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Note: TABS welcomes and values contributions from leading voices across the independent college prep boarding school world. However, the opinions expressed by our guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect those of TABS.

This is hard! Stereotype Threat Part 2


In a previous TABS blog, Stereotype Threat & the Unique Advantage of Community, I discussed an in-depth conversation I had with Andrew Watson of TranslateTheBrain, about Stereotype Threat and the problems it causes for Working Memory. One of the primary strategies to diffuse Stereotype Threat or null its consequences, is to Normalize Struggle. But it’s not a crazy thing to wonder, does telling students that something is hard, make it harder? Read more ›

Posted in Academics, Counseling, Dispelling Myths, Diversity, Students, Students of Color, Teaching & Learning

After the Election: Thoughts from a Head of School

Solebury Head of School Tom Wilschutz shared the following thoughts at a student assembly on November 9, 2016.

Good afternoon,

I want to spend a few minutes and offer some context and perspective around this moment in our nation’s history. Some of you assembled here awoke with fear of the consequences of a Trump Presidency. Some of you assembled here today would have feared a Clinton Presidency. Some of you assembled here today don’t know how to process what is happening in our country.

Read more ›

Posted in Boarding schools, Campus Security, Counseling, Dispelling Myths, Diversity, Independent Schools, Parents, Student Culture, Student Life, Students, Students of Color

But I don’t want to go to boarding school!

Female hockey players stacking hands

By Sims Boulware Bullock

I needed to be pushed – okay forced – out of the confines of my South Carolina hometown into Boarding School. My parents knew that I needed to be challenged more academically and that I would benefit socially from meeting kids from other parts of the world, but I was too scared and yes, maybe a little too stubborn to see their line of reasoning. How was I going to survive without my best friends? What if the girls there didn’t like me? What if I wasn’t as smart as everyone thought I was? My stomach was in a ball of knots. But they packed me up and off we went.

Read more ›

Posted in Boarding schools, Dispelling Myths, Parents, Student Culture, Student Life, Students, Uncategorized

A Surprising View From The Helicopter

I have recently had the pleasure of working with The Association of Boarding Schools on a new initiative to increase student enrollment. It’s a category of great interest to me as a parent of two primary school-aged children who are on the verge of leaving their comfortable elementary school “bubble” and hit the real world of middle and high school. As we have delved into the trends affecting the category, I have come to the realization that I am, like many parents in my generation – a helicopter Mom. You know the type, we waited into our 30s and put ourselves through countless medical procedures in order to finally, gleefully, hold the title of “Mother”. Since they were tiny, our children have taken priority over all else in our lives and we have created industries out of finding ways to keep them entertained, enriched and educated. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And, like many of us up here trying to micro-manage the chaos, I have never even considered a boarding school experience because it’s such a departure from what I now know as “normal”.

Read more ›

Posted in Boarding schools, Dispelling Myths, General/Misc, Parents, Student Culture, Student Life, Students, TABS

Alumni Reflect on Lifelong Friendships from Boarding School

Students in Dorms

Green. Green. Green. Clustering, rolling, expanding. Cresting up and gliding down little hills, dancing criss-cross with a quiet river. Up where history gives way to leafy-fingered growth, the Taconic State Parkway is a beautiful drive that seems to be leading somewhere special, to the precipice of a great quest.

I love the journey but am relieved to arrive at manicured playing fields and little pathways winding between brick and wooden buildings. Familiar, yet totally unpredictable, like the ocean. I climb an old staircase to my room, pick my bed and put my computer on a desk. I know it so well and yet I’ve never seen this place before. I am not starting a new year at boarding school. It’s summer, decades later, and I’m a bridesmaid at one of my closest friend’s wedding, at the school where she now teaches.

Read more ›

Posted in Boarding schools, Dispelling Myths, Parents, Student Culture, Student Life, Students


 We continue to live in an era of rapid cultural evolution.  Reasonable people navigate these turbulent waters with humility, curiosity, and openness, yet even reasonable people can feel the passionate, loud, and often uncompromising voices of extreme perspectives – extreme advocacy for rapid evolution and extreme recalcitrance at the very concept of change.  At schools, we cannot share the self-indulgent luxury of extreme advocacy or extreme recalcitrance.  We must practice, model, and promote critical thinking, kindness, and sensitivity while engaging the day’s most contentious issues.Our obligation is to our students.  Our missions are clear – “to prepare students for college and life in mind, body, and spirit.”  Our communities embrace the idea that the most effective way to accomplish this mission is in the context of an intimate, caring community in which we both maintain high standards in all areas of school life while ensuring that every student feels known and loved.
Posted in Boarding schools, Counseling, Curriculum, Dispelling Myths, Diversity, Heads, Independent Schools, Professional Development, Student Culture, Students, Teaching & Learning

WHAT TO PACK! Your first year at boarding school

What to Pack - Suitcase

If you’re starting boarding school this fall – Congratulations! – you’re probably really excited and already packing or wondering what to take. Your school is likely to provide you a comprehensive list of what will be in your room, what you need to bring, what you might like to bring and what you are not allowed to bring. Follow this list. They know what they’re talking about and the list is specific to your school. Take special note of electronics. Are you allowed to bring tablets, ipads, kindles and desktops, only laptops, or no computer at all? What are the school’s rules about cell phone use? Which cell phone carrier has the best service on campus? Do you need to switch?

The school’s list and any additional answers you get will guide you well, so let’s consider some ways to think about packing for the first time, and go over a few “life-saving” hints.

Read more ›

Posted in Boarding schools, Dispelling Myths, Parents, Student Culture, Student Life, Students

Stereotype Threat & The Unique Advantage of Community

Planet earth in blue human eye

Remember SchoolHouse Rock? “Conjunction – Junction, what’s your function?” If you are too young, it’s worth a Google. I loved it and learned plenty about “Hooking up words, and phrases and clauses…” But another thing that always stuck in my mind was one of the American History skits in which the only woman was Betsy Ross sewing an American Flag. I thought, at the tender age of eight or nine, “Well, my Mom and I don’t sew, so we will never be part of American History.” I now recognize of course, that that does not “make sense” but I have recently come to understand the dynamics that would create that kind of impression, especially in a learning context.

At this year’s TABS/NAIS Global Symposium, Andrew Watson of Translate the Brain, presented a fascinating session on Stereotype Threat. He detailed consequences, how “ST” functions and offered strategies to defuse Stereotype Threat in the boarding school environment. What is the threat? For boarding schools in particular, Stereotype Threat impairs learning capacity and erodes community. I have been thinking about it ever since Global and spoke with Andrew to get deeper into the subject. Read more ›

Posted in Academics, Athletics, Boarding schools, Counseling, Dispelling Myths, Diversity, Heads, Independent Schools, Professional Development, Student Culture, Student Life, Students, Students of Color, Teaching & Learning

From Mexico to Lake Maxinkuckee

Growing up in Mexico, I thought I would be too homesick to attend school abroad. Luckily for me, my cousin – who admittedly had more foresight than I at the time – attended a Culver Academies summer camp, nestled alongside Lake Maxinkuckee in Culver, Indiana. Describing his experience, his words were pretty powerful: “It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. His experience opened my mind to the idea of going to boarding school abroad, so I began to do my own research.

I based my school search on the specific criteria that are important to me: a strong football program, co-ed student mix and competitive tuition. The more I looked into a potential boarding school experience, the more excited I was to start something new—a chance to meet new people, experience different cultures and prove myself in football. Read more ›

Posted in Admissions, Athletics, Boarding schools, Dispelling Myths, Diversity, Parents, Student Culture, Student Life, Students, Students of Color Tagged with: , , , , ,

Blown Out of Proportion

In the spring of 1984, my parents received a letter giving me the opportunity to opt out of attending Choate Rosemary Hall and receive help getting admitted to another boarding school for my freshman year.

The events that precipitated this letter were singular and startling, and are told through a specific point of view in the recently released movie, The Preppie Connection. A POV that I don’t find startling or singular, but which has inspired some animated discussion amongst many of us who attended Choate around that time.

On April 23 of 1984, two Choate students had been arrested at JFK International Airport for the possession of 350 grams of uncut cocaine they (allegedly, at the time) smuggled in from Venezuela. A devastating blow, mind the puns, to an almost 100 year old school that boasts the education of JFK himself, as well as Edward Albee, Adlai Stevenson, Glenn Close and thousands upon thousands of successful graduates. The story would be featured on 60 Minutes with Ed Bradley in the fall. The school was juggling devastating press, internal and external investigations, disciplinary actions, new policy decisions, and not least on its mind was its students – current and incoming. The school was dedicated to our futures even if it meant giving us up.

I was the googly-eyed 13 year old you’d be terrified to send into a hotbed of temptation, bad influences and international crime. But that wasn’t where I was going. I was going to the place I liked best – and of course I still wanted to go! Picking a boarding school wasn’t easy, but after narrowing down the specific offerings that were best for me, I was stuck on them, and I couldn’t wait. Regarding the cocaine scandal, I didn’t know the difference. People are doing whatever they’re doing. My family felt confident in the school and how they were handling such a complex situation. Read more ›

Posted in Boarding schools, Dispelling Myths, Students