Welcome from the Parents’ Association

February 2014

"I have been given this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is important because I'm exchanging a day of my life for it."
~ Unknown

Dear Branson Parents,

During our February PA meeting, Karen Whitaker our Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs, described Branson as an institution which is academically rigorous and consistently caring toward all students. Speaking as an observant Branson parent over a 7 year period, this has proven to be true. Branson offers a rigorous college prep curriculum with an understanding that all students will strive for excellence in all of their endeavors. Throughout each academic year, Branson teachers remain consistently caring toward their students and provide them with opportunities to excel and become extraordinarily well-educated high school graduates.

As parents, it is often a challenge to know exactly how to best support our children as they navigate the many demands of their weekly endeavors. Karen opened up a Q&A during our February PA meeting for parents to ask questions about "How to balance on the Branson (academic) wave" and as we did not have enough time to complete the dialogue she will be returning next month to answer more questions from Branson parents. We are fortunate to be part of an academic community where this kind of discussion is not only possible but welcomed by those who teach and by those who administer to our children. Academics are the backbone of Branson but caring teachers are at the heart of this place and strong families provide the muscle that keeps it going!

If your time permits, I hope to see you at our March 4 PA meeting. Our Branson website is still one of the best ways to stay connected to the range of Branson happenings both on and off campus.

As always, many thanks for all you do, ~ Hanna 

Hanna Ostroff
Hanna Ostroff
PA President 2013-14

  • Matt and Meredith passed along these notes from their discussion on college application myths. 


    The following document represents broad talking points discussed during the Parent Education meeting on 2/25/14.  This material presents highlights from the day’s program; it does not cover all of the material considered.


    Myth: Students are in direct competition with each other when they apply to the same colleges.  That another student is going to “take their spot.” 


    Students are considered within the context of Branson’s academic and extracurricular activities.  Colleges do no operate with a defined number of spots for Branson students and instead consider the degree to which a student maximized the opportunities available to them at Branson. 


    If students do their job well, they should all be bringing something different to the table whether, that be a fit with a college major or a unique set of passions.  There are no quotas or ‘reserved’ spots for Branson students.


    Myth: The only way to get into a good college is to apply ED – “I know I want to apply Early Decision, I just don’t know where!”


    In some cases, ED provides a slight statistical advantage for admission acceptance, provided that the student is within profile with grades and test scores and has been able to establish a good fit with the institution.


    Myth:  Branson is a ‘feeder’ school to some institutions but not others/ Admissions happens in smoky back rooms and relies on leveraging personal relationships. 


    We see most of our work as being done in the trenches with the students – writing letters of recommendations and helping kids tell their stories.  


    We communicate with colleges to make sure that they have the information they need to make a thoughtful decision.  Additionally, we remain current in the profession by attending conferences, meeting with admission representatives, and flying to visit colleges whenever possible.  Our interactions with reps allow us to get to know colleges better and enables them to more deeply read Branson students accurately.  We do not ‘get a student in.’


    Though no two schools do the work of admission in the exact same way, they all have systems of checks and balances.  Decisions are not rogue, not random, or reliant on whether a school ‘likes us.’  They are instead the product of a systematic, evidence based process conducted by a committee of professionals.


    Myth:  I’m not going to get into a good college if I’m not ‘hooked’


    If a student has a connection to an institution (e.g. athlete, legacy, etc) they can use those links to learn more about the school and establish fit, but the connection alone is likely to make very little difference if the student is not academically qualified.  The student must first be competitive for admission before additional factors come into play. 


    Remember, that the vast majority of spots at all colleges go to students who are academically and extracurricularly compelling candidates who have no “hook.” 


    MYTH:  You have to do exhaustive and expensive test prep to have a chance.


    Standardized tests measure the types of skills our students practice everyday in their classes – deductive reasoning, critical analysis, data interpretation.  Two major studies showed that students who did extensive test prep only improved their scores by an average of 30 points; modest gains that can often be achieved through different means.  Keep in mind that test prep is big business.  That test prep seems so pervasive in the culture has less to do with actual results and more to do with effective marketing campaigns.


    Know your child; some students can sit down with a test prep book and systematically go through it while others need more guidance.  Preparing is important but like many aspects of this process, each students’ needs and learning style should drive the decisions around test prep.


    MYTH:  A great interview or a great meeting with a professor will definitely make the difference for a below profile applicant

    Students should be applauded for their efforts to personalize the process and to seek out people on a college campus that may help them more deeply understand their own academic interests.  While an interview or visit with a professor may help add dimension to a student’s profile, these qualitative components of an application are always secondary to a student’s academic record.


    MYTH:  The process is innately crushing and stressful


    Does this process have to be hard?  Nope!  When broken down into discrete tasks, jobs executed over time, this process will not only be free of a lot of stress but also actually fun!  The process of researching and applying to colleges is unique to every child but is not in and of itself unique.  Best practices exist; strategies that help students manage the workload in an efficient manner.


    How to avoid the stress?  Begin the process in earnest in the junior year by meeting with us often, doing a lot of college research in the spring, and committing to using a large part of the summer before 12th grade to write essays.  It’s important to talk about this time for what it really is – a time of discovery, a chance to really understand what your child’s life is going to look like in four years.  Their worlds open up in new, exciting ways and their job in the spring of junior year is to begin learning all about what makes college such a uniquely wonderful experience.  It’s like researching vacation spots – sure it involves work and organization, but it’s also exciting and in the end, totally worth it.


    MYTH:  The college decision is a direct reflection on how qualified/ capable/ worthy a student is… 


    Whether receiving good news or not, it’s very important to remember that a student is not defined by the institution that ultimately grants them a degree.   Getting in does not mean all of a sudden the doors of opportunity swing wide open.  Nor does being rejected doom a student to an existence of dashed dreams.  Keep your eye on the really important stuff – family, friends, desire to learn and grow intellectually.  Happiness comes from these things, which are thankfully not attached to an admission decision.





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  • Parents please click the link below to donate to the upcoming fundraiser, Branson Roadhouse. We are looking for event tickets, a house party, vacation getaway or anything else cool using the link below.

    Thank you! 
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