Once I learned about Semester schools, I wished I could go back in time and attend one though I’d have a tough time choosing the one. Semester schools for high school students are a relatively new phenomenon, the first, the Mountain School in Vermont, opening in the mid-1980’s. Now there are thirteen schools that make up the Semester Schools Network. Semester schools offer students, typically juniors (but some accept sophomores and seniors), experiential learning with a unique focus, ranging from studio art in Napa (Oxbow School) to conservation and sustainability on the island of Eleuthera (The Island School).
Students continue their college-preparatory academic curricula, complete with Honors/AP courses, PSAT testing, etc. Math and foreign language classes use the same syllabi from the student’s sending school. Despite their different offerings, a common goal of all the semester schools is for students to come back to their campus at or ahead of where they need to be. Independent schools in Dallas like Hockaday, ESD, Greenhill, Parish Episcopal, and St. Mark’s have sent students to a variety of Semester schools, including CITYterm, Coastal Studies for Girls, The Island School, The School for Ethics and Global Leadership, and Oxbow School.
Though leaving an independent school for a semester during the late high school years may seem questionable with all of the pressure surrounding the college admissions process, the experience, along with being life-changing, provides excellent preparation for going away to college. Many Semester schools offer college counseling and if not, students stay in contact and continue to work with the college counselor from their sending school. All Semester schools are boarding schools, so students learn self-reliance, time management, and important group living skills. And the experience is a catalyst for personal growth on many levels. Students may come home more in touch with the type of college they are interested in, as well as what they want to pursue academically. For all of these reasons, colleges look favorably on students that attend Semester schools.
Tuition ranges from around $18,000 to $27,500 for a semester, which includes room and board. All schools offer financial aid. If a semester program doesn’t work for your family, most semester schools offer summer programs.
Here are some bare-bones facts about each of the thirteen Semester schools in the network. Click on the logo to link to the school.
- – located in Wiscasset, Maine on a 400 acre peninsula
- – 40 juniors (occasionally seniors), 1:3 boy to girl ratio
- – emphasis on environmental studies
- – located in Dobbs Ferry, New York
- – 30 juniors and seniors, coed
- – emphasis on the study of New York City
- – located in Freeport, Maine on a 626 acre farm
- – 30 sophomore girls
- – emphasis on environmental science and leadership
- – located in Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin on a 1,200 acre wilderness camp
- – 60 juniors (and advanced sophomores)
- – emphasis on environmental stewardship
- – located in Leadville, Colorado, five weeks spent on skiing and hiking expeditions in the Rockies
- – 45 juniors and seniors, coed
- – emphasis on wilderness exploration
- – located in Eleuthera, Bahamas
- – 48 sophomores and juniors, coed
- – emphasis on island living
- – located in Vershire, Vermont on the school’s farm
- – 45 juniors
- – emphasis on living and working on the farm
- – students travel from St. Thomas, USVI to Portland, Maine
- – 20 sophomores, juniors, and seniors, coed
- – emphasis on the ocean world
- – located in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains
- – 32 sophomores (some freshman and juniors), coed
- – emphasis on environmental education and leadership
- – located in Napa, California
- – 48 juniors, seniors, and post-grads, coed
- – emphasis on visual art
- – located in Washington, District of Columbia
- – 24 juniors, coed
- – emphasis on ethical thinking skills, leadership development, and international studies
- – location varies each semester, for ’14-’15 South-East Africa (fall) and Central America (spring)
- – 16 sophomores, juniors, and seniors, girls only
- – emphasis on overseas exploration, expanded outdoor skills, and global culture
- – located in Nevada City, California
- – 24 juniors, seniors, and post-grads, coed
- – emphasis on progressive education, the study and practice of peace, social justice, and sustainable living
© Eleanor Munson, PhD. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Eleanor Munson, PhD is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Munson, PhD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.