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How to Pick Your Secondary School: Young Alums Speak Out

Posted by Lee Greener on Wed, Mar 11, 2015 @ 09:44 AM

Secondary School Handbook Pic resized 600March 10th marks a very exciting day for prospective students hoping to go to boarding school. Decisions have been made and offers are extended. We asked our young alums what their advice would be when picking a school to help the Hillside Class of 2015:

"My one piece of advice for students would be to choose the school where they feel the most at home. When I toured, I knew the second I got back into my car that it was the place for me. Everyone was friendly and the campus was great. It felt right.” - Dennis Cesana ’13 at Kimball Union Academy

“The best advice I can give to pick the right school is to go where people want you and go where you know people will support you. I feel like my decision to go to Brooks was the best I have made in my life. I love it at Brooks and the people are awesome.” - Isaiah Godwin ’14 at Brooks School

“Never rule any one school out until you are sure, because upon revisiting some schools you may change your mind.” - Alex Fay ’13 at The Williston Northampton School

"My advice when picking your secondary school is simply to go with where you feel the most comfortable, both socially and academically. You're going to spend a lot of time there so it should be a place where you want to be and will help you reach your goals. Visit all the schools and really get that feel before choosing somewhere because you never know until you visit, which school fits you best.” - Austrian Robinson ’12 at Trinity Pawling School

"Think about your academic and social preferences, and note that the size of a school will play a big part in how well you operate within it” - Alex Rodde ‘12 at Dublin School

"Try to identify the schools that are potentially the best fit for you, academically, sports-wise, size and structure. Visit the potential schools, preferably when students are there and ask lots of questions. Also try to get a feel for each one in terms of how welcoming and comfortable they feel. When I visited Hebron, I felt welcomed.” Dylan Breau ‘14 at Hebron Academy

"Attempt to picture yourself at that specific school, if you can not see yourself at that particular school it might not be the best option for you.” - Colin McCaughey ’13 at St. Paul’s School

"When picking a school make sure you really want to go, and if you are looking to play a sport at the varsity level, make sure to know what to expect.” - John Hunt ’14 at Westminster School

“The most important aspect is to find a place where you fit in temperamentally. It's easy to research academic and extracurricular opportunities through web search, but finding an environment that will be especially conducive to happy, healthy learning on your part takes an extra effort and so is more rewarding in the end (make use of revisit days!).” – Matthew Chang ’12 at Middlesex School

"My one piece of advice would be to just follow your heart. There is going to be the school that your parents like the most and most likely you are going to find a different school to be your favorite. But you need to realize that the place you choose is your home for the next three or four years. My gut feeling was St. Mark's and I couldn't be happier with the decision I made.” Josh Loveridge ’13 at St. Mark’s School

“Use the broken leg test. Ask yourself, if you get hurt and will be unable to play your sport will you still be happy with your choice?” - Nick Schofield ’14 at The Williston Northampton School

“If you can, revisit your top two choices.” - Jesse Lee ’13 at Berkshire School

“What really helped me was having an idea of what I was looking for in a school. Ask yourself questions like: "Will I be happy here?" and "Can I learn here?” The answers really helped me figure out what I wanted and what I needed in a school.” Rory Csaplar ’13 at Eagle Hill School

"Choose the school that you see yourself being comfortable in. I think the size of the school is really important, tt determines how well the school fits us and how well we will fit within it. It does not matter, in my opinion, where one ends up at, how you take advantage of what the school offers is what is important.” - Huanshuo “John” Rao ’14 at Westminster School

Tags: Boarding School, Alumni, Admission Process, Tips & Strategies, Junior Boarding School

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Filling Out Your Financial Aid Application

Posted by Lee Greener on Fri, Nov 07, 2014 @ 10:21 AM

Financial AidAs School and Student Services (SSS) by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) releases the 2015-2016 Parents' Financial Statement (PFS) this week, we thought we would share the top mistakes to avoid when you fill out financial aid forms. The financial aid application is just as important to many families as the school's admission application. As SSS states, "the PFS is the gateway to finacial aid from the nation's leading private and independent schools. We estimate the amount you can contribute to school expenses and forward that estimate to the schools where you're applying." SSS makes it easy for families to apply to multiple schools and share their financial information. As you fill out the PFS this year be sure to avoid:

1. Missing the deadlines. Adhere to deadlines. Many schools require the PFS to be submitted in January or February. Every school is different and may have different deadlines. Be sure to know the deadlines for each school you are applying to.

2. Not having the correct information when filling out the PFS. Have your tax returns with you when filling out the PFS. The PFS draws information directly from your family's tax returns. Use the previous year's tax returns to fill out the information and then update it accordingly when you receive your tax returns for the current year.

3. Not filing your tax returns with SSS and schools. Be sure to send your returns to both SSS and each school. Providing your tax returns to SSS is not enough; you need to send copies to each school your child is applying to. When the Financial Aid Committee meets, they will use the information from SSS as well as these returns to make an informed decision about your family's financial aid package.

4. If you have extenuating circumstances regarding your family's financial standing, include it in a letter to each Admission Office. More information is always preferable to less. The more informed the Financial Aid Committee is on your familys financial standing, the better.

5. Not asking questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions. In every Admission Office there is always someone happy to help walk you through the PFS. We encourage you to ask questions and find out who that person is so you are able to fill out the PFS honestly and accurately.

For more tips on financial aid, visit our blog from last November: Financial Aid: 8 Tips for Affording Boarding or Independent Schools or call the Admission Office. We are always here to help you as you navigate the school application and financial aid process.



Tags: Boarding School, Admission Process, Tips & Strategies

Top 5 Things Middle School Boys Should Know How to Do in Their Library

Posted by Kari Dalane on Fri, Oct 24, 2014 @ 01:00 PM

1. How To Collaborate
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Libraries are much more than a place to find books.  Boys at Hillside have access to our collection of books, of course, but another vital purpose of the library is to provide a place for collaboration.  Learning to work well with others is one of the most important skills we can help our boys develop.  Our library now has new collaboration tables that allow groups to project up to shared screens.



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2. How To Find and Navigate the Library Website


Every library website has a wealth of information on it.  From the newest books added to the library to video tutorials covering information literacy skills, our website keeps our library open 24/7.


3. How To Access and Use the Library Databases

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Our databases are great places to find information.  The databases we have access to at Hillside provide trustworthy, high-quality information on a wide variety of topics. Examples include Gale Biography in Context, World Book Student, and Britannica Middle School Edition.  Students should know how to locate databases, choose an appropriate database, search in a database, and cite sources found in a database.  Databases are a great place to start looking for information rather than immediately turning to Google.

4. How To Search For and find books

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Searching for and finding books is still an important skill in the library.  We have nearly 5,000 titles on our shelves and while it’s fun to browse, if you are looking for something specific, it is important to know how to search the library catalog and find call numbers. Boys should also know how to use OverDrive.  All students with parental permission have access to over 25,000 ebooks, audiobooks, and videos through this digital library.  We owe a special thanks to Marlborough Public Library for providing our boys access to OverDrive.

5. How to ask for help  

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It’s great to know how to do things and become more independent.  However, there is always going to be something new to figure out.  Asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness.  And at Hillside, that’s what Ms. Dalane is there for!

Tags: Boarding School, Community, Technology, Empowering Boys, Tips & Strategies, Reading

Interview Tips - Directly from the Source

Posted by Lee Greener on Sat, Oct 11, 2014 @ 11:00 AM
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As we get ready to send our ninth graders off to visit secondary schools next week, we solicited Admission Officers from around the country for interview tips. To help ease the stress of an interview, this is what they think you should know.

"It isn’t just about the interview. Be mindful of you manners and interactions long before you enter in to an interviewer’s office. Admission officers are watching your every action once you step on campus. This includes things like: how you interact with your parents and family, how much you use your cell phone and what you do with your trash." - Nick Antol, Associate Director of Admission, Portsmouth Abbey School

"Be genuine. We want to get to know you as a person, not the person you think we want to meet. It’s okay to prepare for your interview with practice questions, but your responses should be spontaneous and from the heart." - Derek Cunha, Associate Director of Admission, The Williston Northampton School

"Know your passion and be prepared to speak about it; we want to know what makes you most excited." - Joe Kremer, Associate Director of Admissions, Pomfret School

"Answer clearly and make eye contact. Positive body language makes everyone more at ease." -Gingi Sheppard, Bishop's College School

"Practice the interview with a friend, or better yet, an adult. You don't want to sound like you've memorized all your answers but you DO want to sound comfortable & confident in the interview." - DaRel Christiansen, Director of Admission, Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School

"Remember that the interview is two-sided. There are certainly things that the Admission Officer you meet with will want to know about you. In addition, take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions that will help you get a feel for the particular school you're considering. It is important for you to use this conversation to assess fit." - Ray Cross, Director of Admission, Marianapolis School

"Don't be afraid of silence. If you are asked a difficult question, it is perfectably acceptable to think in silence before offering your response. Many students are made uncomfortable by silence and, as a result, they often attempt to avoid it. However, thinking in silence gives you an opportunity to form a complete thought that you are likely to express more clearly to your interviewer." - Michael Conklin, Associate Director of Admission and Financial Aid, Mercersburg Academy

"After the visit on the car ride home or later the night, write down all your impressions. If you are seeing several schools in a short period of time you must do this or they will all blend together in your mind." - Lindsay Knaup, Assistant Dean of Admission, Wayland Academy

Interviewing is a two way street. Is is the opportunity for a school to get to know you as well as for you to get to know the culture of a school. There are hundreds of boarding schools across the country, all with different feels. You never know what you will think until you step foot on campus. Want to make the most of your campus visit? Download our guide below to make sure you are asking all the right questions.


                                     Make the Most of Your Campus Visit, Download our Tip Sheet

Tags: Boarding School, Admission Process, Tips & Strategies

Top 5 Study Strategies

Posted by Lee Greener on Fri, Oct 03, 2014 @ 01:30 AM

With the first tests of the year rapidlStudy Tipsy approaching Learning Specialists Ms. Buzard and Mrs. Carberry give some great tips on how to find success early on this year.

We know that studying for tests can make some students' palms sweat and may tempt others to retreat into a cocoon of procrastination. Or some students may say, “I studied,” yet may have just stared at their notes - not because they didn’t want to study, but because they didn’t know how. At Hillside and beyond, it is important to keep these strategies in mind when you sit down and get ready to prepare for a test.

1. Dissect your study guide.

If your teacher gave you a study guide for the test, that’s awesome! The study guide is the single most important tool that can help you prepare if you use it correctly. THIS MEANS DON’T JUST STARE AT IT. Define each term. Look up concepts in the book or class notes if you feel like you are fuzzy on what something means.

2. Find a study buddy.

Studying can be lonely, and sometimes you may have missed something in class that another student understands. Find a classmate to review any questions you may have about the study guide. Compare notes. Word of caution: don’t choose a good friend or anyone who is more likely to distract you as a study buddy.

3. Self-advocate.

You have the privilege of attending a small school with teachers who can’t wait to help you. Please ask your teachers questions about concepts you don’t understand. Make sure you’ve done some of the review yourself, and bring specific concerns to your teacher. Self advocacy is a powerful skill that you can continue to use throughout your academic career (and in life)!  No one will know that you need help if you don’t ask.

4. Be an active reviewer!

Make two-column notes using concepts from your study guide and quiz yourself by folding over the paper.  Create flashcards on index cards or online using iPad apps such as Quizlet.   

5. Plan, plan, plan!

Don’t wait to the last minute to study.  Create a study plan or calendar to help pace your studying.  If you have a final exam in History, perhaps start studying two weeks in advance and review one chapter a night.  As the exam gets closer, your understanding of key terms and concepts will be stronger and studying your flashcards and study guides will be more effective.

Tags: Boarding School, Tips & Strategies

I Got Into Boarding School, Now What?

Posted by Lee Greener on Fri, Mar 07, 2014 @ 03:00 PM

I got into boarding school, now what?Congratulations! You have received your acceptance(s) to boarding school. The worrying is over, and you can take a deep breath knowing you have a home for secondary school. With an acceptance comes the opportunity to change your life and find your best educational fit.

How do you choose which boarding school is right for you? It is similar to exploring schools during the application process, but instead of asking "could I imagine myself here and finding success?" consider, "Is this the place I am going to be happy, challenged and successful?"

 Here are a few pointers to help you navigate the decision process.

Take a Moment to Celebrate!

First and foremost, celebrate your acceptance letters! Enjoy the moment and soak it all in. Celebrate with your family and friends on this momentous occasion. You achieved your goal of being admitted to boarding school, and you should be proud!

The "It" List

What is most important to you in a school, and how does each school satisfy your requirements? If you want to play squash in school and Schools A and B have squash and School C does not, should you rule out School C? Make a list of your must-haves and your wants, and use those to compare schools. This may help you narrow your list.

Talk To Someone Who Knows

Ask to speak with a current student (parents should speak with a current parent). Ask thoughtful questions and learn more about the general school culture and campus life. Below you will find a list of questions that we recommend asking on campus visits. This list may help guide you in formulating your own questions to ask students and parents.

Go Back to School

Go back to campus. Revisit the campus and pay special attention to the feelings you get when you are there. Does it feel right? Do you feel a connection to the students and do they make you feel welcome? Ask to visit classes that are realistic for you, or classes in which you are especially interested in. Are you interested in exploring Art more in secondary school? Ask to sit in on a ceramics or photography class. Doing so is the best way to get a true feeling for the school.

Trust Your Gut

After deciding what is important to you, speaking to current students and revisiting campus; what does your gut tell you? Trust the initial feeling you get when you think about a particular school and use that to help you make your decision. You got into those great schools already and they all believe you are the right fit for them. At least one of them is a great fit for you. When you know, you know--don't be afraid to trust your gut instinct.


                                                                         Find Questions to Ask Current Students Here!

Tags: Boarding School, Admission Process, Tips & Strategies

Secondary School Admission: As One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

Posted by Lee Greener on Fri, Jan 10, 2014 @ 04:30 PM
Secondary School Admission

Next week marks the conclusion of a year long journey for our ninth grade students. Their interviews, essays and hard work in class will be evaluated by the secondary schools where they chose to apply. After hours of research, days worth of visits and weeks of writing essays, the boys can finally enjoy the end of the process. As of January 15th, the applications are out of the boys' (and their parents') hands, and the waiting game begins.

As the ninth graders finish their journey, the eighth graders are just getting started. Like most junior boarding schools, Hillside School has a Secondary School Placement Team that helps families navigate the placement process, which can often feel overwhelming. At Fall Awards this year, Headmaster David Beecher, Director of Admission and Financial Aid Bill Newman, Director of Secondary School Placement Peter Wagoner and Associate Director of Admission Matthew Kowalchick discussed what to expect in the year ahead and answered parent questions. If you missed out on the panel, don't worry! You can find their tips and strategies here. We have also included our "My Student Profile Worksheet" so you can start exploring the charactertistics that are important to you when looking at secondary schools. Just decided you are interested in secondary school? Check out our blog post on what to do next here.

We wish the best of luck to our boys awaiting secondary school decisions and to our boys just beginning their journey!


Find the right school for you.  Download the My Student Profile Worksheet here!

Tags: Boarding School, Admission Process, Tips & Strategies

Organizational Tips for Boarding School

Posted by Hilary Collier on Fri, Dec 06, 2013 @ 02:51 PM

organization resized 600There are a few important strategies that students can use to stay organized while living at a boarding school. While it may seem challenging to balance all the things that happen on campus, some of these tips will help you succeed while getting the most out of your boarding school experience!

1. Balance your time well.

There are many opportunities to participate in new and exciting activities at boarding school, but it is important that you find the right balance between academics, athletics, social time with friends, and personal time. Everything is good in moderation, but devoting too much time to one thing can make you feel overwhelmed. Put your activities in your planner so that you know when they are happening, and do the most important things first.

2. Prioritize assignments and break long-term projects into smaller chunks.

It can be easy to devote too much time to one assignment when you get started, or forget to leave enough time for a big project when it seems like the due date is far away. If you break assignments into smaller chunks, you can do everything a little bit at a time and ensure all your assignments get done on time. You can also put your assignments in order each night, based on what needs to get done first, which will ensure that you complete all of your work promptly.

3. Keep materials and personal areas neat and organized.

Keeping your binder and locker organized at school will help you keep track of assignments and materials that you need in the classroom. By doing the same in your dorm room, your roommates will appreciate that you are organized, and you will be able to find things easily when you need them.

4. Ask for help when you need it!

Your teachers, coaches, dorm parents, and other faculty members are all there to help you succeed. If you need help staying organized or coming up with strategies that work for you, just ask.

Hilary Collier and Elizabeth Donahue
Hillside School Learning Specialists

Tags: Boarding School, Residential Life, Tips & Strategies

Financial Aid: 8 Tips for Affording Boarding or Independent Schools

Posted by Lee Greener on Fri, Nov 08, 2013 @ 10:45 AM

Boardsadowsky 1309256100 resized 600ing or independent school is a significant and fulfilling investment. These institutions are dedicated to helping students develop their academic foundations, confidence, passions and lifelong friendships. Financial aid can bridge the gap between what families can afford, and tuition, room and board. Schools consult outside agencies to determine a family's demonstrated need; some examples are School and Student Services (SSS) through NAIS, Infosnap or Financial Aid for Student Tuition (FAST) through Independent School Management. These agencies help schools determine what your family can contribute to your child’s education. Once you have logged in with the agency, completing your Parent's Financial Statement (PFS) is very simple. To help you through the process, our Admission Team has compiled a few tips:

1. Apply early. The sooner, the better, when you apply for financial aid. You will feel less stressed if you're not up against deadlines.

2. When applying, have your most recent tax return beside you when filling out the PFS. You can use your most recent tax return and update your numbers once you have filed your current tax return. Schools will require your current tax returns to complete the process, so file your taxes as early as possible.

3. Know your school codes. These can be found on schools' websites and through agencies. For example, Hillside’s code is 3908 for SSS.

4. Submit in writing any special financial circumstances (fire, water damage) that may impact your ability to pay.

5. Be honest.

6. Know that need-blind admission does not exist at all schools. This means that your financial aid application could affect your child's application for admission.

7. Some schools offer two kinds of financial aid grants: need- and merit-based. Need-based aid is a calculation that takes into account your income, assets and expenses. Merit-based aid is awarded for your child's academic or athletic history.

8. If you have any questions, call the school's Admission Team. They will have the answers you need to navigate any financial aid paperwork.

We can not emphasize enough the last tip about contacting the school's Admission Team. They are available to answer any and all questions you may have about the financial aid process. Calculating it correctly makes a significant impact on your family's choices and lifestyle, and your child's options. Financial aid enables more students to afford boarding schools, where they can have the experiences that make the process more than worthwhile.

Tags: Boarding School, Admission Process, Tips & Strategies

The Importance of Setting Foot on Campus

Posted by Lee Greener on Fri, Oct 11, 2013 @ 03:10 PM

Boarding School Campus Visit

Congratulations! You've decided you want to go to boarding school. You've also made your BIG LIST, which contains all the schools you will initially visit. At this point, you have also had your first contact with schools to schedule your campus visit. That day has now arrived! You look sharp, dressed in slacks, a buttoned-up shirt, tie and blazer. You are ready to go. But are you really ready to set foot on the boarding school campus? Do you know what to expect? What questions to ask? This is Part II of the "I Want to Go to Boarding School, Now What?" Series (Part I can be found here) and we are here to help! 

What does it look like?

Campus visits encompass many of the same activities. The major components are a campus tour, most likely led by a student, and an interview with an Admission Officer. Your parents will also interview with the same Admission Officer. In addition, some visits will include sitting in on a class, having lunch on campus, or completing a writing sample. Each school is different, and you want to be prepared. 

The Tour

Schools have various set-ups, but more often than not you will receive a student-led tour on your own. Your parents will tour with a member of the Admission Team. This tour is your chance to learn about the school culture. Ask questions! Your tour guide will provide great information on different aspects of the school such as athletics, the dining hall, and dorm life, to name a few. Tour guides possess a wealth of knowledge, so take advantage of the time you have with them. Find good questions for them on the tip sheet below.

Most importantly, when you are walking around campus and exploring the school, ask yourself questions. Can I see myself here? Is this a place where I can thrive and become the person I want to be? Do I want to go to school here? Also ask your guide why s/he chose the school; the answer may surprise you!

The Interview

First and foremost, relax! The interview is a two-way street. The Admission Officer is interviewing you and learning more about you, but you are also interviewing the school and determining if it is a good fit. Think of the interview as a conversation designed for the Admission Officer to find out more information about you. What do you like to do with your friends? What is your favorite class in school, and why? What is the last book you read, and what did you think of it? The questions will be open-ended, and you should not answer them with "yes" or "no". As Admission Officers, we want to hear you talk about yourself and your interests. A few tips for your interview:

  • Always be positive.

  • A smile's worth a thousand words.

  • Being polite goes a long way.

  • Ask questions.

As an Admission Officer, I always ask boys applying to Hillside School the same final two questions: how would you describe yourself and what makes you unique? I would not be surprised if you were asked similar questions. Be prepared to answer them! An Admission Officer may have 50 applications for one spot. What should they know about you that makes you different or special? What will you add to their community that the other 49 other applicants will not? Ask your schools all the same questions. It will make comparing schools quick and easy.

Wrapping It Up

When the Admission Officer is finished interviewing you, they will then sit down with your parents. Your parents will have the opportunity to share more information about you. Parents: brag about your child! This is your chance to add to your child's interview. It also allows the Admission Officer to get to know your family and to understand why you are thinking about boarding school. Take some time to ask questions concerning tuition, financial aid, safety, etc. Take advantage of this time.

You're All Done…Mostly.

Once you say your goodbyes (while looking the Admission Officer in the eye and giving a firm handshake and a thank you) you are ready to go. Now is the time to jot down some notes about your visit. What did you like? What stands out the most from the visit? How did you feel on the tour? Answers to these questions will help you sort which schools make your short list, and will fill out your My School Profile Worksheet. When you get home, send a thank you note to the Admission Officer. A handwritten note goes a long way.

To help you take advantage of your time on campus, we have included a "How to Make the Most of the Campus Visit" tips sheet. This sheet has great questions to ask regarding different areas of campus like academics, residential life and athletics. It also has a section for you to jot down notes.

Once you have visited the schools on your bigger list, it is time to make your short list. Follow these schools on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to stay updated about what is going on on campus. Search the Admission section (Hillside's example here) of each school's website for application requirements and deadlines. Each school varies, so be sure to do a thorough comparison. 

Stay tuned to the Bulldog Blog, as we discuss the Financial Aid process next.

Make the Most of Your Campus Visit, Download our Tip Sheet

Tags: Boarding School, Admission Process, Tips & Strategies

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