I’m so tired because we just got back from an 8-day trip revisiting 7 schools on the east coast for DD3.
Up until the trip, we literally had reduced her list of 10 schools to 8. Not great work on our end. And we had NO idea which would come out on top.
Hence the revisits.
For the most part, we kept loving all the visits, and we were able to see her make her life at every single school we visited! About half way through, though, we started to get clarity. I think we realized that all the schools were wonderful, but we were looking for the best fit for our daughter.
And, we visited Mercersburg.
But let me back up.
My DD2 applied to MB and was admitted last year, but we never visited. They were SO kind and helpful during the weird March-2020-corona period that they actually became one of our top choices, among her other admissions at places like Andover, Deerfield, Hotchkiss and Loomis (all of which we had visited). Ultimately, Andover was my DD2’s dream school and she accepted that offer. It was a heartfelt and difficult farewell to Mercersburg though. And they were so gracious, even with us declining their offer. (Which was NOT the case for all schools unfortunately.)
Anyway, a few months later, DD3, fresh out of her open-heart surgery (last year’s cohort may remember that ordeal), had the idea that SHE might also want to go to BS. I reached out to a number of schools, including Mercersburg. Well, actually, I first attended a MB zoom open house in September and the admissions person (not my DD2’s AO) recognized my unusual last name and said: hey did you have a daughter who applied last year? And then he remembered a bunch of things from her essays and asked how she was doing at Andover. Which made me feel like: wow these people really do see their students, even the ones who don’t matriculate!
So DD3 gets into the cycle this fall with MB while DD2 is at Andover.
Just as lovely and nice.
Applies to MB, along with 11 other schools.
In the meantime, DD2 decides Andover is not a good fit; doesn’t want 4 hours of homework daily for 4 years. (Lots of good stuff at PA; just not for us.) Over Christmas, she decides to apply to transfer and we support her decision. She says she really would love to find a school with a kind culture, “sort of like Mercersburg was to us last year.” So, she called her MB AO from last year and asked about applying to transfer for 10th grade. Would she need all new recommendations, she wondered, because J15 was just a couple weeks away. He surprises her by saying that due to Covid weirdness, they can actually take her this year. She gets off the phone and comes to my office and tells me: Ummm… I can start at Mercersburg after Christmas. Of course, we were floored. We thought about it for a couple of days and she accepted the offer. So DD2 switched to MB in January. (They even honored her merit scholarship that she had turned down April 10th!). I could write volumes on all the amazing support, love and connection she has had from faculty, her advisor (who texts me, and calls me, and checks in with me and with DD), and staff and the friends she has made. Also, the honors classes – just as wonderful and interesting and rigorous as her Andover classes, but each one just has slightly less extra homework, making the workload perfect – a couple of hours a night as a freshman.
And now back to DD3. She was leaning toward all-girl schools because of her love of STEM and how amazing those offerings are at all-girl schools. (see my post on all-girls education if you are interested in that topic.) And we have LOVED the schools we have been visiting!
And then we visited Mercersburg last week. (I’d still never visited the campus, despite me having now visited over 20 boarding school campuses in the past 1.5 years, and my DD2 living there!)
The facilities really rival the very “tippy top” schools I’ve seen. (and I venture to say, I’ve seen all the tippy tops in New England.). I kept saying to my husband (who has NOT seen all these other campuses): this school looks like it should have 1000 students given how amazing the facilities are! And all this is really for 440 kids?
And moving beyond the facilities, the people. Again, I could tell you story after story about the amazing efforts of the people at Mercersburg. For example, the physics teacher getting on zoom for 1.5 hours with me a few weeks ago to talk about STEM and young women. The assistant HOS meeting with my DD3 and me on zoom to talk about women in engineering. The AO sending us tons of pictures of their robotics shop, the makers space (yes, these are two separate spaces) and the woodworking shop in the technical theater department. When we did our tour last week (social distanced; outside), we saw a faculty member running across campus and he came straight to my daughter and said “I had literally 10 minutes between classes I’m teaching but I heard you were on campus and I know you are interested in robotics. So I wanted to come meet you.” (and then he ran back across campus to return to his class.).
I’ll be honest. I kind of expected my DD3 to pick her own place, away from any shadow of DD2. The girls schools we looked at were truly amazing. We LOVED them.
But we could not deny: Mercersburg was too special. The campus is beautiful. I mean crazy-beautiful. The facilities are top notch. But more than that: the people are SO STUDENT-CENTRIC! When my DD2 had a tough day the other day, her dorm parent made her a homemade dinner and brought it to her dorm room. (“I can’t remember the last time I had a leafy green, mom.”). I am only scratching the surface with how human and empathic the faculty have been to our whole family.
I get tears to think of what this school has come to mean to us in the few months we have been a part of it.
So, the update is: we chose Mercersburg today for DD3, and we are in it totally now with TWO daughters there. I’m so grateful.