Highlands Blog

Ready to Launch? Options & Opportunities

Trey Adams

Every day I am confronted with the word "why?"

It begins with internal questions like "Why get out of bed?" and "Why eat a healthy breakfast?" It continues with questions like "Why take this route to work?" and "Why open Outlook before checking my voice mail?" Intuition and impulse often propel us forward without asking why. How many things on a daily basis do we just "do" without thinking about it? With a new wife, new job, new home, and now new son, I am finding myself navigating more on intention than impulse.

At work, I am asked "why" by families considering Highlands and "why" from families who are about to leave Highlands. "Why is Highlands different?" "Why should we choose one school over another?" "Why stay?" "Why go?"

Project-based learning, STEM/STEAM education, social-emotional learning, global competency, and leadership development are just a few of the answers to "Why Highlands?" But why stay through eighth grade?

I recently began taking the journey of "why" with members of the Class of 2018. Why choose one school over another? Why apply for a scholarship? Why explore boarding school? Families approach the process of leaving Highlands with some of the same emotions that overwhelmed them when coming on board--anxiety, excitement, fear, worry, and apprehension. A framework for an intentional and collaborative approach to out-placement was born.

The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is an internationally recognized assessment, used to vet students for admission by some of the most rigorous, competitive, and successful independent schools in the world. It is the preferred admission test of Indian Springs School and many boarding schools. Led by Learning Specialist Shara Kernan, Highlands offered a prep class for the SSAT and ISEE (an alternate test) to members of the Class of 2018 and then provided a free practice and national administration of the exam. Students were taught test-taking strategies and advised on score results.

In conversation with a local Director of Admissions at a competitive secondary school, she indicated that students who apply to at least one boarding school are better equipped for the day school admission process. "Why apply to a boarding school?" The boarding school admission process mirrors a comprehensive college application process, which can include campus visits, alumni interview, and merit scholarship consideration. Exposure to a different place, approach, and perspective enchances critical-thinking abilities around choice. "They engage the process in a different way--open to different options and experiences."

Developed by Middle School Chair Bo Garrett, during mock interviews, administrators asked pointed and varied questions, consistent with those used by 9-12 admission directors. Students were given guidance on areas of strength and challenge. Interviewers encouraged the Class of 2018 to be prepared with the "why" behind their choice of a specific school experience and to share honestly and authentically about who they are as they enter high school.

The pre-K through 8 experience is uniquely positioned for success in the landscape of education. The cognitive, social, and emotional development journey evolves into a product for presentation to desirous secondary schools. The graduate is empowered to ask and understand "why" and thwart the lure of impulse. Opportunities abound as he or she thinks critically and joyfully about the myriad of options and the next step that truly is their best fit. We are ready to help. They are ready to launch.
Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.