:

At Oak Hill Academy, relationships matter:

I often point out that, with no “mall across the street,” our students realize pretty quickly that we are a community and we better take care of each other.  They do an excellent job of this – I see it in how they study together, become invested in each other’s success and happiness and, in general, become very close-knit.  No doubt our cell phone policy (and social media policy),which place healthy boundaries, contributes to this investment.  Our students get really good at talking to each other and not about each other.  The notion of conversation, that is fast becoming a lost art among many teenagers, is alive and well at Oak Hill Academy.

                                 michelle bike

At Oak Hill Academy, students discover new interests

Being surrounded by such beauty means that our students can participate in a variety of outdoor activities from hiking, mountain biking, trail running, zip lining, and canoeing to on campus activities like horseback riding and paintball.  Our students try new things and are quite busy when not in class.  Our weekly small group outings with the ski-club (it really ought to be called the “snowboarding club”) offers students a way to enjoy the area in the colder months.  For many students, Oak Hill is where they discover new interests that don’t involve a screen.

                                   Oak Hill Academy Boarding School

At Oak Hill Academy, structure leads to self-discipline and maturity

Being in a small class (average size of 10 students) means that students can’t hide.  No matter how busy our students get outside of class, our mandatory evening study hall from 8:30-10:30 means that they get good at turning off the “busyness” of the day and taking care of business.  8th period tutorials offer an opportunity for both extra help or time for academic “coaching.”  There is a rhythm to the day that allows students pockets of time to make choices, but with an intentionality of schedule that promotes good habits.  At Oak Hill, there is a great balance between the “want to’s” and the “have to’s.”  This is the deliberate life of which Thoreau speaks.

Oak Hill Academy between the sessions

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Oak Hill Academy is in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, in the Appalachian Highlands.  I live in a beautiful place.  This is a fact that I often took for granted until I started giving tours in the Admission Department and seeing the campus and surrounding beauty through the “new eyes” of prospective parents and applicants changed that.

As I write this, the rushed excitement of our final school days of 2014-15 and the “pomp and circumstance” of graduation is now 3 weeks past.  Campus has gotten extremely quiet and this has put me in a reflective mood.  Most of the faculty and staff live on campus, but the first several weeks of summer are a time for family vacations.  Have I mentioned that campus is quiet?

I am accepting applications and conducting tours throughout the summer – I’m available and keeping regular office hours.  If you are considering Oak Hill Academy for your student, I encourage you to contact me to set up a campus visit as I meet with families individually and do not do “open houses.”  However, I encourage you to target June 22-July 24, during our summer school session, for your visit.  Our summer session brings students back on campus, allows new students a great place to start, and offers an excellent opportunity for visitors to see school in session.  I’m very excited to welcome students back on campus June 22 because, as I show campus between sessions, it makes me miss the impressiveness of “who” we are.  Students, I miss you, and I look forward to seeing the campus look like this again soon:

cafe flagschapel fishbowl eyecafeteria pic 2church pews



Warrior Weekend Activity – Zip lining at Hawk’s Nest

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There are frequent off-campus trips and on-campus activities available on the typical weekend at Oak Hill Academy.  Still, the students really look forward to the three “Warrior Weekends” spread throughout the school year.  On these weekends, the students are presented with an extraordinary menu of small, out-of-the ordinary, off campus trip options.  This past Warrior Weekend, for example, the highlights included a dinner-theatre trip, Virginia Tech lacrosse game, laser tag, and a zip lining trip to a nearby adventure center in the Boone, NC mountains.


Although the weather threatened to turn against us, the group had a blast (check out those clouds coming in!).  The windy conditions provided a challenge to complete the runs without getting stuck, but our adventurous spirit carried us that day!  The day was completed with a great meal at The Cookout restaurant.  A few of the group had last seen the Hawk’s Nest covered in snow as it is also the site of our frequent snowboarding trips in the winter – all less than an hour’s drive away!


Oak Hill Academy Stories – A New Feature!

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As a new feature to our Admissions Blog, I will be profiling some recent graduates and current Oak Hill Academy students in the coming weeks.


Kekoa Iskandar, Class 0f 2013

In the past several years, our Art Program has experienced serious growth and several benchmark successes.  We have added an AP Art class, started a Creative Innovations club and have helped a few of our recent students prepare for, and navigate the art school admission process.  Kekoa, now in his second year at Parsons New School of Design, represents one of our more interesting stories. His dream of entering the fashion design world presented a challenge to our art teacher.  We do not have a formal class for this specific field.  Instead, Ms. Luksic helped Kekoa, through our advanced art classes, develop an independent study program which enabled him to create the portfolio and academic transcript that opened the doors to the prestigious Parsons New School of Design.  This was Kekoa’s dream school, and the campus in New York City, his dream location.

I believe Kekoa’s Oak Hill story illustrates a couple of keystones of our school.  We are  relational and personal in our approach to our students.  His relationship with Ms. Luksic paved the way for the many personal hours she spent challenging him and helping him “tailor” (pun intended) his course work to highlight the skills necessary in fashion design.  We are also very individual and offer a great deal of flexibility in developing a course of study that meets our students interests and future plans.  By partnering with other departments on campus, Kekoa found opportunities to make the costumes for our Theatre productions and he was encouraged to display his work on campus.  For example, some of his creations were even seen on some classmates at our spring formal dance!

I caught up with Kekoa recently to discuss his experience at Oak Hill Academy.

Mr. Rodgers:  Why do you think you were so successful at Oak Hill Academy?

Kekoa:  I think it was my individuality – I’m so different from everyone.  I was the art kid, I brought a new perspective but I was able to immerse myself in the environment at Oak Hill Academy and that was encouraging.

Mr. Rodgers:  You grew up living in Indonesia.  Describe the diversity on our campus and how that feels to an international student.

Kekoa:  There is so much diversity at Oak Hill Academy, we were all adjusting and accepting of each other.  It helped knowing I wasn’t the only one adjusting.  I would definitely recommend Oak Hill to other international students.  The small environment allows you to really find yourself.

Mr. Rodgers:  Describe the relationships you remember from Oak Hill.

Kekoa:  Ms. Luksic (Art Teacher) will always and forever be the most insightful, reassuring and encouraging teacher I have ever had.  She pushed me to a point where I could produce work I was truly proud of – I’m eternally grateful.  She took the time to develop projects that pushed me in terms of fine art and illustration along with my fashion work.  Also, Mrs. Groves (Guidance Department) was my guardian angel in the college acceptance process.

Mr. Rodgers:  Do you feel your experience at a small boarding school like Oak Hill Academy prepared you for college?

Kekoa:  I definitely felt prepared.  My time at Oak Hill Academy, looking back, was quick and it was intense.  I basically grew out of being the awkward art student to a more confident person. I developed high expectations for myself.  I knew I wanted to pursue fashion and there I was able to set my mind and goals.  I wouldn’t change a single thing about it.

Please continue to check in with our blog or contact me to find out more about our school.  We would love to be a part of your student’s success story!

kekoa's cover

Kekoa was commissioned to create the cover art for his nation’s most popular design magazine in 2013 for their series on Patterns in Design.  It showcases his versatility as an artist.