Steamboat Mountain School - Review #3

Steamboat Mountain School
5

About the Author:

College Enrolled Bowdoin College
Home Town, State (Country) Steamboat Springs, CO
Years Attended Boarding School 4
Activities During Boarding School As someone interested in the school probably knows, SMS offers a wide variety of after-school activities for students; rock climbing, kayaking, and biking were a few favorites. I, however, seldom participated in those activities. Throughout my sophomore year, I was part of the public high school's wrestling team, a commitment that had me at the public high school six days a week. All of my teachers were relaxed and understanding when it came to 2 or 3 day competitions in other towns, and I was never expected to over-commit myself (in other words, when my practice started at 6 instead of 4, I wasn't required to attend the normal 3:30-5, as this would severely deprive me of working time). I had similar activities throughout my Junior and Senior years - I practiced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at a local gym. Since practices started late, SMS allowed me to focus on work until those commitments started. I was the president of the school's chapter of the National Honor Society, and we organized two annual talent shows, a tradition that, I hope, will be continued in years to come.

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
I can describe one of the most important and unique aspects about SMS in three letters: GIS. The Global Immersions Studies program is one of the most incredible things I have encountered. As of 2013, 54% of Americans had never travelled outside of the United States. I, however, have been to Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Tanzania, thanks to the GIS program. Non-competitive skiers spend a month in a foreign country; what more could you want? By the time you graduate high school, you've acquired, disregarding (for now) the incredible academic program, a thorough and real sense of the world - something VERY few people can claim at the age of 18. Because of SMS, I've experienced one of the seven ancient wonders of the world (Machu Picchu), I've climbed a volcano, I've entered the Ankor Wat, I've backpacked across Patagonia, and much more. On the other side of the coin lies our impressive winter sports program, a program that has sent dozens of young, ambitious athletes to the Olympics (one of whom went on to win the first American gold medal in Nordic skiing). Although I was never a part of the latter program, many of my friends were - and they describe nothing but positive experiences.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
Your high school experience is what you make of it; if you plan on making a lot out of it, however, you'll find that SMS is more equipped to help you make that happen than most places wherever you go. Honestly, how many high schools manage to send their students to a foreign country for a month each year, let them ski at noon 3/5 days of the week during the winter, and still provide an education worthy of the best colleges/universities in the country? At least one. At least SMS.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I would not have changed anything I did.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
The rest of my review should give good insight into what I liked most about my school, but in summary: nobody at SMS is just another name. Everyone is a face, a story, and a personality. The faculty are legitimately dedicated to improving your lives in every manner, and they all become like family given time and sincerity. The person I was entering SMS in my freshman year was not the person I was when I graduated, and there isn't a single aspect that changed for the worse. I know that I could show up at any time and be welcomed like a missed relative. I've been given extraordinary opportunities in my life,
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Take this place seriously. You'll look back after however many years you choose to spend at SMS (hopefully 4) - don't be the one just then recognizing the tremendous opportunities you had in front of you, be the one who sits back, smiling, like a happy, potbellied man after a filling meal. Be the one who went in there and did everything there was to do, met everyone there was to meet, and be the one that people will still remember when you come back to visit twenty years later (remembered in a good sense).

Academics:

1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
The available courses are well put together and, while quite demanding, provide superb preparation for following courses (and eventually college). The only downside, however, is that there are few choices available throughout your four years: there are a given number of courses, and most students will end up taking the majority of them. Math classes progress linearly: the courses available are Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus, Calculus, and AP Calculus, and, depending on where you start, you will likely take them in that order with little wiggle room (teachers, of course, accommodate any needs, I just mean that there is a linear progression of courses that most people follow). Language courses are more flexible - I ended up going from Spanish 2 directly to Spanish 4, and all worked out well. The school doesn't have anything in place after AP Spanish (which I took my Junior year), but I was able to work with the professor and work out a joint-teaching program (I helped teach the Spanish 1 class and did independent work on the side). There is more choice in the sciences than anywhere else, with choices between Anatomy and Physiology (one class) and Physics, among others. There isn't an overwhelming competitive environment, as most kids who choose to seriously pursue their academics tend to be closer as friends than not.

Athletics:

1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Since the athletics in which I participated were not part of SMS, I don't have much to say about the school's programs. SMS's connection to the town's Winter Sports Club was remarkable, and anyone wishing to participate in the public high school's sports team will find that the faculty at SMS are more than willing to accommodate all schedules. For those not involved in sports at the public high school, participation in other activities is mandatory. Students get a choice among many different programs, ranging from climbing or biking to board games and yoga.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
I participated in the drama program my freshman year, and it was great. I would have participated in it all four years, but other things took priority. The number of people interested in the drama/theatre program was small when I attended. There is no music program that is part of the school's curriculum, but many students play instruments and either find teachers in town or practice on their own time. The visual arts program consists of an art class, which I never took, and a film class, which I enjoyed. The curriculum requires at least 2 classes of the "arts" to graduate.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
Every Thursday, non-competitive skiers participate in mandatory, 2-hour community service projects at one of many locations (e.g. volunteering at Steamboat's Boys and Girls Club, Lift Up). Of course, the GIS program could be considered extra-curricular; at a certain point, the community service projects are replaced with meeting with your GIS group.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
Since I was a day student, I don't have much to say about dorm life.

Dining:

1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
Day students can eat breakfast and dinner at the school if they like, but most are only there for lunch. Lunch is split into two sections: half of the student body will have class before lunch, and vice versa. Our chef is very creative, and takes pride in all of his work. He's begun a program (SAP - Sustainable Agriculture Program) to make our school self-sustainable in agriculture, and he's very knowledgeable about local farms and food providers; our food is always impressively fresh and authentic - he (and the entire kitchen crew) deserves a lot of respect.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
The school is about 10 minutes outside of town - as a day student, my experiences outside of classes were much different from those of boarding students. Steamboat Springs is ski-town USA, and our population more than doubles during the winter. For minors, there is a very limited night life (especially for boarders). There are always things to do for those with a mind for creativity; you can see the full extent of what Steamboat offers on its website.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
Small schools are definitely not for everyone, and SMS is a small school of small schools. Within a few months, you'll know everyone's first name, most people's last name, and a lot about everybody - and they'll know a lot about you. This is only a bad thing if you prefer to be an anonymous face in a sea of faces in a typical 400+ big city high school. Within our student body, there are groups for everyone (I'm not saying that there are cliques, just that there are those with whom some will fit in, others for others - as with all places), and most people (including me) find that the personal aspect of the school adds a nice feeling to daily life. This extends to the faculty, as each teacher gets to know his/her student closely (as proven by the fact that teachers write speeches about one or more students to present during the graduation ceremony). I would say that everyone fits in. There is a clear presence of what I'll call an 'academic effort gradient' : a scale of sorts ranging from those who are here to get by via minimal effort to those who are very motivated and seek to get everything they can from their time at SMS. For the latter group, SMS finds itself in a position to accommodate and fulfill any and all academic needs; though there is not necessarily a wide range of classes available, those that are available have been fine-tuned and perfected by very capable teachers who are very passionate about their work and sharing it with students. The more you open up to the academic offerings of the school, the more the school opens up to you. Though that sounds cliché, it could not be more true: those who resist everything the school has to offer find themselves in a much more difficult environment than those who acknowledge the teachers' willingness to help and the incredible benefits of taking their time seriously. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people on both ends of this spectrum, and all will find a place at SMS. I'd also like to note that what I said above does not only apply to academics: many students find incredible passion in non-academic pursuits, such as competitive skiing, entrepreneurship, artwork, and myriad other topics. I guess the point is that, presented with top-notch academics, literal global exploration, and world class winter sports opportunities, those who value personal growth and sincere interpersonal interactions will find themselves in a place to succeed and flourish more than I could imagine happening at any other high school in the country.

Daily Schedule:

Weekday
7:45 AMChores
8:00 AMClasses
12:00 PMLunch
3:15 AMEnd of classes
Weekend
8:00 AMBreakfast

Alumni Reviews
  Review School

  • Review Description
  • University of Chicago
    The faculty's drive to push your limits physically and mentally is fantastic preparation for college and life. The small student body lets each faculty member get to know you personally, facilitating the overall learning experience. . .
  • University of Puget Sound
    It might be a bit surprising to most people when I tell them that my graduating class consisted of nine or that my whole school's student body was around 40. Although many people may be. . .
  • Bowdoin College
    I can describe one of the most important and unique aspects about SMS in three letters: GIS. The Global Immersions Studies program is one of the most incredible things I have encountered. As of 2013. . .
Recent Articles
5 Challenges Parents Face
October 24, 2017
How to handle five basic challenges involved in choosing a boarding school.
Choosing a School: Comparing Schools
September 28, 2017
Use a spreadsheet to develop your initial list of schools. Here's how.
How Can an Educational Consultant Help with a Boarding School Search?
September 28, 2017
Finding the right boarding school for your child is one of the most important and expensive decisions you will ever make.