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Setting yourself up for success at boarding school
Whether it’s for boarding school, college, or beyond, we know that moving away from home for the first time can be intimidating, and we’re here to help. As part of Midland Admission’s spring webinar series, we shared boarding school tips from our students and faculty on how you can navigate that transition successfully. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Keep your head up and ask for help
Our first tip comes from Heron ’21, who said, “Remember that just because you’re new doesn’t mean you’ll be the only scared one. Keep your head up and always remember to ask for help.”
It can be helpful to remember that everyone was new once. Every high school sophomore remembers being a freshman, and they’re all ready to help you out however they can, whether that’s teaching you how to do your laundry or just showing you around your new home.
2. Build community
Building a strong community is a beautiful way to help you feel rooted in a new place. At Midland, we intentionally build a community where everyone feels known, needed, and actively invested in the community.
Dan Susman, Midland’s Dean of Experiential Learning, reminds us of this, saying, “Though it might be scary to leave home, know that a loving, caring, and compassionate community awaits at Midland. A group of students who have all made the same leap will be there to laugh with you, support you, and make sure you feel welcome here.”
You can build community simply by connecting with the people around you, playing games, and having conversations. You can also join a club or team to help meet like-minded people! There are so many opportunities — whether you’re at Midland or somewhere else — to join a group of people with ideas and traits in common. At Midland, that might be a team sport like volleyball, basketball, soccer, or cross country, maybe it’s doing an internship on our farm or ranch, or maybe it’s one of our affinity clubs, like our LGBTQ+ club, our Latinx club, our community service club, or even our tea club!
Something that our students have mentioned helps them is leaving their phone away because, at Midland, students give up their cell phones when they come, which can sound scary, but our students quickly find that they love not having their phones.
Maisy ’20 explained, “I love not having my phone. It is so much easier making deep and meaningful connections with faculty and my friends. There are a lot of moments in the beginning of each year when you are with someone you don’t know and it would be easy to just spin out online. Instead, you get to start conversations and actually make a connection.”
3. Find your support system
Something our students regularly mention is how nice it is to have teachers who are not JUST teachers, but who they do everything from surfing to dining with. It’s helpful to be able to find those people who will make up your support system and can become your go-to person for any problem you’re having.
Porter ’21 reminded us that your support system doesn’t just have to be people older than you! “I love the feeling of having a support system that is made up of people my age,” he said. “I love the feeling of knowing that I can lean on people my age whenever I have a hard time. For that reason, the Midland community is amazing.”
4. Develop healthy habits
Jane ’20 shared with us, “Getting space from your parents can help you grow so much as an individual and develop healthy habits so that when you get to college you already know how to be independent. It’s really fun living with your friends and figuring out how to live without your parents and family around you all the time.”
You can start developing those healthy habits on your own by staying active (another great perk of joining an athletic team!) and eating delicious and nutritious food, like what you can find in Midland’s farm-to-table dining hall.
And like Jane said, you get to do this WITH your community! It’s so helpful being with likeminded people who can join you in developing healthy habits.
5. Remember that your family is only one phone call away
Although leaving home means moving away from your family, our students’ biggest tip was to remember that it’s easy to stay in touch.
“You’ll stay close with all your friends at home (while making tons more),” Charlotte ’22 said. “Even if you miss your family, they’re only one call, email, or Google Hangout away.” Melia ’21 gave similar advice, saying that wherever you’re thinking of going next, “truly consider what ideas are holding you back, and if it is worth not going. I almost didn’t come to Midland because I knew I would miss my family so much, and I do miss them, but the relationships that I have built at Midland outweigh the homesickness in the end.”
6. Be yourself!
A great way to build community, find your support systems, and really settle into a new place is to be yourself, just like Raymond ‘21 says: “I was pretty nervous, but I’ve realized a few things: Midlanders are always so excited make new friends every fall, and the more you let your guard down and show your amazingly unique self, the quicker you melt into the wonderful community around you.”
When you embrace who you are, you’re able to build your community even stronger. People know the real you, and you get to know the real them!
7. Embrace every opportunity to learn
Especially when you first leave home, there is so much to learn, which makes for an exciting adventure ahead.
English faculty Alison reminded us of this saying, “Far more learning happens outside the classroom than inside. My favorite moments [at Midland] have been during work periods, sit-down dinners, hanging out with my advisory at my house, driving students here and there, camping, and listening to chapel talks. … Students learn non-academic college skills without even realizing it. Waking up on their own, doing laundry, keeping a room clean, managing time and temperature, communicating needs, asking the right person for help. We also teach invaluable academic college skills in an environment that is similar to many colleges.”
It can be tempting to shy away from all of those opportunities, but remember that lots of times the biggest things you’ll learn won’t be in your high school or college classrooms.
8. Find a routine
Zoe ’23 recommends finding a “routine that incorporates plenty of free time,” and we couldn’t agree more! We also recommend ensuring that your routine includes things that you love.
For some of our students, that means taking Natural Horsemanship internship, which allows them to saddle up and get out on the ranch in the middle of the academic day. For others, it’s blocking out time regularly to hike, hang out with friends, or read.
Whatever it is for you, a routine will help you find the time to do those things you love and will help you settle into your new home away from home.
9. Explore your passions
Our Dean of Students, José Juan said, “Give yourself a chance to experience something different, at Midland, and boarding school in general, you will find at least one important thing you will connect with, and multiple people you will enjoy spending time with.”
You never know what new passions might come your way, so you want to take advantage of that, especially once you’re in a new environment. When you arrive in a new place, it might even become easier to try out new things and explore new passions because no one knows you!
Anna ’21 agreed with José Juan and added, “Midland offers a full pivot into an entirely different path, that is often far more rewarding. It is a beautiful upheaval of everything you thought you knew about yourself.”
When you get off of the standard path, you’re able to open yourself up to so many possibilities.
Elizabeth ’20 echoed that, sharing how much she values learning from her community, specifically in Midland’s Outdoor Leadership program! “I vividly remember being nervous to backpack my freshman year,” she said. “But after our first group trip I was so proud and excited to have shared that time with my class. The Stewards [student leaders] are equipped to help and take out students which is one of my favorite part of Midland’s community.”
Again, find those opportunities to expand your horizons wherever you go! Whether they’re really easy to find like at Midland, or you have to do a bit more digging, they’re out there wherever you go!
10. Visit before you move
If you can, it can be helpful to visit your potential new home before you make your decision. It’ll help you imagine your home away from home, your new community, your new routine, all of the things we’re talking about!
We hear from students often that their visit to Midland is when they knew it was the right place for them.
This was certainly the case for Izzy ’23, who told us, “All the students were welcoming and kind and I could tell that they weren’t pretending to be happy with everything. That’s a main reason why I chose Midland.”
(Feel free to reach out to us if you’re ready to schedule your Midland visit!)
And because our students offered such great advice that we couldn’t keep ourselves to a “top 10” list, we have one more bonus tip:
11. Take the leap
Maisy ’20 shared her experience with jumping right in, saying, “When I was in 8th grade, I was choosing between Midland and an arts program at a big public school. But I knew that if I had chosen public school I would have always wondered what my life would be like if I had chosen Midland. So I decided to come here, and it’s been a really wonderful four years.”
Gillian ’23 had a similar experience: “You don’t know you don’t like it until you’ve tried it. My very first week at Midland, I was so homesick that I seriously considered asking to leave. Now, I am so glad that I didn’t. This is truly a wonderful place to live, work, and go to school, so much so that even on the bad days, which there will be, you think of everything you will get to do the next day, and all that sadness goes away.
“Sure, we all get frustrated and sad, we get angry and each other, and it’s hard to escape people you live with, but living with those people really teaches you to forgive and forget. There is no point in staying mad at friends when you see them every day, and if there is an issue that maybe isn’t forgiven as easily, there are faculty and other classmates that are intelligent enough to give the help you need. Take that leap. Dive in and try it, you may like it or you may not, but you just never know.”
No matter where you go, when you find that place that makes you feel the same way these students felt, take the leap!
Your future truly is one big adventure, and we are so excited for you.
By Cierra Rickman
Director of Admission and Advancement
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