The Thacher School - Review #18
About the Author:
|College Enrolled||Princeton University|
|Home Town, State||Camarillo, CA|
|Years Attended Boarding School||4|
|Activities During Boarding School||Volleyball- JV Captain last two years. Lacrosse- one year. Horse Program- rode all four years, served as Captain of Blue Team (one of Thacher's three horseback riding teams) grades 11 and 12; received "Horseman" ranking after passing Advanced Riders test and learning to administer horse vaccinations; became head of TROT (Therapeutic Riding of Thacher, a program founded and run by Thacher students that teaches disabled children how to horseback ride) in grade 12. Chorus & Chamber Singers- Chorus all four years, Chamber Singers (Thacher's a capella group) grades 10-12. Community Council [Student Body Government]- served as 11th grade Class President and also Community Council secretary that same year. Prefect- lived in freshman dormitory, worked with dorm faculty to provide guidance to underclassmen.|
1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
What makes Thacher truly special is its horse program. At Thacher, every student learns how to ride a horse. Freshmen ride during their entire first year, and even new sophomores and juniors are required to ride for one semester. Riding at Thacher is more than just hopping up on a horse and spending an afternoon in the saddle, though; students who participate in the horse program are assigned to one horse and must care for all of its needs. That means waking up early to clean its stall, feeding it twice a day, and keeping its tack in good condition- in addition to riding it a minimum of five days a week!It was the horse program that originally lured me to apply to Thacher, and I found it to be a wonderful experience. I had never ridden a horse before I came to Thacher, but I learned to ride during my first year and I continued to ride for the three years after. In addition to horseback riding on Thacher's campus, I also went on several horse camping trips during the two weeks in the fall and spring that Thacher sets aside specifically for its students to go camping. I had a blast on all of my trips!
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
Thacher's warm and accepting community provided a safe environment for me to try new things and really put myself out there. The longer I was at Thacher, the less shy and the more confident I became. Living away from my parents probably helped me become more independent, since it forced me to learn to make decisions on my own. But I also think that learning to do new things at Thacher made me feel capable. Not only did I learn how to do my own laundry- I also learned how to horseback ride and care for a 1000-pound animal. If that doesn't teach you responsibility, I don't know what will.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I don't regret a single thing. Going to boarding school- going to Thacher- was the best decision I could have made. It is certainly not for everyone, but boarding school was wonderful for me. As far as advice goes, I can offer a few suggestions about being wait listed because I was wait listed at Thacher! If after you apply to your first choice high school you find that you are wait listed, make sure that you write to the school's admissions office and let them know how much you are dying to go to the school. Letting the school know that you would definitely attend if they offered you admission ups your appeal, since every school worries about its yield percentage when making admission decisions.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
I just loved the Thacher community. There is a sense of communal trust, perhaps because of the honor code (Honor, Fairness, Kindness, and Truth), that allows members of the Thacher community to let down their barriers and simply be themselves. Thacher is small, so everyone eventually gets to know everyone else. It is easy to mix and match with kids in different classes and get to know everyone. Teachers, too, are not separate from the community; in fact, they constitute the core of it and provide much guidance to the students. Thacher's teachers are wonderfully involved in the students' lives, not only in the classroom but also on the playing field, at formal dinner in the Dining Hall, and in the dormitories. I think that every student gains at least one mentor on the faculty staff before graduating.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
After all these long reflections about big ideas, I do have some specifics. I think it's these little things that truly make a difference.If you visit Thacher, definitely try the chocolate chip cookies. My favorite snacks at Thacher have got to be Robin the baker's delicious, chewy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies, closely followed by the cookies that the Headmaster's wife bakes during Open House. The frozen yogurt is also very good, and very available (perhaps too available- the freshmen always joke about gaining the Freshman 15 during their first year, and I believe the frozen yogurt machine is the culprit behind many of these extra pounds). If you visit, definitely feel free to make yourself an ice cream cone- it's very refreshing on a warm Ojai day!Definitely check out Thacher's Outdoor Chapel; there is a special Memorial Pavilion dedicated to Thacher's war dead from World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War that is worth seeing- not to mention the incredible view of the Ojai Valley below! And if you can, take one of the trails that snakes around behind the school. They're fabulous for horseback riding or hiking and often have very good views.And if you pay a visit to the barns, make sure to watch out for JJ the horse- he's my favorite!
1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Academics at Thacher are rigorous and demanding, but there is plenty of support available to those who need it. Classes are small and personal, so each student receives ample attention from the teachers, and since the majority of the teachers live on campus, it is easy to arrange to meet for extra help outside of class. I never found the academic atmosphere to be at all competitive, but rather collaborative and cooperative. Perhaps Thacher's Honor Code- which encourages students to value Honor, Fairness, Kindness, and Truth- contributes to Thacher's positive learning environment.As far as the nitty-gritty details go: each student is required to take 5 courses each term; 4 of these must be "solid classes" (classes that have substantial written homework). To graduate, Thacher students must take 4 years of English, 3 years of Math, 3 years of a foreign language (Chinese, Spanish, French, and Latin are offered), 2 years of Science (Physics during the freshman year and Chemistry during sophomore year), 2.5 years of History (World History), and 2 years of Arts (Theater, Visual Arts, Ceramics, Dance, Photography, and Chorus are all offered). After sophomore year, students receive more freedom to choose which classes they would like to take, and may tailor their schedule to fit their interests. Thacher offers AP courses in most subjects, including foreign languages, science (Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Psychology), History, English, Math (Calculus AB and BC), and the arts (Studio Art and Photography).
1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
I especially appreciated the flexibility of Thacher's athletics program. I was required to ride during my entire freshman year, but in the spring I was able to also play lacrosse- a sport I had never tried before! Then, in my sophomore and senior years, I played volleyball in the fall and rode during the winter and spring sports seasons. During my senior year, instead of riding during the winter season, I decided to take a yoga class instead- a sports season different from all my others that I greatly enjoyed!Having so many athletic options from which to choose was wonderful for me. I loved being able to try new sports and different activities. I also appreciated the fact that I did not need to have much (if any) prior experience to be able to pick up a sport and begin playing for the Thacher team. Before high school I had never played on a real volleyball team, but by my senior year I could have played on the varsity team if I had wanted to. I decided to play JV instead, but it just goes to show that Thacher offers all levels of competitiveness for each of its athletes.The only complaint I have is that perhaps our mascot could be a little less humble and a little more fearsome: somehow, the Thacher Toads does not seem all that intimidating...
1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
The art classes offered at Thacher are top-notch and its facilities are incredible. The school recently completed building a new Performing Arts Center (the "PAC") which houses a beautiful stage, numerous dressing rooms and classrooms, and a dance studio. There are also several music practice rooms available. For those who want to do even more art outside of the classroom, Thacher allows interested students to apply for an "independent," which permits students to use their sports time (the two hours after classes every afternoon) to work on an independent project rather than play a sport or horseback ride. At the end of the sports term, students doing independents must put together some sort of culminating presentation for the school. While I was at Thacher, several students applied for a joint independent project and wrote songs together as a band, which was really cool. At the end of the term, they performed all of the songs they had written at a very well-attended show after formal dinner one night.As far as plays and musicals go, Thacher puts on two major shows a year; there is a play in the fall and a musical in the spring. While I was at Thacher, the shows included Peter Pan, Annie Get Your Gun, and Les Miserables. I was part of the cast of Les Mis during my last year at Thacher, which was a blast, but it was definitely time-consuming. There is no class slot or allotted afternoon time for rehearsals, so students who decide to participate in the productions take on the extra responsibilities as an extra-curricular and must go to rehearsals and learn their lines during their own free time.
1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
Thacher has numerous clubs, from the Chess Club to the Cheese Club. They are based on student initiation and involvement, so their level of activity fluctuates from year to year depending on interest. When I was at Thacher, most of the clubs were not very active and mostly served as a means to procrastinate during Study Hall by reading through the clubs' online member lists, which often paired amusing nicknames with each member (for example, in the Pastry Club, "Aaron Snyder" is the "Duke of Danishes"). I was a member of the slightly more serious Literary Society, which was one of the more active clubs on campus, and occasionally attended meetings to listen to other members read their latest poems- and sometimes read my own works! I was also a proud member of the Harry Potter Club, and spent several fun meetings discussing the Harry Potter books, movies, and other aspects of the Potter World.As far as volunteer opportunities go, Thacher has a few offerings, from working in a soup kitchen to tutoring at the local middle school. The school provides the transportation and students typically volunteer during a free period during the school day. There is also the opportunity to visit the local retirement community to sing to its residents in the evenings, but only upperclassmen are allowed to participate because it requires them to miss formal dinner.Both extracurricular clubs and volunteer opportunities at Thacher are heavily dependent on student initiation and involvement, and it is easy to start a new club or a new volunteer program if Thacher does not already have it. During my junior year, three Thacher students founded the TROT program (Therapeutic Riding of Thacher), which puts Thacher's horses to use by teaching disabled children to ride. I volunteered for this program for two years and found it to be immensely rewarding.
1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
I have no complaints about Thacher's dorms, and they are only improving. Two years ago, during my last year at Thacher, the new freshman boys' dormitory was completed. Though we were sad that the old Lower School (the freshman boys' dorm) of which we had become so fond had been torn down, we had to admit that the new dorm was a definite improvement, complete with large, spacious rooms, an airy and beautiful common room, and a large grassy quad. This past year, Thacher has been working on the new sophomore girls' dormitory, and it looks to be just as incredible as the freshman boys' dorm.Even if you are not a freshman boy or a sophomore girl, you will be living comfortably. I lived in the oldest dorm on campus, known as Casa, as a freshman and then later as a senior prefect, and I loved it. Though the heating system occasionally broke and the dorm's back porch was frequently visited by furry woodland creatures (raccoons!), I think fondly of Casa because of the rapport that developed between me and my classmates. Raucous singing in the showers, watching late night movies in the common room, swinging in the hammock in the backyard... all these memories remind me that the Casa community was fun and very close-knit.
1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
Thacher's Dining Hall is wonderful. It is staffed by a team of terrific people from a catering company known as Bon Apetit who strive to offer a varied and nutritional menu and truly listen to students' comments and suggestions. At every meal there are several different options to choose from, including vegetarian choices and a salad bar, and there is always fruit, bread, and bagels available. At lunch there is a panini machine, and there is also a very popular frozen yogurt machine that runs at all times of the day. On the weekends there is a sumptuous brunch spread which offers several hot meal choices (including made-to-order omelets) and also waffle and smoothie making machines.Most meals at Thacher are casual and informal- students may sit where they like. Four nights a week, however, there is formal dinner (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays), in which students must don coats and ties or dresses and heels and must sit and eat at an assigned table in the Dining Hall. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors assigned to the table serve the meal, bringing the food to the table and clearing afterward- seniors are exempt from serving but often help the underclassmen. Though some occasionally grumbled about formal dinner- it was a nuisance having to rush back from sports to make it to formal dinner on time- I never minded going. I enjoyed making conversation with the others assigned to my table, because it allowed me the opportunity to chat with other kids and teachers that I would not normally have a chance to talk to, and this way helped me feel more at home with everyone in the Thacher community.
1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
Thacher's town, Ojai, could be described as quaint, bucolic and casual. Town runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays are very popular with the students, who go into town to buy groceries, relax in the park, peruse the boutiques or thrift stores, and eat at one of the restaurants (Ojai Pizza is a favorite; Ruben's Burritos is another). The school seems to have a cordial, if a little distant, relationship with the town; Thacher's gated campus is private and not open to Ojai's population at large.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
Thacher's social life is generally very open and accepting. Students are genuinely nice kids, intelligent and witty yet not at all uptight, from all across the country-- and even from across the globe. This diverse bunch of kids makes for a very fun, vibrant social scene. Students focus on schoolwork and sports during the week (except for perhaps the occasional horseplay that breaks out in the dorms after check-in, or during the period of time after Study Hall in which students may leave the dorms to socialize, from 9:30 to 10pm), but most set the homework aside in the interest of having fun on the weekend nights. Almost all of the social activities in which Thacher students participate on the weekends take place on Thacher's campus (except for the occasional trip to Santa Barbara or Ventura sponsored by the school) and are organized by the "Indoor Committee," a group of students and a few members of the faculty who plan the school's social events for the year. Events include anything from coffee houses to talent shows, movie nights, dances (both assigned date and non assigned date), and mass games of capture-the-flag.Besides the Indoor events, the Headmaster's house is also open on Saturday nights from around 8pm until check in. Many students head to the Headmaster's on Saturday to enjoy the delicious cookies that the Headmaster's wife bakes, to participate in the silly impromptu dance parties that occur, play a game of chess, or watch a movie in the Headmaster's living room. And where is the Headmaster in all of this? Usually right in the middle of it all, chatting with the students.
|7:00 AM||Muck horse's stall, feed horse (if you are participating in horse program).|
|8:15 AM||Breakfast & breakfast check-in.|
|8:30 AM||Classes from 8:30 to 10:45.|
|10:45 AM||Assembly at 10:45 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.|
|12:15 AM||Classes from 12:15 to 3:15.|
|3:30 PM||From 3:30 to 5:30, students go to sports or horseback riding. Students must feed horses at 5.|
|6:15 PM||Formal dinner.|
|7:30 PM||Study Hall begins.|
|9:30 PM||Study Hall ends; students may leave dorms to socialize from 9:30-10 but must check in back at the dorms at 10pm. Lights out for freshman is 10:30; for sophomores, 11.|
|7:30 AM||Muck horse's stall, feed horse (if you are participating in horse program).|
|10:00 AM||Ride or play sports- depending on sports schedule.|
|1:30 PM||Brunch ends; Dining Hall closes until dinner.|
|5:00 PM||Feed horses.|
|5:30 PM||Dinner until 7:30 pm.|
|8:00 PM||Indoor Committee Social Event; Open House at the Headmaster's|
|11:00 PM||Check in for all students @ dormitory.|
|1:00 AM||Seniors may wander campus until 1am.|
Alumni Reviews Review School
- Review Description
- Pitzer College The tight knit community is a really rare quality at high schools in general but especially boarding schools. The relationships with teachers and students is so close and the fact that there is very few. . .
- University of Montana The horse department at Thacher is both unique and outstanding. Unique because the school strives to keep the cowboy culture alive with over 100 horses and a fully outfitted western riding center. It is outstanding. . .
- Yale I loved Thacher because of the deep, respectful, and genuine connections in the community. Students, faculty, and staff were all so supportive to ensure I was the happiest and most challenged I could be. During. . .
Social media is an essential part of a boarding school's marketing strategy
Parents considering schools should read New York Times columnist Frank Bruni's book about college admissions entitled Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania. Much of what he says applies in the private K-12 world.
Readers send dozens of questions via Facebook, Twitter and email. What do they ask? Readers want to know which is the best school in a particular country or region. A close second is figuring out how to pay for a private school education. Here are some readers' questions with my answers.