*updated December 2017
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 students are a relatively new phenomenon, the first, the Mountain School in Vermont, opening in the mid-1980’s. There are eleven schools that make up the Semester Schools Network, with several other offerings not currently part of this group. Semester schools offer students, typically juniors (but some accept sophomores, seniors, and middle schoolers), 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, 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 popular semester schools. Click on the logo to link to the school.
- – located in Chile and Idaho
- – 35 sophomores and juniors
- – emphasis on international outdoor leadership
- – located in Wiscasset, Maine on a 400 acre peninsula
- – 45 juniors
- – emphasis on environmental studies
- – located in Dobbs Ferry, New York
- – 30 juniors and seniors
- – emphasis on the study of New York City
- – 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
- – emphasis on wilderness exploration
- – located in Eleuthera, Bahamas
- – 48 sophomores and juniors
- – emphasis on island living
- – located in Vershire, Vermont on the school’s farm
- – 45 juniors
- – emphasis on living and working on the farm
- – located in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains
- – 32 sophomores (some freshman and juniors)
- – emphasis on environmental education and leadership
- – located in Napa, California
- – 48 juniors, seniors, and post-grads
- – emphasis on visual art
- – located in Washington, District of Columbia
- – 24 juniors
- – emphasis on ethical thinking skills, leadership development, and international studies
- – located in Coastal Connecticut on a 740 acre campus
- – 24 middle school students
- – emphasis on environmental science and outdoor education
- – location varies each semester
- – 16 sophomores, juniors, and seniors, girls only
- – emphasis on overseas exploration, expanded outdoor skills, and global culture
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