Is there any good reason to wait until your son is in tenth grade to enroll him in one of the nation’s top secondary boarding schools? After all, most schools accept students starting in ninth grade, so why wait?
If your son is in junior boarding school or you plan to send him to junior boarding school, there’s a very compelling reason to have him stay there for ninth grade: He’ll be happier.
(If you’ve never heard of junior boarding school before, the Junior Boarding School Association has a very good explanation of what they are.)
According to Tim Murphy, Director of Secondary School Placement here at The Fessenden School, ninth grade is the peak of a boy’s junior boarding school experience. It can be the most rewarding, most enjoyable year he spends in school.
There’s no rush to get your son into a secondary boarding school for ninth grade. Tenth grade is a very common entry point for secondary boarding school students, Tim explains. (According to some reports, it is the most common entry point.)
By remaining in junior boarding school another year, your son will not only have a more fulfilling ninth-grade experience than he would elsewhere, but he will enter tenth grade at a top secondary boarding school with extra confidence, experience, and independence.
Tim highlighted three reasons why a junior boarding school like The Fessenden School can be one of the happiest places to spend ninth grade.
1. Junior boarding school ninth-graders can participate in varsity sports.
At a large boarding school or public or private high school, ninth-graders — even the most athletically gifted among them — are usually relegated to freshman or JV squads. There is just too much competition for spots on the varsity team from students with more seniority.
At those lower levels, Tim says, “You’re not necessarily getting the most experienced coaches. You’re often going to get people who are coaching that sport as their second or third sport, maybe not their priority.”
For ninth-graders who want to perform at the highest level possible with the most dedicated coaches and the most equipped athletic facilities, junior boarding school is the place to play.
“Ninth-graders here play a very competitive schedule with the best coaches, they get great exposure, and they are part of a varsity team. That matters to boys,” Tim says. “They like being able to say, ‘I’m a leader on a varsity team,’ as opposed to, ‘I’m just part of a freshman team that doesn’t get as much attention.’”
2. Ninth-graders are student leaders at a junior boarding school.
There aren’t many leadership opportunities for the youngest students in a four-year high school. Freshmen usually have to patiently wait their turns as older students take the lead roles in plays, are elected officers of student organizations, and are selected to be team captains.
At a junior boarding school like Fessenden, ninth-graders are leaders. All the other students look up to them. Among other positions, ninth-graders have the opportunity to serve as table monitors, dorm proctors, peer tutors, team captains, and student government leaders.
“As a ninth-grader at Fessenden, you’re mentally positioning yourself among 200 boys in grades seven through nine. You are more confident. You are a leader. You are accomplishing things,” Tim says.
When boys feel academic, social, and athletic confidence, they take more healthy risks. They push themselves harder.
“You’re more willing to put yourself out there and add challenges to your daily life than you are when you’re a freshman at a four-year high school, feeling inadequate about your ability to contribute to your community,” Tim explains.
3. Ninth grade at a junior boarding school is academically challenging.
“Ninth grade at a junior boarding school is not for students who academically aren’t ready to go to high school,” Tim points out. That’s a common misconception, he says.
Just as ninth grade at a junior boarding school is a great fit for talented athletes, it’s also a great place to be for students seeking an academic challenge.
“We have faculty here who have taught AP biology at prestigious secondary schools and are teaching a full-lab biology course to our ninth-graders,” Tim explains. “We have students taking Algebra II and precalculus. Plus, students at Fessenden can take Mandarin along with Spanish and Latin, which is great preparation for secondary school.”
Where do you think your son would be happiest?
Where do you think your son would most enjoy ninth grade: a junior boarding school or a secondary boarding school? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below.