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Dare to Ask Hard Questions: A Guide to Accepted Student Days

Scott Allenby

Last Friday, a group of prospective students received notification of their acceptance to Proctor. Dozens of families have already submitted their contracts for next year; Proctor was their #1 choice and the fit between their child and our school was perfect. For the vast majority of our accepted students, the decision is not that easy. Proctor is one of a number of schools to which they were accepted, each offering amazing programs, each filled with talented educators who care deeply about their work and their school. So how does Proctor stand out from the crowd? How do we ensure prospective families fully appreciate and understand the depth of the Proctor experience when weighing their options?

During Accepted Students Days (March 29, April 2, and April 5), Proctor will welcome over 150 newly accepted students and their families to campus to experience a “day in the life” of a Proctor student. These days provide an opportunity for families to ask questions, to probe a little deeper, and, most importantly, to soak up the intangible ‘feel’ of the Proctor community. During the next two weeks, our goal is to help families understand the value of being different, about how we have intentionally chosen a different educational philosophy in order to deliver a unique experience that we believe is optimal for adolescents. This is what our prospective families have experienced during the admissions process, and what we want them to see one more time on Accepted Student Days in a few weeks. 

Register for Accepted Student Days Here!

As we think about the decision of choosing an independent school, we offer four pieces of advice to those families wrestling with what high school option will be best for their student. 

Proctor Academy Mountain Classroom Canoe

1) Don't try to compare Proctor to your other options. We're different.  

As you attend each school's Accepted Students Day, you will find similarities among the other schools you have visited: the facilities, the people, the small class sizes, the sense of community. You will compare one to another. School A had a great science building, but School B had a better dining hall and the food was a bit better there. When you visit Proctor, set the comparisons aside. Do not expect the same old routine of Accepted Student Day, and certainly do not expect to feel the same vibe on campus as other schools. Maybe you will fall in love with Proctor's uniqueness. Maybe you won't. We will not be offended if you feel the fit at Proctor isn't quite right, but we certainly will not change who we are in order to make you like us more. We believe deeply in who we are, the programs that shape our students, and the educational model we have crafted to best serve our students. We will never, ever, apologize for the school we seek to be or compromise the mission we pursue each and every day to try and make a prospective family like us more. 

Proctor Academy Assembly

2) The whole of the school is what is important, not individual programs.

Every independent school offers remarkable programs (Proctor included), but as you visit schools, do not be blinded by shiny objects. Do not allow your attention to be solely focused on a singular program that interests you, and instead allow yourself to take in the entirety of the school community. When you visit Proctor, stop at every table at the activities fair in the Farrell Field House after lunch. Talk to students. Talk to faculty. Talk to the amazingly talented dining services crew at lunch. Talk to the Housekeepers and Facilities Team who quietly keep campus looking beautiful. Move beyond the show that every school puts on for Accepted Student Day and dig into the heart of the school. Programs are what attract students to a school, but it is the whole of the school that determines the capacity for growth for each student. You will not be the same person you are today when you graduate, so do not limit your potential for evolution. Acknowledge the programs on your visit, but take time to learn about the whole of the community you are joining. Two, four, ten, twenty years down the road, you will be thankful you did. 

Proctor Academy students

3) You can learn much from the historical evolution of a school. Ask about it.

Proctor is not the same school today as it was fifty years ago. Our core remains constant, but we have evolved new programs and have grown in both physical plant and enrollment. It is important to learn about a school's history to understand why these evolutions occurred and how Proctor's unique culture was nurtured into the community it is today. Much can be gleaned from understanding a school's history; you will appreciate the vision of a past generation of leaders as well as the vision of the school's leadership today. You will begin to understand the unique value in an academic support program that has been part of Proctor's fabric since the 1950s and off-campus programs that are going on their sixth decade of immersing students in cultures around the globe. You will appreciate the rationale and origins of Proctor's first-name basis, small dorms, and Wilderness Orientation. There is a reason we have evolved into the unique place we are today, take time to learn about Proctor's history HERE, and know that everything we do from a pedagogical perspective is intentional.

Proctor Academy Campus

4) You are committing to a community and its values. Ask yourself if it aligns with who you want to be. 

When you join a school as a student or parent, you immerse yourself in the culture of that school. Each school possesses a unique culture, and, we believe, it is incredibly important that you step into a community with intentionality. Every program we offer, every decision we make as an institution, seeks to align us with our mission. We have a deep commitment to environmental stewardship, to justice, to a diverse learning population, and to healthy risk taking for our students. In joining the Proctor community, you are aligning yourself with a culture committed to these intentions. As you visit other schools, commit to understanding the roots of their culture, their beliefs, and their mission. Make sure that it aligns with who you are and who you want to become. It matters. 

Register for Accepted Student Days Here!

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