Boarding School Admissions – Why repeating a year is a compelling option?
By Patrick Ho | Senior Admissions Counselor, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions
International schools in Hong Kong place students in the appropriate grade according to their age, with the exception of some schools making exceptions based on the student’s background and academic ability. Similarly, UK boarding schools adhere to this strictly, with almost no exceptions granted. However, US boarding schools have the advantage of giving you the option to naturally progressing to the next academic grade or repeating the same academic grade. Upon hearing these options, most families’ reactions are, “Why would I want to repeat?”. The reasons for such a reaction stem from needing to pay an extra year of tuition, the student might experience social acclimation issues due to being older than his peers and the student may better use this year in gaining work experience upon graduation from university. Yet, in US boarding schools, repeating a year isn’t an anomaly. Why is that?
For those transferring to a US boarding school, you will normally begin your studies in Grade 9 or 10. For a large percentage of these students, their ultimate destination is to be admitted to a top US university. In your US university application, one of the most important evaluation criteria are your high school grades from Grade 9 onwards. Therefore, it is paramount to get off to a good start upon your entry to a US boarding school. However, the transition isn’t always easy. Changing to the AP curriculum brings about different teaching methodologies, evaluation criteria and students need time to adjust. Even the straight-A students who score very well in the SSAT, more often than not, accumulate a fair number of B’s in their first year. It normally isn’t until the second year, where they start to have a firm grasp of their new school environment that they show their true colours.
The most transformative years occurs during a student’s secondary schooling years as they are still learning about themselves, in the process of building their identity. By having an extra year of secondary school, there is extra space for personal growth. There is more time for students to take advantage of opportunities such as studying new courses, trying out new extracurricular activities, widen exposure through participating in community work. Additionally, as a known fact that boys tend to mature later than girls, the extra year of social, psychological and emotional development can allow them to grow in confidence, responsibility and decision-making.
Though for most Asian families, athletics are not a major area of focus, however, it can offer a very convincing reason to repeat a year for those who are strong in sports. American boarding schools highly value athletic recruitment, especially those in which prospective students can make an immediate impact upon arrival, for example, having the athletic capability to start in the Varsity team as a freshman. By repeating, you will be older than peers of your age, with gives you an added advantage in terms of physical development at the sporting level.
Ultimately, the decision to repeat or not is dependent on the capability of each individual student, however, having the flexibility to choose is an invaluable option, which gives applying to US boarding schools an added advantage.
Mr. Patrick Ho
Associate Member of IECA | TEFL
BCom(Finance), University of Sydney
- 7+ years of experience in admissions consulting service with 100% success rate
- Proven track record helping students gain admissions to prestigious boarding schools including Blair Academy, Choate Rosemary School, Loomis Chaffee School, Kent School, Peddle School, Stevenson School, The Webb Schools, CA and Westminster School.
- Had over 75% if his students accepted to a Top 50 U.S. College including Yale University, MIT, Boston University, University of Chicago.
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