Thomas Jefferson School - Review #2

Thomas Jefferson School
5

About the Author:

College Enrolled University of Richmond
Home Town, State (Country) St. Louis, MO
Years Attended Boarding School 5
Activities During Boarding School Student Council- class representative several years, student body president senior year. Student Newspaper- staff member all five years, co-editor junior year. Student Admissions Assistant (tour guide) grades 9-12, Head of Student Admissions Assistants last two years (helped with admissions events, trained other student tour guides, etc.) Soccer Team- 5 years, captain last year Volleyball- 3 years, captain last year Basketball- one year

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
Thomas Jefferson academics are extremely rigorous and are the central focus of the student body and faculty. That said, the school has broadened the variety of extracurricular activities and options over the last few years, especially in the arts. The tiny size of TJ fosters a closeness that would be impossible to replicate in a larger school. With only about a dozen students per class, one really does form friendships with younger and older students. I visit when I am in town and always feel that sense of belonging that I had for the five years I attended there.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
My school challenged my mind and my abilities. Spending my adolescence there prepared me for college and beyond. I grew as a whole person and as a scholar, and I enjoyed the process. I became a leader there among my classmates, and that has carried over to college. I stretched my capacity in science, math, English, foreign languages, and history. Now in college, I can choose which subjects to continue, but there I did them all and formed a solid base for further study in any of them.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
Switching from public middle school (even in the gifted program) to TJ was a challenge, but the transition was smooth.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
I loved the community of my school, the opportunity to learn from the older students at close range, and the chance to take on significant leadership positions of my own. The school is small enough that each student does make a tangible impact on the community.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Visiting the school in person is much more eye-opening than reading about TJ. When you come, a student from the current seventh grade or your grade will be your companion for the morning, and in the afternoon is an admissions test and interviews. It is your chance to see if you will feel at home at TJ. One of my favorite parts of the day was cookie break at 10 am with milk and cookies for everybody. I look back at my years at Thomas Jefferson very fondly.

Academics:

1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Teachers at Thomas Jefferson have very high expectations for every student at TJ. I always felt challenged but rarely overwhelmed by the workload. One program unique to TJ is the "Outside Reading" program, which goes year round (even over Winter, Spring, and Summer breaks) and consists of reading about 15 pages of an assigned book, nearly always a novel, five days a week during vacation or four days a week during the school year. Each day, the student must produce a summary of the reading in one paragraph, focusing on grammar, spelling, content, and flow. Exam periods are four times a year for every class. There are many surprise quizzes in most classes. The grading is somewhat harsh but fair. In this environment, students encourage each other to succeed and admire the best students. Teachers are always available to help, and students who do have significant trouble with the work can expect some privileges taken away, such as free time replaced by supervised study halls. By the time of graduation, generally students have taken two years of Latin, two or three of Greek, two of Italian or French, two AP science courses, two AP English courses, AP United States History, AP Calculus, and their choice of a small number of electives. Art classes are weighted at 1/2 an academic course, and ungraded "Athletics" replaces gym class. Students from grades 7-9 take five classes a year (not including art, athletics, or any clubs), and older students take four a year. The classes are 35 minutes each, with every minute used. It is easy to get special help outside of class. Language and science labs, as well as occasional films or field trips, take place outside of class hours.

Athletics:

1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
I appreciated the ability to contribute to the sports teams despite being a beginner. I played for our volleyball, soccer, and basketball teams. TJ is not known for athletics, but the students have fun and enjoy the change of pace. We do compete against other local schools.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
Recently the school has been paying more attention to arts; for example there are sculptures displayed on campus. Eighth graders perform a play as part of their English class, and in the last few years students have begun producing an all-school play annually as well.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
Because the groups tend to be small, they are exciting environments in which to progress up the ladder. The Student Council has significant power in managing the rest of the student body, such as assisting faculty in certain disciplinary decisions. The groups never overshadow the primary focus on the academics, though many students do invest a lot of time and energy in them.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
Day students share space with boarders, which serves to bring the groups closer socially. The dorms are big and airconditioned, with their own bathrooms. Teachers live among students and are incredibly accessible. There are phone lines and internet connections in every room. The faculty makes a special effort to grant roommate requests, and students tend to be reassigned once or twice a year to have a chance to switch roommates or locations.

Dining:

1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
We eat with teachers at every table, and student 'waiters' (selected on a rotating basis each week) bring the food out to the table and clean up afterwards. Meals are required. Recently a new dining room and kitchen addition were added to the school.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
New stores and businesses have been springing up in the area of the school for years. Whereas it was considered remote 50 years ago, St Louis has expanded enough that TJ is now amid plenty of suburban civilization. The school arranges events such as theater going and baseball games, and a hired driver delivers students to malls and other nearby destinations on the weekend.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
The school is very small, meaning it is easy to form close friendships and bonds to classmates, teammates, and teachers. When it was time to request college recommendations, I had four or five teachers in mind. Each one knew me well enough to write a well-rounded, in-depth letter about me.

Daily Schedule:

Weekday
8:00 AMBreakfast
8:30 AMClasses begin, 35 minutes each. Usually, 2 free periods among 5 classes
12:30 PMLunch
1:00 AMAssembly twice a week
3:30 AMAthletics (varies, 3 or 4 times a week depending on sport)
2:00 AMArt class Wednesdays
4:00 AMClubs meet various times, various days of the week, in the afternoons
5:00 AMDay students go home
5:45 AMDinner
6:30 AM
10:30 AMEarliest bedtime, for youngest students. There are in dorm, in room, and lights-off hours.
Weekend
1:00 AMMostly unstructured time (I wasn't there)

Alumni Reviews
  Review School

  • Review Description
  • Wesleyan University
    while T.J. advertises itself as a bastion of classical education, I think that its size and its English program really make it stand out. English at Thomas Jefferson is a serious matter; students learn the. . .
  • University of Richmond
    Thomas Jefferson academics are extremely rigorous and are the central focus of the student body and faculty. That said, the school has broadened the variety of extracurricular activities and options over the last few. . .
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