A new admissions seasons approaches, and applications for the 2022-23 school year will be up next month! So, we thought we’d bring back this perennial favorite blog post with some great advice from the OA Admissions Team on how to prepare for an academic adventure away. Whether you are new to the idea of a semester away or are just wondering how all of this is possible, we’ve broken it down into four easy steps to get you started.
First, know this: if you’re asking yourself these questions, you’re probably already well-prepared! There is rarely a question or challenge that we can’t find a solution to. So, if you have any difficulty getting answers to the questions below, don’t worry. We are here to help. We have worked with over 1300 students to make the OA experience a smooth school transition. Go ahead and get in touch.
Step 1: Start your Application.
Yes, go ahead and start! Most of the following questions can be answered later on during the enrollment process. However, it never hurts to be prepared, and you can work on the application while you work with the Admissions Office to figure out what the enrollment process will look like for you.
Step 2: Learn more about the semester school’s curriculum and offerings.
The Outdoor Academy is a fully accredited, independent school. Browse our Curriculum Guide and figure out where our schedule can be flexible to meet your needs. For example, all students at The Outdoor Academy take our unique English and Science courses, while content-heavy classes like math or Spanish are based on what your sending school covers.
Additionally, understand where there is flexibility in all of our courses and how we can help you fulfill your sending school’s requirements. For example, OA’s Science course could be credited as “Environmental Science”, “Ecosystems & Societies”, or “Appalachian Field Studies”, because we cover topics from those curricula. This is true across our courses, so ask us about the specifics!
Questions to ask a semester school representative:
- Are you accredited? How do your credits transfer? (OA is fully accredited, so you end the semester with an official transcript containing 50 service hours and up to 7 honors credits)
- What is unique about your curriculum, and where is there more flexibility? (See our Curriculum Guide. There’s lots of flexibility to translate our offerings to the credits you need.)
- How do you all work with my sending school and teachers? (We collect your teacher’s curricula to make sure you cover the content you need to return home right in line with – or even ahead of! – your peers.)
Step 3: Find a contact at your school who can advise you.
If you have a lot of questions, this person – whether your advisor, the school counselor, or a teacher – can be helpful during both the application and the enrollment process. If your school is unfamiliar with our programs or with having students leave for a semester, or if you’d like more support, feel free to reach out to us directly. The OA Admissions Office is always happy to talk with a school and explain our curriculum, history, and mission so that your transition proceeds as smoothly as possible.
After you talk with your OA Admissions advisor, check with your sending school contact if you have questions about their requirements. Some are course-specific, while others stick with distribution requirements. If you are hoping to take a course that is not specifically offered at OA, there are many ways to take it before or after your semester or even as a simple online credit. The Admissions Office can talk through your options and figure out which works best for you.
Questions to ask your school:
- Have you sent students to a semester school before?
- Who can help me plan my course selections before I leave so that my credit transfer is seamless?
- How do you usually handle credits for students who transfer in from another school?
Step 4: Understand how a semester away can jump-start your plans for college and the future.
One of the most common questions we get asked is “How will this affect my college applications?” We understand that many students plan their high school experience with college acceptance in mind.
First, know that colleges highly value the experience you gain at a semester school. After students spend a semester with us, they are better equipped to set their post-high school goals and make the most of the college experience. Colleges know this and value it!
Additionally, students often report doing better in their standardized tests after their semester away, even if they haven’t been exposed to the same content as their classmates at home. Learning how to think critically and engage with new, challenging material will empower you to succeed in all of your future academic endeavors.
Finally, your OA advisor can discuss your future plans with you. OA teachers frequently write letters of recommendation, since they get to know students so well during the OA semester.
Questions to ask a school contact:
- How does college advising work at my school?
- Is there anything I should do for college prep during the semester I’m away?
Questions to ask yourself:
- What will I gain from a semester away? What am I hoping to learn about myself?
So, there you have it! In summary, we recommend asking a question if you’re unsure about something, and also finding a contact both at your sending school and at OA who can help you through this process. After 26 years of running a semester school, the OA Admissions Office has a lot of experience making this opportunity possible for students across the country. We can’t wait to make it possible for you, too!
-The OA Admissions Team