NOV 22, 2019
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
We have a son in ninth grade who wants to transfer from his public high school to an elite private boarding school. He is a top student and certain to graduate near the top of his class. He is bright but the problem is he that he does “just enough” work in class to earn a top grade and does not show academic interest beyond earning his “A.” We are concerned because he does not appear to be motivated or challenged to achieve his intellectual best and apply himself at a higher level.
Can you help us understand what the problem might be? Do extracurricular activities play a role in motivating students? We are eager for him to develop leadership skills.
Sincerely, Parents of a Gifted Student
Boarding school best environment
to challenge gifted student
Dear Parents of a Gifted Student,
What you describe is not uncommon with bright high school students.
The problem can sometimes be taking on too many diverse projects at the same time but as you point out in your email your son is interested only in all things academic. You do not mention any extracurricular or athletic pursuits.
I believe that what is happening is that your son is not being truly intellectually challenged in the classroom. This challenge can only come from being around a number of other top students in a competitive setting. That is one of the best reasons for going to a top prep school. Statistics bear out that today’s boarding school students succeed at significantly higher rates than even day students at private schools.
Clearly teachers in public schools are important factors in helping to provide intellectual stimulation for their students, but they have to concentrate on teaching the fundamentals. As it should be, a large part of their instruction (but not all) is of necessity skewed toward how to help a majority of their students learn and earn good grades in their classes.
The smaller class sizes at boarding schools allow teachers to provide individualized attention and students have more access to their teachers.
While earning top grades is important, we know that a significant part of learning takes place outside of the classroom in extracurricular, social and athletic activities. This is where students can learn to tackle intellectual problems and improve life skills.
On the question of leadership skills, elite boarding schools are organized so that they are able to bring out the best in students. They offer one-on-one mentorship with teachers and coaches that their typically small class sizes offer. The facilities at boarding schools are usually extensive and offer students a number of options for community service, athletics and the arts.
Every student has weaknesses and because of the small class size and student/counselor ratios, top boarding schools are uniquely qualified to help students find those weaknesses (be they social or academic) and master them. Many boarding school teachers and counselors have connections at top colleges which will help your son in the college admissions process — something that public schools normally cannot offer.
In my opinion, the best way to support your son is to place him in an environment with other bright students. While students learn the academic fundamentals from teachers, a vast amount of really important learning takes place outside the classroom, in conversations and social activities with other students.
Because he is unusually intelligent, he needs to be challenged by other smart students. A boarding school will provide an environment where that can happen.
Tags: Colleges and Universities SAT Preparation
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
Colleges and Universities, College Consulting, International Students
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