Mercersburg Academy - Review #1

Mercersburg Academy
5

About the Author:

College Enrolled Duke University
Home Town, State (Country) Hickory, NC
Years Attended Boarding School 4
Activities During Boarding School At Mercersburg, I was a 12 season varsity athlete in Soccer, Cross-Country (2x Captain), Indoor Track, Lacrosse, and Outdoor Track. I was Hustle & Bustle editor for the Mercersburg NEWS and then graduated to be a front page editor my upper-classmen years. I was a prefect and president of my class during my 11th and 12th grade years, served on the Conduct Review Commity my 9th grade year, co-founded the Women's Activist Club (W.A.C!) with one of my very closest friends, and tutored online with a program called School On Wheels. I also served as a Blue Key (a tour guide) and was a member of the Student Alumni Council (a favorite, catching up with the "young 'n old" and learning about Mercersburg "through the ages!") I know it would not have been possible to engage in half of these activities had I been anywhere else other than Mercersburg. Beyond these day-to-day activities I traveled to Costa Rica, India, and spent a summer abroad in China sharpening my Chinese (which I began my 9th-grade year). You pack in busy days but everything is relative and given the diverse range of options, all activities should be and largely are ones that you love. I was able to begin activities at Mercersburg, continue activities, and learn about things I never knew existed! I played Irving-Marshall squash my senior year at number two, a sport I didn't know existed before Mercersburg!

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
Opportunity and Community were the two buzzwords that largely encompass my Mercersburg experience. What lies between these two speaks just as loudly. There is a certain "presence of the present" that exists at Mercersburg that provides an open-playing field, a freedom, that is unique in comparison to most all school, not just boarding. At Mercersburg I never felt and socio-economic pressures or biased assumptions. Everyone arrives at Mercersburg equal, within the community and the recognition that any student gains in made in what they do, who they prove themselves to be--and there is ample opportunity to do so. The community that surrounds the school is familial, in nature. Your dinner table will likely consist of ten students along with a faculty member, spouse, and their young children. The faculty members push you, always happily ready to bounce you back up if you stumble. Your fellow students support you, encourage you, and are excited for any successes. Familial--any success for one student is a success for all. Elitism, negatively concentrated competition, and heightened stress are missing from the Mercersburg community.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
Far and away the best part of my Mercersburg experience was being able to work, live, and learn with people from all over the country and the world. There is just so much to learn, and that can be learned, just by living in such a diverse population. I think so much differently, so much more wholly, than I did before coming to Mercersburg. I also believe this exposure expanded my thoughts. In the same way there are different sized infinities, you can never realize the limits, the boundaries of your mind, until they are broken. I can't realized them now! But I can reflect on my thought process and considerations from four years ago and recognize my world has changed from the exposures that I have had. I'm more curious, more excited, and extremely willing to try new things, dive in. Mercersburg gave me the opportunity to grow and much of this was accomplished solely by meeting people who made me think within our friendships but also in class, bringing perspectives that are extremely rare in a school that is not boarding. Also, speaking at graduation on the same platform that Madeleine Albright spoke was verrrrrry cool and definitely a highlight. Following the opportunity to meet with her in D.C. through the Quinn-Ferguson Honors Seminar.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I wouldn't have been so shy! Before Mercersburg, I was quiet and thoughtful. This lead me to take some time to warm up in classes. You will get the most out of class, everyone in class will get the most out of it, if you speak up. Speak up from day one, share! It is so rewarding and you will learn so much more. Coming to a boarding school is a clean slate. Be who you want to be, everyone wants that. You will be so much happier and discover so many new things about yourself and those around you. Don't worry about perceptions, everyone wants you to succeed and given the nature of a boarding school, everyone comes in needing a friends, friends!! Be yourself and go out and make some!
4.) What did you like most about your school?
What I like most about Mercersburg is what rings true after graduation, that I think about every day. I am so incredibly grateful to Mercersburg and all those that made my time at Mercersburg possible because of everything that I see before me. Thanks to what I learned and who I met at Mercersburg, I believe that "the world is my oyster." I'm excited about learning, traveling, meeting people, trying new things, reading a book, going for a walk. Mercersburg has taught me that any avenue in life can be one that provides stimulation and joy. At graduation I said "Mercersburg has given us a foundation from which we continue, from which we launch." Not to toot my own horn but I think those words are both pretty clean and pretty true. I don't know if it will be possible to ever go a day without thinking about Mercersburg because of all the gifts Mercersburg gave---friends, lessons, travel, open horizons, but I know all of these gifts, these opportunities are only part of it. Mercersburg made me confident that any time in my life can be incredible and encroaching and exciting.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Take advantage of any and all time that you have at whatever school you choose to attend. There is something special about each. Spend nights outside; wandering campus a bit and thinking; go for walks with friends and explore your town; work hard; participate in everything, try something new, ask questions, go to something even if your friends aren't going, as Mercersburg coins--Define Yourself. The people around you support and you will build incredible relationships. However, the truest and most special relationships you will build will be as you explore things for yourself, step outside of your comfort zone, and seek the cliche of being "the best you can be."

Academics:

1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Driving to move-in day my 9th-grade year, my parents told me that I may not get all As, 100%, at school. A B might weasle its way in there, maybe lower. They said that was okay, expected since the academics are known to be rigorous and I had only ever gone to my local public schools. But as stated before, you arrive at Mercersburg on a level-playing field, not just socially, but academically. Of course, students may be spaced out according to what maths or language they have already taken but all 9th-grade students enroll in the same Biology course, Mediterranean World course, and English course. Students also all begin in introductory level art courses. The teachers are strong and so available, creating a true environment of "what you put into it is what you get out of it." I thrived under Mercersburg Academics and I was no longer studying for a grade or for a test. I would often choose books related to a course I was taking or had taken. Watch videos on relevant subjects, all for fun--out of a true interest and enjoyment of learning. Classes are most all discussion based which makes "learning fun!" and encourages students (maybe subconsciously) to dive into topics or detailed aspects of a topic on their own. Classes become more vibrant, interesting, and with lasting effects as students bring individually acquired knowledge and interest to the class. I learned that truly anything can be encapsulating, interesting, leaving me a bit at a loss for what to study in college as Mercersburg provided me with every avenue and every opportunity making it slightly tricky to settle down and choose one!

Athletics:

1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Mercersburg athletics are competitive but varied. A girl on my cross-country team may be (was!) a nationally ranked triathlete and other members may have never run in their life. I found I was able to slide into the middle of this range and improve. Further, I fell in love with the sports I play. I loved every second on the field, in practices, on the track. My freshman year I despised track meets and loved practices. By the time I was an upper-middler I had learned to truly love all aspects of running, indoor races and all. This is a gift that I know will follow me my entire life. My 9th-grade years playing on the varsity soccer and lacrosse teams were equally encompassed by joy and a compassion developed by our leadership. Upperclassmen and leaders who I admired and thought of constantly when I took roles they had held. Friends from all aspects of Mercersburg will come racing over to your field after their respective activity ends--still sweaty from practice or in their dance apparel--ready to cheer you on, perhaps sacrificing a pre-dinner shower. Of all the schools I visited over 4 years and 12 seasons of competition, none had facilities that compared to Mercersburg's. Not even the colleges that we visited.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
Mercersburg offers virtually any avenue for students to pursue. I had personally never pursued the arts on my own, outside of playing the cello, but Mercersburg requires that students gain some experience in the art program by including four arts credits within the graduation requirements. Two of the credits must be in the performing arts and the other two in visual. I was not so sure, going into this, how I would enjoy my art classes but I loved them. I took two dance classes and three terms of ceramics. I was even featured at the K-12 National Ceramics Exhibition, an opportunity that Mercersburg provides to students yearly. Outside of being personally involved in the arts, Mercersburg is extremely supportive of those who pursue the arts as their main interest. The Stony Batter performances are always packed and the Dance Concerts are so highly looked forward to that students come an hour before show times to get "the best seats." Outside of classes and PGA, The Burgin is always full, hosting the Blue Review---the school's literary magazine---the Yearbook, and the Mercersburg NEWS which produces a paper weekly and which was one of the many highlights of my Mercersburg career. Instrumentally, Mercersburg has two acapella groups---Magalia and Octet, a Chorus, a Chapel Choir, a Strings group, a Jazz Band, a Band, and a Percussion group.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
As far as extra-curricular go, I have sort of summed them up in the lines above. Every student is required to participate in a Performance Group Activity (PGA) which includes the arts programs and sports. Mercersburg also has a Community Engagement program that serves as a PGA and that provides students with volunteer activities in the area. Mercersburg's Outdoor Education Program (MOE) is one of the biggest hidden gems at Mercersburg. If I had not been pursuing 12 varsity letters, I would have definitely tried a couple seasons of MOE. MOE offers climbing, hiking, cycling, backpacking, and in the winter---Endeavor---a program that includes ice climbing, camping in the snow, and hiking. The winter season also offers skiing and snowboarding through the Whitetail Ski Resort which is only 10 miles off campus.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
Dorm life is what truly makes a boarding school experience. I loved living on a floor or hall with people who were either some of my very closest friends, or became some of my closest friends. The duty desks also tend to become a "hot hang out." The duty desk is where everyone signs in at night. Faculty associated with the dorm man the desk along with a prefect for that dorm. The groups that gather once their homework is finished (or mostly finished ;)) show just how much students admire and appreciate the faculty that work with Mercersburg. I know some of my favorite memories in the dorm, particularly in the underclassmen dorm, Fowle Hall which I was in for three years instead of two---two for the required 9th and 10th grade years and one as a prefect my 11th grade year---are times when my friends and I would gather at the desk as younger students flooded in from 9th grade required study hall and listen to their funny little conversations on the day and greet them as they headed back to their rooms. Dorms are also fun as each has traditions like ice-cream nights, or wing nights, or indoor soccer nights, or dodgeball nights, or Secret Santa with the brother or sister dorm.

Dining:

1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
I, personally, was a big fan of our dining hall. Sage Dining, the school's dining provider, makes an active and largely successful effort at making sure there are options for everyone. I was often a fan of the vegetarian options and definitely had the opportunity to diversify with my food choices. The best part of the dining experience, however, is certainly in the family style meals. Every two weeks students are assigned to a table that is staffed by one or two faculty members and their family. You eat with your assigned table, family style, for all weekday lunches as well as Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday dinners. Monday night dinner is formal so all students are required to come, no meal cuts, and dress is formal. All breakfasts are buffet and there are hot options that rotate in and out close to every 2-3 weeks along with a cold bar that has cereals, bagels, yogurt, fruit, applesauce, etc. Breakfasts also have a self-order omelet bar and waffle station. All meals rotate in and out about every 2-3 weeks and students can track their favorite meal on a calendar/menu online or one of the two offered apps---the first created be a student and the second, created shortly after, by Sage Dining.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
The town of Mercersburg is small but can be eventful. There are four different restaurants that students frequent for food, pizza, ice-cream, etc. The mile trek to Food Lion is also a common Sunday afternoon activity. However, some of the biggest attractions in and out of town come in the beautiful setting that Mercersburg finds itself in. Students can walk or bike a few miles to the local flea market or go the opposite direction, a little over a mile, to a little swimming creek.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
Social life at Mercersburg revolves around all parts of Mercersburg---there is no one sure place where you will make your friends. In the classroom, in your PGA, on a team, in the dorm, your roommate, at family style meals, walking around, in a club, in the Chapel, or the host of most all Friday and Saturday nights------------the Student Center!! Also, since the town of Mercersburg is smaller, Trini Hoffman, director of student activities does a great job to organize weekly events/trips for students. Trips to the movies, mall, ice-cream, outlets, DC, Baltimore, Georgetown, NYC, and on campus events like karaoke, casino night, Bingo, dances, carnival, s'mores, Goodwill Fashion Show, etc. Sports games can also be fairly well attended, depending on the schedule of all the other sports activities. The 6th Man club has grown over the past two years to create a strong draw to many of the sporting activities. Clubs also sponsor events like themed dances, movie nights, and events specially related to that club.

Daily Schedule:

Weekday
7:30 AMBreakfast opens
9:00 AM8:50 classes start
12:00 AM11:55 lunch begins after three classes--the first two are an hour long and the remaining four periods in the day are 50 minutes.
1:00 PMThe fourth class period begins after a half hour lunch and half hour
4:00 PM3:40 classes end
4:00 PMMost PGAs begin.
6:00 PMPGAs end between 5:30 and 6:00
6:30 PMDinner beings and ends at 7:00.
8:00 PMStudy hours start and last until 10:00. 8:00-9:30 there is a required study hall for all 9th-graders and new 10th-graders. This lasts for about a trimester and a half, usually ends after winter break.
10:45 PMlights out for 9th-graders (and 10th-graders??? I can't quite remember). 11:00 11th and 12th graders must be in their rooms but lights do not have to be off.
Weekend
7:30 AMBreakfast opens
10:00 AMBreakfast ends but especially on a Sunday, many students may stay in the dining hall chatting with friends or doing homework.
11:00 AMLunch opens and closes at 1:00.
1:00 PMSporting activities occur throughout the day Saturday. If they are away, especially if they are MAPL games, buses will likely leave campus before 8:00 and return after dinner. Day trips will likely run in the late afternoon/evening but due to sports events
1:00 PMand other PGA activities most day trips occur on Sundays.
5:30 PMDinner opens and closes at 7:30
7:30 PMAll students must sign in/check into their dorm between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. and tell the faculty on duty what there plans are for the night--ie. student center, movie trip, a different dorm, etc.
11:30 PMStudents must be signed back into their dorm, seniors sign can sign in as late as 11:30.
12:00 PMAll students must be in their rooms for the night.

Alumni Reviews
  Review School

  • Review Description
  • Mercersburg Academy Alumni #1
    Class of 2017
    5 Stars   10/18/2017
    Duke University
    Opportunity and Community were the two buzzwords that largely encompass my Mercersburg experience. What lies between these two speaks just as loudly. There is a certain "presence of the present" that exists at Mercersburg that. . .
  • Mercersburg Academy Alumni #2
    Class of 2017
    5 Stars   10/24/2017
    Georgetown University
    Building a sense of community is definitely a theme throughout boarding schools, but how well Mercersburg cultivates community sets it apart. Students are required to participate in an afterschool activity every term and since the. . .
  • Mercersburg Academy Alumni #3
    Class of 2016
    5 Stars   8/28/2017
    College of William and Mary
    One of the most defining aspects of Mercersburg Academy, and one of the most significant parts of the school in my experience is the number of ways they encourage their students to either travel or. . .
  • Mercersburg Academy Alumni #4
    Class of 2016
    5 Stars   12/3/2016
    Tufts University
    We have sit-down meals everyday of the weekday. The tables rotate every two weeks so you really get to know different faculties and students. We also have Irving-Marshall week, so students are divided into two. . .
  • Mercersburg Academy Alumni #5
    Class of 2013
    5 Stars   12/17/2016
    Hillsdale College
    This school is one-of-a-kind. I could seriously write for hours. I guess one thing that really stands out above all the rest of the amazing parts of this school is the Burgin Center for the. . .
  • Show more reviews (11 reviews)
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.