Mercersburg Academy - Review #2

Mercersburg Academy
5

About the Author:

College Enrolled Georgetown University
Home Town, State (Country) Hickory, NC
Years Attended Boarding School 4
Activities During Boarding School The Mercersburg News is one of the few weekly, student-run publications in the country, and it was undoubtedly one of my favorite activities at Mercersburg. There are reporters and editors from all grades, and the faculty advisers encourage students to take risks with their topics and to write articles that pertain to current events, but use the global student body to add personal, Mercersburg twists. I also played soccer in ninth grade, did three terms of Endeavor Outdoor Education, played two seasons of lacrosse, and ran four seasons of track, and two seasons of cross country. In each activity, I not only expanded my friend group, but I also became close with faculty members who were invested in me and eager to help if I had an issue. My experience on the cross country team was a highlight of my Mercesburg career because of the incredible coaches and close-knit team. Every day we had check-ins where each runner and coach elaborated on their day--both the good and the bad--which fostered quite the little family setting. I was also Class President and Class Treasurer each for two years, which was a great way to increase my interaction with school administrators and upperclassmen. In tenth grade I declaimed during Irving Marshall week which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was also on Blue Key, a Prefect, a member of the Feminist Book Club, and of the Women's Activist Club.

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
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 school operates on a trimester schedule, students not only have the opportunity to involve themselves in a wide range of activities--from sports, to theater, to volunteer work, to outdoor education--and interact with students and teachers that they otherwise may not meet. Also, every two weeks table assignments randomly switch in the dining hall, so students are constantly put in a position to expand their friend groups and to connect with faculty members whom they may or may not know. The result is a unique atmosphere where students not only know just about every peer by name, but have an unlimited network of teacher advocates.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
The best thing that happened to me at Mercersburg was meeting my friends and having a great support system from my teachers. However, the experience that taught me the most was probably going to South Africa with the Carettis after ninth grade. I could go on and on about it, but I really can't explain the lasting impression that this trip had on me. I just know that I became a more thankful, compassionate, content person. Though the great thing about Mercersburg is that I truly could go on and on about all of the amazing experiences I was offered and the amazing people I met. I went ice climbing in the Adirondacks, hiked all over Pennsylvania, studied abroad in Italy, but most importantly, I met people that made me a better person and changed my perspective on the world. My advisers and coaches, teammates and friends are the most incredible people, and I cannot imagine who I would be had I not been fortunate enough to meet them.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
My advice for anyone going to boarding school, specifically Mercersburg, is to try everything. Most people take five classes every term, but take six instead, try an art class or term course so you can find areas that you love. Try a new sport, or do hiking or biking, you will be challenged, but it is impossible not to find peace in the beautiful places the programs take you. Don't be afraid to ask for help or go to a help center, and find faculty members whom you trust that you can vent to or celebrate with.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
My favorite aspect of Mercersburg was the people. The campus is beautiful, there are so many great activities to keep you busy, and the classes are amazing, but none of it compares to how great the students and faculty are. Mercersburg really does create a home-away-from-home experience. You become so close with the people in your dorm, on your team, and in your classes, and it doesn't matter if you go for one year or four, it's a welcoming place that encourages students to develop their own opinions, challenge their own points of view, and consider others' perspectives.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Try at least one season of MOE, be really active during Irving-Marshall Week, and make an effort to connect with the people at your dining hall table, in your dorm, and in your classes!

Academics:

1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
My favorite aspect of Mercersburg academics is the amount of options available. In ninth and tenth grade there are a couple of different History, Math, English, and Science options, but that mostly pertains to different levels of intensity or difficulty. However, for the Arts requirements, underclassmen have complete reign to choose to take Ceramics, Dance, Acting, Photography, Speech, and more. In eleventh and twelfth grade there are tons of options in all disciplines from which to choose. Teachers create their own term courses based on their areas of experience or interest, and there is a variety of AP courses offered. Also, the Quinn Ferguson Honors Seminar, MAPS program, and Springboard courses offer classes in a range of interests and have independent-study project components so students can choose a topic that interests them and have a year to research and write a thesis-like paper and/or create a presentation. The workload for all courses depends pretty much on how you design your schedule. History and English courses often come with lots of reading, but it is always manageable given the 8-10pm study hours, free periods, Help periods, and pockets of spare time throughout the day. I took six classes every term, and while the workload was challenging, I rarely, if ever, felt the need to ask for an extension or turn in late work. The Science and Math courses of course have homework, but the the higher level courses have less assigned homework and more individual reviewing and studying as needed. I always felt comfortable asking teachers for help, and I often took advantage of the Math and Writing Centers where students can go and meet with their teachers or other teachers in that subject. There is not a lot of competition that I noticed, but I had a great group of friends, so we talked about our course load and commitments, but I never felt the need to compete with my classmates, only to do the best of my ability for myself.

Athletics:

1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
The athletics program is robust, with multiple sports offered for both genders each term. Most sports have a competition once or twice a week, and there are lots of JV and Thirds teams, it all depends on the amount of athletes who try out for a given sport. Some smaller, ladder-based teams like squash and tennis make cuts, but then there are other teams like Cross Country, Track, and Girl's Lacrosse that don't make cuts no matter the size of the team. My favorite part of the athletics program were the Cross Country coaches and the supportive atmosphere that they created. I am still in touch with my Cross Country coaches, and they encourage all of us to stay in touch and reach out if we are ever in a pickle. I became a better runner and athlete through the Cross Country program, but I also felt like I always had someone I could talk to about anything going on in my life.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
I never did theater or dance as an extracurricular activity, but I always loved going to the plays, concerts, and recitals. The Dance Concerts are probably among the most well-attended events on campus, because the dance program is so amazing, and there are a variety of dance styles taught. I took two terms of Ceramics, one term of Acting, and one term of Dance. I would highly recommend the Ceramics courses, as it is such a fun and uncommon class and skill. I still went to the Ceramics studio and made gifts for my friends and family just because it was so fun! The Burgin Center is exquisite, and all of the classrooms--painting rooms, dance practice studios, ceramics studio, acting classrooms, Simon Theater--are all immaculate and so functionable. Also, lots of guest teachers are brought in to choreograph or work with the actors, it's really cool.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
Again, the diversity of offerings is so great. The Outdoor Education program is definitely unique to Mercersburg as it offers hiking, mountaineering, biking, and climbing programs. Each program has off-campus trips once or twice a week as well as overnights to nearby parks, trails, or facilities. The barn is equipped for biking upkeep, daily workouts and reflections, and has climbing walls and places for bouldering. There are lots of volunteer opportunities through the Community Engagement program, and the Student Activities office offers lots of trips to DC, New York, as well as to more local events and organizes lots of dances and weekend activities.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
I can only really speak to the girls' dorms. Fowle Hall is the ninth and tenth grade girl's dorm, and the biggest girls' dorm on campus. The first two years where you are with all of the girls in your grade are invaluable bonding opportunities. Every dorm floor at Mercersburg has one or two prefects and a faculty apartment at the end of the hall. Prefects are great resources for roommate troubles, class concerns, or just overall advice and often become close with their peers on the floor. The faculty who lives on the floor can be very involved with the floor or a bit more reserved depending on the floor. Either way, they often like to keep up with the students and maybe arrange some fun activities with the prefects. Every night there is a prefect and a faculty member on duty in the dorm, so when students sign in and check out of the dorm they get to know the various faculty and prefects well. Advisors are assigned by dorm, so your advisor is usually on duty at least once a week at dorm, and so their duty night is always a great time to catch up with them. Depending on the dorm, the duty desk can become quite the hub for catching up at the end of the night. I was in Swank Hall for both eleventh and twelfth grade, and I loved it. Because the upperclass girls' dorms are small, especially compared to Fowle, they foster a great community. Swank also has a little caveat where you can't talk on your phone while signing in, you're expected to have a little conversation with the prefect and faculty on duty. This small practice ensures the dorm is very tight knit and allows students and faculty to get to know each other well. It was probably my favorite aspect of Swank!

Dining:

1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
The Dining Hall may serve a lot of chicken but in the grand scheme of things, is actually very good. I may not have always loved the meal served, but there were always also salad and sandwich bars, fruits, vegetarian options, and soups from which to choose. The Dining Hall opens at 7:30 every weekday morning, but it may be 8 on the weekends, I don’t remember. Breakfast ends at 9 on weekdays and kind of just flows into lunch on the weekend. All breakfasts are optional, but they have a great assortment—omelet bar, waffles, oatmeal, cereal, fruit, yogurt, toast, bagels, etc. Breakfast was always one of my favorite times of the day because it was the perfect place to catch up with all of my friends. Lunch is a required, family style meal on weekdays and is optional, buffet on the weekends. Every two weeks students change tables and are at those assigned tables for all required meals for the next two weeks. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday dinners are the only required dinners, and you sit at your assigned table unless it is full. Every table has a faculty member who stays at that table for the duration of the year, so lunch is an ideal time to scout out a teacher to ask a question or to chat.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
Mercersburg the borough is tiny, but there are a couple of local gems. Romeo's is great for pizza or ice cream, Flannery's is a good place to take your parents or to go when you want something a bit more upscale. The Liberty gas station is close enough that it is probably the most convenient place to go for a quick snack, and there is a Food Lion about a mile down the road where you can walk on the weekends to stock up for the week. There is a McDonald's, Subway, Dollar General, and Rutters a little under a mile down Main Street which are popular in the fall and spring, but the walk can feel a bit longer in the winter. Hagerstown, Chambersburg, and Greencastle are the larger towns within thirty minutes of Mercersburg, so sports teams often stop there for dinner after a game. There are sushi and pizza places that deliver to Mercersburg, and lots of restaurants to go to when your parents are in town. The best thing to do in Mercersburg is to go walking or biking. It is a really beautiful place with lots of farmland and old houses, so it's fun to just roam around with friends on the weekend and take it all in.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
While you may not be friends with everyone, Mercersburg is small enough that you know most people by name, so it's easy to walk around campus and see a friendly face. The combination of dorm life, dining hall tables, classes, sports teams, clubs, etc. ensure that you know a lot of people, and creates friends. It's impossible not to fit in or find people to hang out with because the student body is so diverse, and you are so busy that you get to know people really well, really quickly. I have friends that I've had for four years, friends that I made when I joined a new club or team, and friends that I made because they were my friends' friends. Mercersburg is the easiest place in the world to make friends, and because every is in such close proximity, you get to know people well enough that you will definitely be friends for life. I loved going to the student center on the weekends, or going to buffet meals with my friends, but it was also so much fun to just stay in the dorm and hang out with a group. The quality of the people at Mercersburg is the school's trademark.

Daily Schedule:

Weekday
8:45 AMClasses start at 8:50
11:45 AMLunch is from 11:55-12:20ish
1:00 PMEvery weekday except for Tuesday has a 30 minute Help period after lunch
3:45 PMClasses end at 3:40
4:00 PMPGAs (after school activities) start around 4:00
6:30 PMDinner is from 6:30-7:00
8:00 PMStudy hours begin
11:00 PMLights out (this varies a bit depending on the grade level and dorm)
Weekend
9:00 AMThe gym opens on Saturdays at 9:00 (as opposed to 6:30 or 7:00 am on weekdays and 1:00 pm on Sundays)
10:00 AMMy friends and I liked to go to brunch in the Dining Hall around 10:00 am and sometimes stay until after lunch (around 1:00 pm)
5:30 PMDinner opens in the Dining Hall
7:00 PMDinner closes in the Dining Hall

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)
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