Tag Archives: prospective students

Choosing Boarding School

by Shaina Gonzales ’19

The funny thing is, I never planned boarding school to be my future.

In fact, I didn’t even know it was an option—and even when I did find out halfway through my middle school years, I waved off the very thought of it. Besides, I thought, aren’t boarding schools for kids who want to get away from their families? A thing that only exists in books? A place for bad kids? A place that certain people had the privilege of attending?  I had a limited perspective on boarding school, but nevertheless, I was already dismissing this possibility out of the picture.

Most importantly, boarding school was impossible for me to consider, since I’m an only child of a single mother. My entire life, it’s always been me and my mom, and I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her alone for four high school years. She was on the same page with me, until eighth grade, when my high school placement program came into effect. I think the pivotal moment where both of our minds changed was when we listened to an alumni’s parent share her experience with sending her daughter to boarding high school—she was a single parent with an only child, making it instantly relatable for us.

Intrigued, I recall the mother telling her story— the pains of sending her daughter off to a faraway place, having to continue daily life without watching her daughter grow through high school, being a distant figure from her teenaged child. But then, she stated she doesn’t regret the choice she and her daughter made, and would do it all over again. She saw how happy and satisfied her daughter was from attending boarding school. The mother understood that the boarding experience was an experience that benefited her daughter— an experience day schools can’t offer.

I think that personal story was the catalyst for choosing boarding school. I was moved and intrigued by it, but still a little hesitant. In my twelve year old mind, it didn’t matter what I wanted – what mattered was if me and my mom mutually agreed, because we are a team. However, my mom was also gripped by the alumni’s parent experience.

I remember clearly her turning to me, taking my hand, and whispering, “Let’s give this a try.”

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Why I Chose the IB Program


Teacher Kathy Rodgers helps with a class assignment.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

When I was about twelve, I started thinking about college. I was not sure of much, but I knew I wanted to go far, possibly even outside the country. My mom has a few friends who live in California and the school their kids go to offers the International Baccalaureate diploma. I first heard of it over the phone when I was in seventh grade. I looked it up and was drawn into the information I found.

The idea of having six subjects and having an equal balance in each interested me. At first, I worried about the arts, but I figured out that I could double in a subject to replace it. After thinking about it for a couple of months, I talked to my mom about my findings. I was really interested in getting this diploma. I was convinced it would make me a better student and wanted the opportunity to engage in this deeper level thinking.

She gave me the green light to go ahead and research schools. That’s actually how I found George School. When I got here, I was not sure what would happen. I did not know if I would change my mind and drop the IB idea. But two years later, I am a likely IB candidate. I plan to take two standard level exams, Spanish and Economics, and four higher level exams, English, Latin, Math, and Biology. The rest of my classes are a sprinkling of APs. I am doubling in language and not taking an art.

I know this is going to be very difficult, but I am prepared. The IB diploma is something I have been working towards for three years now. I love the thought of learning to think critically. I am anxious for a chance to write essays of deeper level thinking. I want to learn, but I don’t want to focus in one subject. I want to be a well-rounded academic and I feel like IB offers me more resources to do that.

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Life as a Boarder: A Reflection


Photo by Kim Major.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

Life in the dorms is nothing like I expected. Coming to George School, I was terrified. What if I didn’t like my roommate or what if she didn’t like me? What if I didn’t make friends or I missed home? Questions along these lines ran through my head as I packed my stuff to leave. I don’t know what I was expecting, I think it was probably a combination of the dorm life from Pitch Perfect or Legally Blonde, where everyone meets for study groups, clubs, and parties, and Mean Girls which—to me was an example of what high school was like.

When I got to George School, I was shocked. I didn’t hate my roommate and she didn’t hate me. Making friends was easy. I missed home, but not so much that I actually wanted to go home. But more importantly, high school wasn’t like Mean Girls. It wasn’t full of scheming and plotting against those around me. Living in the dorms was like Pitch Perfect or Legally Blonde. I didn’t have to be part of a clique to fit in. I just had to be myself. I don’t spend a lot of time in the dorm, I prefer being out and about during whatever free time I can manage.

George School purposefully keeps you busy. There is hardly time to think of those “what ifs” that I couldn’t get out of my mind at the beginning of the year. When I do get free time, I use it to get ahead on homework. I call my parents on a regular schedule, so I never really missed them that much.

Of course, there were some things with which I struggle. I miss my dog, my bed, and my friends from home. I miss my sisters and home-cooked meals. I recently got sick and I missed having someone to take care of me. Going to a boarding school changes the way you view things. Things that were once important, take a back burner; especially when you go back home. You begin to appreciate life a little more. Small things become important. Like my Mom cooking my favorite meal when I went home for the first time after my birthday or my Dad getting me something that we were talking about on the phone a couple weeks prior.

Being a boarder at George School was like moving from one home to another. My parents and siblings will always be my family, but now I also have dozens of sisters and handfuls of brothers. My dorm parents are my parents away from home. Of all the things George School teaches its students, boarding or day, the most important is that family isn’t about genetics – it’s about who stands by you when you need it the most but deserve it the least.

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Tour Guides: A Glimpse of Life at GS

by Ashley Pettway, Admission Office

First term is in full swing and our campus is buzzing with visitors. It gives us great joy here in the Admission Office to share our campus with you and it takes a lot of people behind the scenes to make your visit special. Last week, I introduced the ambassadors, a select group of students who blog, take pictures, and talk with families during visits. This week, I’d like to introduce you to our tour guides. Each year, the Admission Office selects outgoing sophomores, juniors, and seniors to serve as student leaders in our office. These students have shown a love for George School and often hold additional leadership positions on campus.  They are the heart of our office and we could not function without them. Continue reading

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Lessons from Squirrels

This post was adapted from a speech written by Head of School Nancy Starmer and delivered during the Opening Assembly on September 1, 2014. 

Those of us who live year round on the GS campus know that it’s hard not to pay attention occasionally to our squirrel friends.  I, personally, have an ambivalent relationship with them.  Like many of you, I’ve been startled often by a squirrel flying at me out of a dumpster and they’ve eaten holes in the screens of my house and gotten into the kitchen cupboards. I’ve chased them around the dining hall in the summer when they’ve just waltzed in through an open door, and just this past summer I found myself having to apologize on behalf of all of GS for the behavior of our squirrels when one ate through the zipper in a house guest’s suitcase to get at a granola bar she’d stored in the front compartment for her trip home (she’d left the suitcase out on the driveway for five minutes while she waited for her ride and in that brief period of time the squirrel managed to completely destroy the bag.) Continue reading

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Following Through

by Autumn Atkinson ’13

Editor’s note: Autumn will enter her second year at Sarah Lawrence College this fall. She is a member of the George School Class of 2013, a former prefect, Terra leader, and IB Diploma recipient. 

In 2008 I was flipping through the Georgian my mom received as an alumna. I said “Mom, I’m going to George School.” She didn’t think I was serious, but at that moment I decided that I was going to go to George School. I scurried about filling out the forms and writing the essay. Before I was even accepted I knew there were several things I wanted to earn at George School:

  1. A spot on the tennis team
  2. A prefect position
  3. Admittance to a good college
  4. An IB diploma

As I became a George School student and learned how things worked my mind went crazy with ideas. I wanted to be one of the few seniors who were asked to stand up during the Recognition assembly over and over because they earned Honor Roll and Head of Schools list each term at GS. I wanted to be cast in plays, write really good essays, and learn French inside and out. Oh, I was also on my best behavior because I was terrified of getting in trouble.

Admittedly, I was a bit high strung as a freshman.  My teachers were not shy about commenting on my ‘enthusiasm’ in the first midterm reports. In response to the comments I received relating to my Global Interdependence class Mark Wiley, my advisor at the time, told me that if I wanted to do the IB I would have to do better in my history class. When he said this, I was so hurt because I didn’t know how to do better and I knew he was right.

At George School, I was continuously asked to do things that I didn’t know how to do both in and out of the classroom. I had no idea how to talk to my roommate about difficult things, and I didn’t know how anyone could sit quietly through meeting for worship. I was always really nervous about tests, exams, tennis matches, and being late to check-in.  At the end of my sophomore year, I was faced with the reality that I was growing up quickly and the hardest years of my life were quickly approaching. I was terrified.

To my surprise, my third year at George School was the best of them all. My classes were very challenging but rarely dull. I learned so much about time management, perseverance, friendship, and balance.  I worked hard to make the best of situations and to keep focused on what was important.  What I learned out of the classroom was just as important as learning about French Culture or sustainable sources of electricity since life is constantly throwing you obstacles. At first, I had no idea how to do most of my assignments.  Writing a page for my IB Art Journal was overwhelming and critical essay writing—well getting through the Scarlet Letter was a challenge in itself.  One of the biggest hurdles of junior year is the Culminating Paper. There was nothing to prepare me for the amount of mental clarity that was necessary to write a 4,000 word comparative essay on two great works of literature. However, I cannot express how grateful I am that George School requires a paper of this caliber. The experience made twenty-page papers in college seem easy.

Suddenly my class was leading the campus, applying to colleges, and getting antsy about moving on. I struggled a lot my senior year with the thought of leaving George School because of the uncertainty that lay ahead.  Let me be honest—I have no idea how I made it through that year. I stretched myself a little too thin between being an IB Diploma candidate, a West Main Prefect, and a leader of various clubs like Terra. I learned so much that year, but perhaps the most important thing is something Ralph Lelii told me after a TOK class. He said that no one’s voice or thoughts are more or less important than your own.

Before I knew it IB exams were finished, I had committed to Sarah Lawrence College, senior prom was the most fun I’ve ever had at a dance and I have never felt as settled as I did in Commencement Meeting for Worship. Suddenly I was in my white dress walking towards Nancy Starmer to get my Diploma.

I remember feeling elated and proud just twice in my life so far—once when I received my acceptance letter to George School and the other when I received my George School and International Baccalaureate diplomas.


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For the thrill, for the King, for GEORGE SCHOOL!

By Chloe ’16

It’s coming.

What is that green stuff that keeps popping up everywhere? It’s so new… so profound… I have heard stories of this entity, but never have I seen it with mine own eyes!

At least, that’s what it feels like.

For a while there it seemed as though we’d never see grass again, especially after that crazy one-snowstorm-per-week deal Mother Nature made right before exams. But look outside! Because we were under so much pressure from exams and all, a great lot of us failed to notice that there was actual, bonafide, for serious GRASS coming up through the snow. It’s amazazing!



Photo credit to Max ’16


Now, with the return of grass comes the eventual return of warm weather, and with that comes…




Already the post-study hall mob has begun to form nightly on Red Square, despite the chilly weather. The ritual has begun anew, and it is only a matter of time before the (would be) Olympic sport we know as George School four square will commence once more.

Come third term, there will be roars of laughter, shouts of triumph, and cries of defeat as Friend encounters Friend in an ongoing friendly competition for the position of King. To start out as a pawn and (by kicking, shouting, clawing, punting, screaming, debating) finally be crowned King is probably one of the most euphoric feelings on earth. That being said, the rest of the players’ job is to dethrone you, but no matter. It’s a cursed, endless cycle of triumph and disappointment, but we play anyway – for the thrill, for the King,


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Why We Offer Both–Justifying the IB and the AP

by Ralph Lelii, English department

When I speak with parents of prospective IB Diploma candidates, I am asked this question most frequently: “What is the difference between the IB and the AP?” My answer reflects differences in assessments, curricula, and philosophy, but I do not think it is the most significant question one might ask about the two programs. I believe instead that a far more interesting query might be centered on what justification we might offer for featuring both programs here at George School.

The respective histories are worth mentioning first. After WWII, the Ford Foundation supported the formation of a committee to study innovation in secondary education. It was called the “Kenyon Plan” because it originated at Kenyon College. The first study was conducted by three prep schools—the Lawrenceville School, Phillips Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy—and three universities—Harvard University, Princeton University and Yale University. They concluded it was possible to teach rigorous, college level material at the secondary level and offer college credits. The Advanced Placement program has been in existence continually since 1955.

The IB has a more complex genesis. Though the idea for the IB began in 1948, it was at an international conference in Geneva in 1962 that the plan gained traction. It was actually an American history teacher, Robert Leach, who organized the Geneva conference. UNESCO became interested and funded the ongoing development. Coincidentally, a Ford Foundation grant funded the final study at Oxford University in 1966. The participants looked at the A level system in the UK and studied the Advanced Placement program as well. In 1969, the IB began its Diploma with a six year test program, and the IB Diploma was formalized in 1975.

Both the AP and the IB stress academic rigor above all else, and interested readers can explore their respective philosophies and curricula readily online. For me, the justification for our participation in both programs resides in two ideas about human nature and our existence as an International Friends School.

The term “confirmation bias” was coined in a paper published in 1960 by British psychologist Peter Wason.  It stated that people will tend to support their own hypothesis in a one-sided way by searching for evidence which supports their beliefs, and selectively excluding evidence which tends to disprove it. This idea is hardly new; Aristotle spoke of our desire to select our side in an argument on the basis of what we already believe and to eschew principles which seem to contradict them. These studies have been repeated again and again with similar results. Because any teacher worth his or her salt has a passion for the job, it seems likely to me that we will at least occasionally see things in ways that reinforce what we want to be true in our pedagogy. For me, the IB and the AP are like referees on a basketball court. Left to their own devices, players might begin to justify their own fouls and diminish the claims of the opponents. These two programs provide an outside pair of eyes, not perfect by any means, but rigorous and standardized.

The second idea about human nature that I reference is the “observer effect” first stated about physics. It suggests that by the mere act of observation, we change in some degree the things we see. In a small, highly personal school community, it seems at least possible to me that our perceptions of our students’ work, by virtue of our constant close observation, might influence the production of it and our evaluation as well. Having the outside assessments of the IB and AP on hand give us a way to balance our own perceptions. Again, it is not that one is right and the other wrong. It is a system of checks and balances, I believe, that can lead to a greater level of intellectual accuracy concerning our notions of what students actually learn. I would never be in support of a school curriculum composed entirely of AP or IB classes. Here at George School, students who take these externally assessed components still receive the full GS experience and most of their classes are mixed right through senior year.

Finally, George School is an international Friends’ institution with young people in attendance from forty-eight different countries. That staggering number is a testament to the extraordinary ambition and energy of our Admissions Department. For me, it seems right that we acknowledge and reward the trust of those parents around the world by having the humility to temper our academic autonomy at least a bit with assessments constructed internationally and administered in all of the their respective homelands.

In 2007, I was a guest examiner in Cardiff, Wales at the IBO assessment center. The supervisor of my discipline, English Literature A1, was a Moroccan educated in Moscow and London. There was a Peruvian on my team, as well as a Canadian and a Saudi. I was the sole US representative, and I was not afforded any special status. I was treated equitably, charitably and professionally as was everyone else, and I came away with a sense that this collaboration was something worth modeling for our students, destined as are we all, to live with empathy and compassion in a world they never made.

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Follow a Student: Hanna ’15

Hanna ’15 is a day student in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. She is a member of the cross country and winter track teams and she intends to play softball in the spring. When she isn’t studying for class she enjoys reading poetry, yoga, and leading the school’s women’s rights club.

Despite the snowy weather on Tuesday, December 10, George School held classes (since many of our students are boarding students and many of our faculty live on campus, we rarely have to cancel school). Hanna took photos throughout her day to share what a typical “snow day” is like at George School.


6:00 a.m. Time for school. When Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” he must not have been thinking of teenagers.


7:30 am. Driving to school in the most beautiful, yet terrifying, weather.

7:31 am. Thankfully the blizzard has given me some extra time in the car to study quadratics.

7:31 am. Thankfully the blizzard has given me some extra time in the car to study quadratics.

8:00 am. Looks like my math class will be pretty empty today.

8:00 am. Looks like my math class will be pretty empty today.

8:45 am. Now it's time for my favorite class, español. This is me posing with my friend Carol as we try to interpret news articles from Nicaragua, where I will be going this March on my George School Service trip.

8:45 am. Now it’s time for my favorite class, español. This is me posing with my friend Carol as we try to interpret news articles from Nicaragua, where I will be going this March on my George School Service trip. *Each student is required to complete a 65-hour service project before graduation. Many students fulfill this requirement by participating in service trips led by George School faculty and staff. Previous service trip destinations include France, Cuba, China, Mississippi, Arizona, Israel/Palestine, and Costa Rica.*

10:00 am. After running around in the cold, I need to refuel with peanut butter cookies from Bettye's Place.

10:00 am. After running around in the cold, I need to refuel with peanut butter cookies from Bettye’s Place. *Bettye’s Place is the on-campus snack bar at George School.*

10:15 am. A ping-pong match wouldn't hurt either.

10:15 am. A ping-pong match wouldn’t hurt either.

11:00 am. After our pig heart dissections, Polly moved forward with a lecture about immune systems.

11:00 am. After our pig heart dissections, Polly moved forward with a lecture about immune systems.


1:00 pm. After a delicious lunch, I have painting and drawing class. We worked on watercolor experiments and perspective.

3:45 pm. After a long day, it was nice to relieve some of my stress at track practice. Unfortunately, the track was more of a skating rink, so it was difficult to run, but the strange circumstances made practice much more exciting and a perfect end to the snowy day.

3:45 pm. After a long day, it was nice to relieve some of my stress at track practice. The snow made the track more of a skating rink, so it was difficult to run, but the strange circumstances made practice much more exciting and a perfect end to the snowy day.

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Each Child is Different

This post was written by Rebecca, mom of Quin ’09 and Faith ’17.

Each child is different, I was telling myself, taking a nostalgic walk around the George School campus. Be the best mother you can be and allow them to follow their own hearts. I was back in Newtown for a revisit day with my youngest child, Faith. She was weighing the pros and cons of enrolling as a boarder at George School, just as her older brother, Quin, had seven years ago.

Quin, now 22, started at George School in the fall of 2006. He was a dispirited 14-year-old, given to wearing the hood of his sweatshirt up so that his face was hidden. While he had never known failure, he had also never known ease in school. Over-measured, frequently-tested, quantified and profiled, he had all but disappeared under that hood. I knew my boy was in there, my magical and quirky child who could figure out how to take apart my Kitchenaid mixer and fix it, my marvelously funny kid who could read a room better than he could read a book, but I couldn’t quite find him.

Leaving him at George School was a leap of faith for me and relief for him. Quin discovered himself during his years there, somewhere between that third floor room in Orton and Carter’s woodshop. The hood came down, the smile was easy on his face. He grew tall and winsome; he made a lot of jokes. He hijacked the Westtown moose head. I got comments from the Admissions Office, where his co-op was to be a tour guide.

“We love Quin. We just wish he wouldn’t give tours in his pajamas.”

“What?” he asked when confronted. “It makes people realize they can be comfortable here.”

He also had his struggles. I became more intimate with the Dean’s office than I wished. I sought solace on the porch of Main with Jenna, his advisor who quickly became mine, too. Between the struggles, he was encouraged. He learned that he would be valued after making a mistake, maybe even more so for having fallen down, gotten up, and dusted himself off. He found himself to be a gifted artist, a valued friend, a trusted ally.

His senior year, he took an unfinished hunk of wood and made it into a glowing bowl with a deep curve to the rim. When he gave it to me, he explained that the weight of the bowl would settle into the shape of my palm, making the heavy thing almost weightless. He found, in this elegantly articulate way, the marriage between form and function, between the prosaic and the lyric, the beauty in the every day. And he did it without words.

Now Faith, his sister, was thinking about coming to George School. Her brother was on the west coast in design school, distant enough in time that only a handful of faculty would describe her as “Quin’s sister” rather than Faith. Still, as the youngest of four, she wanted her own place, her own story, her own adventure. She didn’t want to walk in anyone’s footsteps.

I wanted her to have the same revelatory experience her brother had; I wanted her to learn there are many different paths, all equally valuable, to finding your gifts. I wanted her at George School, where I knew she would be seen and heard, not just measured and tested. I wanted to take her by her slim shoulders and say “This is your place, not just your brother’s.”

I knew I couldn’t pick a school for her; I knew I had to let her choose for herself. So on that revisit day, I took one last long walk around George School, stopping where Quin had graduated, so dapper in his jacket that day, all the white of the girls’ dresses, the green of the grass, the light so kind and sweet and soft after those dark first days.

I said a silent thank you to George School and got into the car with Faith, ready to hear she had decided to go to a different school, a new place where she could make her own way.

I started the car and drove the long way out, past the barn.

“I’m going to George School,” Faith said before I had pulled out into traffic.

“I feel like the people here are good to each other all the time, not just when other people are watching.”

And so it begins.

A new path.

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