Independent schools prepare future college graduates

This year more than 70 young people are graduating from Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville and going off to colleges from Seattle to Boston and all points in between. But Head of School Steve Mandell isn’t surprised by the school’s 100 percent graduation rate. In fact, he expects nothing less.
Educating future college graduates is a hallmark of independent school education, where students are on a college-bound track and working closely with dedicated guidance counselors to select the best college for them.
“Independent schools have the time and opportunity to focus on the college admissions process from middle school on up at Pinewood,” Mandell said. “The ultimate goal is for students to go to college so we dedicate the resources to that.”
Pinewood’s college counselor works with students on selecting the appropriate college, filling out applications and seeking out scholarship opportunities.

Ashley Hall, an all-girls school in downtown Charleston, takes a similar approach. The school’s college counselor works with students to review all possible college options until they find the perfect fit.

Even though students enter ninth grade thinking about the path to college, the conversation with students and parents begins in earnest during their junior year, explained Paula Harrell, director of marketing and communications.

This year about 50 girls will graduate from Ashley Hall and all are headed off to college. One student – the third in five years from Ashley Hall – has received the Morehead-Cain Scholarship, which covers all expenses for four years of undergraduate study at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Pinewood’s Mandell points to a report from the U.S. Department of Education that validates what he already knows: independent schools are especially adept at creating an environment that fosters future college students. And the students have completed as many, if not more, advanced courses in math, science and foreign languages than their counterparts in public schools.

It’s the smaller class size coupled with more strict admission requirements and the freedom to teach without worry over government funding and mandated tests that fuel graduation success, Mandell noted.

There’s a thought that private schools aren’t the “real world,” Mandell said. But what you actually find is independent school graduates perform better on standardized tests, he said.

The challenging academics, caring teachers and smaller classrooms have set Pinewood’s students up for success. This year’s graduates are going to colleges and universities all over the country, Mandell said. Plus every student that wanted to attend Clemson University was accepted.

As students head off to pursue their respective bachelor’s degrees, Mandell is certain they will not only be well prepared academically but will live out Pinewood’s ultimate goal for its students: to enrich their communities wherever they may be.

“We want our graduates to leave here not only being good people, which is first and foremost, but we want them to leave here with a sense of purpose that reflects our mission of going out into the world and making it a better place,” he said.

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