March-April 2018 | BOUND FOR GREATNESS

The Salisbury School's Class of 2018Ron Boltz and his daughter, Hannah, review coursework



The Salisbury School’s demanding college preparatory experience fully readies its graduating seniors to continue their pursuit of academic knowledge and exploration at the finest colleges and universities with resounding success

Written By: Jonathan Westman | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

It’s an exciting, and often uneasy, time in a high school senior’s life: waiting to learn if he or she has been accepted to the college or university they’ve dreamed of attending. At The Salisbury School, its strategic approach to academics, development of life-foundation skills and calculated college-preparatory curriculum fully prepares students for the next level of higher learning and does so in an environment that continues to produce acceptance letters from a four-year institution for each and every graduating senior — year after year. 

At the Upper School level (Grades 9-12), students are challenged through a demanding and pioneering college preparatory experience that embraces their love of learning and successfully prepares its graduating seniors to continue their pursuit of academic knowledge and exploration at the finest colleges and universities throughout the country and beyond.  

“This is an environment that encourages students to take risks and to step outside their comfort zone, and because of that, our students leave equipped with the set of skills that are necessary and important beyond a mere college prep,” said Salisbury School Headmaster Ed Cowell. “We’re proud that we generate an experience for our Upper School students that prepares them in ways they wouldn’t get in other places.” 

The Salisbury School is a proud member of The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), a nonprofit membership association that provides services to more than 1,800 schools in the United States and abroad, including more than 1,500 independent private K-12 schools in the U.S.

The organization partnered with Gallup in 2017 to investigate how the collegiate experiences of NAIS graduates differ from those of graduates of other high schools. 

The analysis stated, among other conclusions, that NAIS graduates were more than three times more likely to attend elite private universities and top-ranked public universities, including Ivy League colleges, than graduates of other high schools. NAIS graduates also scored higher on the ACT and SAT, on average, and complete their degrees more quickly. 

NAIS graduates entering their first year of college were better positioned heading into their collegiate careers and more likely to seek critical undergraduate experiential-learning opportunities and extracurricular activities, such as student clubs, recreational sports and Greek life. 

The Salisbury School employs a comprehensive college preparation curriculum for each grade level of its Upper School, to completely prepare its students for college. The program is led by its director of College Placement, Gracie Ruark, a former admissions counselor at Salisbury University who brings a wealth of knowledge that directly benefits every student, beginning in 9th grade.

“I think what makes The Salisbury School unique is the one-on-one attention each student receives,” Ruark said. “Every student attends a 40-minute college-prep class once a week, starting in freshman year.” 

The freshman class, Ruark said, focuses on learning the skills that are necessary to be successful in the Upper School, such as organization, time management, study skills, etc. 

The sophomore class learns about health and wellness, which is important at this formative stage of their development as individuals. The junior class digs deeper into the college-search-and-application process, while the senior class puts everything into practice as they prepare their college applications.

The Salisbury School also takes tremendous pride in its rich history of familiar support and actively involves the parents of Upper School students in its college preparation process. 

“[For starters] I am able to explain to students and parents how each piece of the application is important in the review process [GPA, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, essays, etc.] and help them understand how to put together a well-rounded application,” Ruark said. “In the junior year, I meet with each student and their parents, to discuss the college-search process. We discuss their college preferences, PSAT results, grades and junior-year timeline. Then I make a preliminary college list for each student. 

“In the senior year, I work with each student to make sure that they have a solid list of schools to apply to,” Ruark continued. “Students must have a mixture of safety, match and dream schools, to ensure that admission is attained for the following year. I guide each student through the application process. I review their college essays, write letters of recommendation, send the appropriate paperwork to each college and help students complete their applications on time.”

“Gracie has been a tremendous asset to our students and parents and a wonderful ambassador for TSS with colleges and universities all across the country,” Cowell said. “For our families, she outlines what to expect during each Upper School grade level, so no parent is left to wonder what needs to happen next. She helps parents and students navigate the map to the college application-and-selection process. Beyond the incredible work she does here, she’s dramatically broadened the range of colleges and universities familiar with The Salisbury School that are sending representatives to meet and visit with them.” 

On April 12, approximately 20 or more colleges and universities will descend on the TSS campus for the school’s biannual College Fair, at which underclass students can meet with representatives, to discuss aspects of each school and have their questions answered. During the last week of school each year, students embark upon trips throughout the country, planned by the teachers, to experience the history, culture and universities of the region. It’s yet another unique example of student life at TSS.

“We also direct attention to intangible experiences that allow our students to be better prepared for life,” Cowell said. “How to conduct an adult conversation, how to engage people in conversations, how to navigate this complicated world. This is as much a focus with our students and their preparation for life as it is their preparation for college-level work.”

A recent enhancement to this philosophy is the Senior Capstone Project, which allows students an opportunity to demonstrate a synthesis of their academic experience at The Salisbury School through a rich and reflective research project. Consistent with the school’s philosophy of helping students be their best selves, the capstone topics are left to the students to choose, and many reflect a confluence of the students’ personal, academic and civic interests. Upon choosing a faculty oversight committee, students will work independently for 18 weeks, preparing a presentation that demonstrates their knowledge and results of their research. 

The culmination of the Capstone Project is its presentation element. This May, each student will deliver a 20-minute presentation to share their findings in an academic conference setting to their peers, the TSS community and parents.

Topics of research this year include an examination of stress headaches, a study into the differences between drug-offense laws in the United States and United Kingdom and its relation to the opioid epidemic in each country and the ethics of genetic modifications.

The TSS experience is a strategic formula that produces results as 100 percent of its students are accepted to four-year institutions. Its senior class has earned more than $1,000,000 in college scholarships each of the last three years.

The Class of 2018, one of the school’s largest ever, is expected to exceed the recent average of scholarship dollars, and its members have already been accepted to highly regarded universities, such as Vanderbilt, Bucknell and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, among others. These stories of success are realized at home, as well.

I am continually amazed at the maturity, confidence and character developed by Hannah and her classmates throughout their years at The Salisbury School,” said Ron Boltz, whose daughter, Hannah, will graduate this May, having already been accepted to three universities and who plans to study International Relations, International Law or International Business. “As a parent, you want an environment that fosters independence and critical-thinking abilities in your child. As we rapidly approach the time when she will be leaving for college, there is nothing better than knowing that she will be ready.”

“The ultimate focus at The Salisbury School is on how we finish the process and the investment that our parents are making in their sons’ and daughters’ educational experiences, by making sure that they’re getting into the schools of their choice,” Cowell said. “The difference is the breadth of experience that students tend to have, because they can experience so many different things. We feel strongly that this helps our students become deep, critical thinkers who utilize creativity. It doesn’t happen in the same way for every student. Each brings unique qualities to the table — and we embrace and cultivate those characteristics to not only succeed in the classroom, but in life.”



There are no comments. Be the first to post a comment.