Middlesex School - Review #4
About the Author:
|College Enrolled||Brown University|
|Home Town, State||Sudbury, MA|
|Years Attended Boarding School||4|
|Activities During Boarding School||JV & Varsity Soccer; JV & Varsity Squash (co-captain in senior year); Novice Crew; Varsity Track; SWAG (all-female a cappella group); Small Chorus (co-ed singing group, primarily a cappella); piano and organ lessons; Winter One Act Plays (writer and director); The Anvil (student-run newspaper, section editor in senior year, writer); The Iris (student & faculty literary magazine, editor in junior and senior year); Gay-Straight Alliance (club head in senior year); Day Student Proctor (senior year); Peer Tutor (junior and senior year); Chapel Trustee (senior year)|
1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
The two primary aspects that I believe differentiate Middlesex (MX) from other independent schools are its class schedule and its student body composition. MX has a six day class schedule; every week, students have classes from Monday through Saturday, with Wednesdays and Saturdays being "half-days" (only four to five 40-minute class blocks, as compared to seven). This type of schedule allows for classes to be more spread out and typically creates a workload that fluctuates throughout the week; for every couple of class-heavy days and work-heavy nights, there are also times during the week that are less academically intensive, permitting students to either catch up on work, get ahead, relax a bit, or channel their energy towards other aspects of their MX lives. The composition of the student body is also unique: though composed of 20-25% day students, 13-14% international students, and the rest of US resident boarding students, the student body never feels divided among those lines. The diverse backgrounds instead serve to enrich our community with different perspectives that find unity and camaraderie through the MX experience.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
When applying to boarding schools (but as a day student), I purposely sought a school where I knew I would change and grow as a person. Any boarding school can provide you with excellent academics, resources, and opportunities, both while at the school and after graduating, but what struck me about Middlesex (MX) was the people. My first impressions were of enthusiastic adults and confident, outgoing students; after four years, I also discovered support and compassion. At MX, adults care for you not just as as students or athletes or artists, but as people -- I can clearly recall, during a particularly rough week in the fall of my senior year, no less than six different adults immediately sensed that something was off, and asked how I was doing and if they could help me out in any way.In an environment in which I was so supported, I felt secure enough to take risks and try new things, pushing my mind and body in ways that helped me discover my strength and weaknesses. I learned how to find my limits and then dare myself to push them further. Had I not attended MX, I never would have been a tri-varsity athlete; I never would have sung a cappella or directed a one-act play; and I never would have discovered so much about myself as a person.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
As a day student, I absolutely would have spent more time on campus, especially as freshman. My first couple years at MX, I would go home right after my last commitment, which usually ended around 6:30; as an upperclassmen, I spent more time on campus, both during the week (in part due to joining a chorus with a larger time commitment) and on the weekends. While I personally need alone time every now and then to re-energize, removing myself from campus also meant taking myself away from a truly amazing community where there is always someone you can get to know better or something new you can try.If you decide to go to any boarding school, and especially if you are going to MX, I encourage you to try everything. High school is the perfect time to experiment, to explore, and to push boundaries. MX has a particularly conducive environment to this exploration; students and faculty alike will always say "Yes!" and "Come try this!" or "Give it a whirl!". Moreover -- and this applies to any type of school, anywhere -- be kind and encouraging to people trying out the things you might already be good at or are comfortable doing. Supportive environments go a long way, and supportive people can make lasting differences in the lives of others. When people feel safe enough to take risks, they are able to put themselves forward to learn and experience more.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
Without a doubt, the community at MX is my favorite aspect of the school. It might sound hyperbolic and repetitive by this point, but I have never been part of a more supportive and enthusiastic group of people in my life, and I will be very lucky if I ever find such a community ever again. It is one thing to be surrounded by accomplished and talented people -- I was regularly in awe of the accomplishments of my mentors and peers -- but to be surrounded by people who wished to support me and see me succeed as much as they wanted to achieve their own goals was empowering. I have always believed that the little details are essential to the big picture, and attending MX meant attending a school where the little details enrich the overall experience. MX is a school where people say hi to you in the halls, cheer you on even if they do not understand how to play your sport, and carry classroom conversations for long and far beyond the four walls of the class itself because they are genuinely interested in learning. As I said before, if MX had not been my high school, I would not have tried and achieved nearly half of of the thing I did in four years.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
As I've stressed many times, the community has always been my favorite aspect of MX, and thus I encourage you to try to get to know as many people as possible when visiting MX. Ask a faculty member why she came to MX and why she has stayed. Ask a student about her passions; ask her if she has found any new interests at MX. If you're an aspiring athlete, try to talk to a member of the team you're interested in playing for, and ask her about her athletic experience at MX -- not just for your sport of interest, but her experience with the program in general and the coaches and teammates she has had. Ask as many students as possible why they chose to come to MX specifically. Lastly, even if you have no previous performance experience or interest, attend an MX musical or theatrical performance, if you can -- live performances are the best way to see, first hand, the products of love and labor and passion of MX students and faculty working together.
1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
What I particularly loved about the MX academic environment is the personal connections developed between teachers and students and between classmates. While small class sizes are not singular to MX, I came from a large public middle school with classes as large as thirty students, so the ability to develop close bonds with teachers at MX was invaluable to me. Most of my teachers also appeared in other aspects of my MX life, whether as a coach or an advisor, and getting to know each other in different settings only strengthened our understandings of each other. Classes therefore became a dynamic give-and-take between teacher and student, as opposed to one-way lectures and lessons.Additionally, I liked that MX's academic rigorousness comes not from a competitive environment but a self-competitive one. Since self-improvement is the primary motivation, students rarely have reservations about reaching out to classmates to collaborate and seek support. In my personal experiences, while a good grade or a new found understanding of a tricky topic felt rewarding, it could not compare to the sense of accomplishment gained from collaborating with others or helping a classmate comprehend a topic he or she was struggling with.
1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
When discussing MX's athletics program, I always emphasize how good the program is at creating opportunities for athletes of all calibers, from novices to individuals who want to play at the collegiate level. Nearly every MX sport has three levels (varsity, junior varsity, and thirds), and all levels are usually open to members of every grade. Such a system makes the athletics program extremely welcoming and inclusive while still allowing for competitiveness at the higher levels. Within the program, one can find seniors who have spent all four years having a blast on thirds soccer, freshmen who make the varsity tennis team, and individuals who are recruited by a variety of colleges, from Division I to Division III NCAA. While mandatory year-round participation for freshmen and sophomores can seem daunting, athletics teams are actually where some of the closest friendships are developed, particularly between students from different grades.Another strength of the three-tier organization of MX athletics is the ability for students to move up in the program if they so desire. My personal experience in the girls' squash program is an excellent example of this; as a freshman, I started with essentially zero experience at the bottom of the JV ladder. The next year, I made the varsity practice team and jumped to the top of the JV ladder; then, as a junior, I became a varsity competitor, and as a senior, I was voted to be one of two co-captains for the season. My ability to improve and move up in the program was greatly facilitated by the encouragement and hard work of coaches of both the JV and varsity teams, and the stories of my friends confirm that they felt the similar support in their own programs.
1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
The greatest strength of the MX arts department is the way in which it encourages all MX students to experiment in many different art forms, no matter what their past experience is. Students who join MX as freshman take all four introductory, semester-long art courses -- Intro to Drawing, Intro to Music, Intro to Art History, and Intro to Drama -- in which teachers aim not just to instruct, but to encourage students to explore new subjects that they might have never thought of or expressed interest in before. A student does not need prior theatre experience to do well in the Intro to Drama course; all she needs is a willingness to learn and to push their boundaries. Then, if a student does discover a new interest or wishes to develop a known passion, faculty are very willingly to help students cultivate that passion.An experience in my senior year illustrates well the welcoming and supportive spirit of the arts department. Having only two semesters of drama classes as experience and a curiosity in play-writing, I undertook the project of writing a one-act play for the annual Winter One Acts with the assistance of the head of the drama department. With his guidance, I was able to make my idea a reality; in addition to writing the one-act, I was also able to cast, direct, and present it to the school in mid-February. Moreover, to underscore how open the arts department is to the student body at large, my cast of four consisted of a varsity hockey and lacrosse player, a varsity soccer player, a dedicated community service volunteer, and a captain of the varsity ski team. Only one of the four had ever participated in a theatre production before this one-act, yet they all came to nightly rehearsals with as much enthusiasm and readiness to work as any seasoned actor.
1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
The extracurricular activity opportunities at MX are endless, and even though MX is a small school, club and groups are constantly recruiting students of all ages. Most of these groups are student-run, so more often than not, people are convinced to attend meetings for the first time by a friend, teammate, or dorm mate. These groups are not exclusive, either; for example, the school's student-run newspaper, The Anvil, allows anyone in the student body to sign up for articles. Some students, as myself, start writing articles in their freshman year, but in my senior year, as an editor, I saw plenty of seniors sign up to write their first article ever, claiming it was something they wanted to do before they graduated. Moreover, running clubs is not a role reserved for seniors; several friends and I ran The Iris, our student-faculty literary magazine, from sophomore to senior year, and every year a new club or two is started by underclassmen.In terms of volunteer opportunities, MX annually has a school-wide Community Service Day and provides weekly opportunities to volunteer with organizations nearby off-campus. Personally, I had less chances to participate in the weekly volunteer opportunities, primarily because my choral rehearsals and these opportunities typically ran concurrently.
1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
MX is only 75-80% boarding, depending on the year, and for all four years I was a day student. However, like most day students, I was almost always on campus; as the school likes to say, the only difference between boarding and day students is where they sleep a night, and that statement is very true. Day students are allowed to leave campus at the end of their last commitment of the day (for me, that was usually a choral rehearsal that ended at 7:30 PM), but most day students stay on campus until later at night. Since MX has a six-day class schedule and day students are welcomed to campus on Sundays, too, there is basically no divide between boarders and day students. Sleepovers in dorms, typically on Saturday nights, are allowed so long as proper permission is obtained from faculty and parents. While I never felt excluded or left out for being a day student, I do regret not spending more time on campus in the evenings while I was an underclassmen; given the packed daily schedules, most casual relaxation and socialization for students occurred between the end of athletic practices and the beginning of study hours.
1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
The best aspect of dining arrangements at MX is the diversity of options at every meal. While the Dining Hall typically has good hot meal options (I was a huge fan of the grilled salmon, and the shepherd's pie in the winter), there are days when the main meal does not sound appealing in the moment. However, students need not risk skipping a meal; every meal has bagels, bread, and toasters available, and there are a sandwich bar, a salad bar, a pasta bar, a panini press, and a grill open at all lunches and dinners. Some students become very inventive over the course of four years, and by the time they are seniors, most students have their own unique favorite dishes they make using the options available to them at every meal (my personal favorites: pasta with grilled chicken, edamame, cooked spinach, olive oil, and parmesan cheese; pizza bagels; and chicken fajitas made from ingredients from the salad and sandwich bars).
1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
The MX campus is approximately three miles from the main street of the town of Concord, a distance that is short enough to walk or run but also far enough that the school provides a shuttle that runs every half hour from campus to two different stops in town. Upperclassmen day students with licenses can also sign out and drive themselves and other upperclassmen off campus with proper faculty permission. Concord's main street and the directly surrounding area have plenty of resources, from a public library to a pharmacy to a sports store, in addition to restaurants, cafes, and unique independent shops. While some students visit "town" frequently, others rarely go. Additionally, MX is only about twenty to thirty minutes from Boston and the Burlington Mall; trips to these locations led by faculty are common on Saturdays and Sundays.As a day student, I rarely had reason to go into town, but in senior year, I had dinner or dessert there a few times with my senior friends. It is a lovely town, filled with friendly people and rich with American history (several Revolutionary War sites are within walking distance of Main Street or MX's campus), and it is easy to access.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
What I love about the MX community is that, at the most fundamental level, everyone is friendly. During my four years as an MX student, I had a handful of friends with whom I stayed close during my entire time there. At the same time, it was easy to make conversation and get along with basically anyone else in the community, whether student or faculty. Of course, nobody is perfect, and every community has its upsets from time to time, but at the end of the day, no one in the MX community had serious ill intentions towards one another. Part of this good spirit is due to active engagement of both students and faculty in being a strong, supportive community; every year, the dorms and day student houses have "Community Life" meetings, in which we talk about various goals of our community and how to attain those goals.In addition to the friendliness of the community, the genuine passion shown by students and faculty for the things they do is one of the most striking things about MX. This enthusiasm is something I noticed the very first time I visited the school for a tour and interview before I applied, and after four years, I have grown to understand how profoundly that passion runs. It was in the way my classmates would encourage me to try their favorite activities, from step-dance to pottery club to astronomy club; it was in the way coaches, who were already teachers and advisors and administrators, would spend hours pouring over game tapes and organizing weekly workout schedules while checking on their players' well-beings, both physical and mental; it was in the way I could interview an artist or athlete or musician for the school newspaper, and a conversation that was planned for ten minutes ended up being an hour. People at MX are so eager to talk about their passions, and their enthusiasm is infectious in the very best ways.
|8:00 AM||Classes Begin|
|3:00 PM||Classes End|
|3:30 PM||Athletic Practice Begins|
|5:30 PM||Athletic Practice Ends|
|5:30 PM||Dinner Begins|
|6:30 PM||Dinner Ends|
|6:30 PM||Small Chorus Rehearsal Begins|
|7:30 PM||Small Chorus Rehearsal Ends|
|7:45 PM||Drive Home|
|10:00 PM||Drive Home, if I stayed later on campus to work/study|
|8:00 AM||Classes Begin|
|11:00 AM||Classes End|
|2:00 PM||Athletic Competitions Begin|
|5:00 PM||Athletic Competitions End|
|5:30 PM||Dinner Begins|
|6:30 PM||Dinner Ends|
|6:00 PM||Evening Activities Begin|
|11:00 PM||Boarders Check-in to Dorms for the night; Day Students leave campus (unless sleeping over)|
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