This post is the second in our series of student profiles that represent the kinds of students who find success within of our mission-appropriate enrollment each year. Today, we are focusing on the very important and valued international student population at Oak Hill Academy–a key feature of our unique campus life each year. International students are attracted to study in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, but here are a few of the main themes:
- Entry into U.S. universities and colleges is more practical coming from a U.S. high school. At Oak Hill Academy, our College Counseling department is very personal in helping students through this process. Our international families are especially appreciative of this highly individual approach.
- Many of our students report that their home educational systems didn’t value the kind of learning and personal development they were seeking. They see the U.S. system as far more holistic and a better fit for their personal aspirations.
- Some of our international families are first and foremost seeking a safe, nurturing environment that may not be easy to find at home.
- The goal of developing independence and maturity is a theme shared by both our international and domestic students. It is just much more dramatic for our students who are thousands of miles away from home, and might speak little English when they arrive here.
The current school year at Oak Hill Academy is quite typical: Nearly 25% of our student body represents 16 foreign countries around the globe. This kind of diversity, coupled with a small student body of 150, means that we offer a tremendously unique campus life opportunity. For our international students, we offer a welcoming and secure introduction to the U.S. educational system and culture. It is very much a “win-win.”
Today’s Student Profile comes from a pair of international students who have attended Oak Hill Academy for more than two years each. Both students are from mainland China: Jingyi “Carritah” Cai is a senior from Xiamen, China, in her fourth year at OHA; Alice Wang, also a senior, began attending Oak Hill Academy as a sophomore in 2016, after spending a year with her adoptive host family in Northern Virginia.
For Carritah, choosing Oak Hill Academy from among her many initial options came down to our size and location. “My family and I liked the fact that Oak Hill Academy is a small boarding school. Since I didn’t have a family here, the most important thing to my family was to find a place that can ensure my safety. Oak Hill Academy’s location means that we make our small community together and there are no strangers–I figured it would be easier for me to bond with people.” Alice reports that safety was her family’s number one priority, too. “Boarding school became an option because my family wanted a broader social and cultural experience, beyond what my host family could provide. But it had to be a safe environment or my parents would not agree to it.”
Both students point to the benefits of adjusting to a new culture and the U.S. style of education in a small school. Alice says, “Another priority for me choosing boarding school was for personal growth–independence and the ability to relate to people from a variety of backgrounds. Oak Hill Academy helped me to broaden my circle to meet more people from other cultures and since we all live together, we have plenty to share.” Carritah agrees, but points to an interesting byproduct of boarding school life: empathy and acceptance of others. “Living together, we have enough time and opportunity to see each others’ merits and flaws. We come to accept those flaws in others and ourselves, but working to improve them is how I’ve learned to build strong relationships at Oak Hill Academy.” As Alice observes, “School and academic achievement have always been important to me, but at Oak Hill Academy, I’ve also placed an additional importance on personal goals, like getting along with people who have different views, and taking care of myself outside of the classroom by becoming more athletic.” Alice continues, “I feel that I used to be a selfish person. I was spoiled and did not think about others as much as I should have. Attending Oak Hill Academy, I realized that everyone has important dreams, not just me. I started to do a lot of community service work in and outside of the school campus, and in the process I learned a lot about myself and who I want to be as a person.”
Alice also points to many educational benefits of the relational, small class environment provided here. “Academically, teachers pay close attention to every student in class–the small teacher-to-student ratio ensures attention and focus. For me, this was also important as I became more fluent and English became more natural. The relationships I had with my teachers gave me confidence to ask for help when I needed it. Teachers are always available for one-on-one afterschool help. My experience at Oak Hill Academy has helped me discover my potential and interest in learning business as my planned major next year in college.”
Oak Hill Academy’s structured environment, on the conservative side for most U.S. college prep boarding schools, was another attractive feature for these two international students’ families. One of the biggest concerns Chinese families have, I’ve learned, is the ability to concentrate academically here. Transitioning from a very test-oriented educational system (found in China, for sure, but also in the British System) into what is accurately seen as a more balanced system of critical thinking and exploration, international families often worry about rigor and focus. Carritah points out, “My parents liked the limits placed on the students here (things like mandatory lights-out times, dedicated study hours in the dorms each evening, and chaperoned trips off campus). These limitations teach us to do the right things, and keep us out of troubles. Oak Hill Academy is where I learned to do things that are productive and good for me–there is not a lot of ‘wasted’ time.”
Both Alice and Carritah have built impressive transcripts filled with interesting classes, clubs, sports and excellent grades. These transcripts, along with the support of Mr. Hill and Mrs. Groves in our College Counseling Department, have opened up a lot of university opportunities for both of them. Watch below as they discuss their college plans:
“I wouldn’t say I’m a completely different person, but I’m a better version of myself.” – Bailey, class of 2019
One of the most common questions I’m asked in my role as Director of Admission is, “What type of student is a fit for Oak Hill Academy?” Apart from the idea that we are a school for students seeking and needing growth, there really is no one, succinct answer. Instead, I’ve noticed that there are 4 or 5 big themes that emerge among our successfully enrolled students. To help you understand Oak Hill Academy better, and perhaps to help you determine if we are a promising option for YOUR student, I’d like to use the admission blog for a series of examples of real students who represent these “mission appropriate” general categories. Today we will look at the student who needs an academic reset and new view of themselves.
Let’s start with our school’s mission:
Oak Hill Academy is a coeducational, Baptist affiliated, boarding/day school committed to excellence in education and adolescent development in a non-military setting. The mission of Oak Hill Academy is to offer a safe, secure, nurturing environment for girls and boys needing a change in school, peer, community, or family relationships. Oak Hill provides a structured college-preparatory program to students in grades 8-12. Our curriculum challenges the brightest student and encourages those who are unmotivated, who are underachieving, or who are experiencing difficulties in their school setting.
Our first profile is of the student who is well-intentioned and capable, but has become disengaged in a large school environment. This student may be overwhelmed and has lost motivation, or has developed a negative outlook. This frustration may be leading to conflict or tension at home. It probably has led to an eroding self-image and confidence. If students see attending Oak Hill Academy as an opportunity to redefine themselves, they overwhelmingly have a positive experience. Through the admission process, especially the campus tour, this type of student recognizes how things can be different here. They see Oak Hill Academy enrollment as an opportunity to “reset,” and to develop a new approach to meeting challenges.
Meet current Oak Hill Academy junior, Bailey. She is today’s guest blog contributor.
Oak Hill Academy’s motto is “The Turning Point.” And I can say that, for me personally, it truly has been. There was no specific day, though, when I thought to myself, “I’ve hit this ‘turning point.’” It’s been a continuous process for me.
The thing I struggled with most was the idea of moving away from everything familiar to a place that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere! At the time I couldn’t see how this relocation would benefit me. However, I’ve learned that the transformation happening now might have started out looking like an obstacle, but then became a really good thing. Leaving my friends, family, house, and even my pets, was difficult at first. Not to mention that I was behind in school. When I toured Oak Hill Academy I was pretty overwhelmed, to be honest. It would be such a big change, and I had trouble wrapping my head around how this could be good for me. In the end it has turned out to be the place where I could change for the better–academically, socially, mentally, and emotionally. And I still continue to change.
I would say one of the biggest transformations for me happened in my academics. I went from almost failing grades to making the Honor Roll. The teachers and staff keep you accountable for your work. They help you, and answer any questions you may have. We even have a period of the day set aside when you can go and get help one on one if you need it. I came from a rather big public school, so the small classes have been a huge benefit for me. I always say I was kind of just pushed along, and never had the resources or support I needed. Oak Hill has provided me with that.
Socially I have transformed immensely. I credit my decision to get involved on campus. Joining in is easy to do here since there are a lot of choices and, since we are so small, it is not intimidating to try new things. I’m involved in equestrian activities, leadership group, art, the spring play, and I’m an intern with Mrs. Groves (OHA’s guidance counselor). I also participate in an abundance of clubs and activities that we have on campus. I’ve become more involved in the community. Coming to Oak Hill has made me step outside of my comfort zone–and for the better. I’ve made friends and relationships that challenge me to grow.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about the transformation process is that it’s not always easy. I might not like every minute of it, and I get frustrated, but when I take a step back I realize how much I’ve accomplished so far in my two years here. Even though coming to boarding school wasn’t a simple task, I pushed through my struggles and, with support and a new attitude, I am making my time at Oak Hill worthwhile. Dr. Groves (our Head of School) always says “Grow where you’re planted” and that’s exactly what I doing. I made the best of where I was, and as a result I experienced valuable transformation. I wouldn’t say I’m a completely different person, but I’m a better version of myself.
For a discussion of your student’s needs and the potential for Oak Hill Academy to be a good fit, please contact the Admission Department. Call or complete the inquiry form below to start the conversation.