Mercersburg Academy review by Columbia University student: First and foremost let me emphasize the engagement of the faculty. Mercersburg faculty (a majority of whom live on or within walking distance of campus) are there for the benefit of their students entirely. Expect to find them for any extra help you may need, for any questions about the school in general, or for a place to hang out, cook dinner, or watch the Oscars. At college now, I still keep in touch with 7 of my teachers/advisers/coaches regularly. I can still go to them with questions about course selection, for references, and for ideas about summer internships. Enthusiasm for teaching, I found, translated into enthusiasm for learning many of the courses I took. The largest class I took while at Mercersburg consisted of 17 students (an intermediate acting class). The smallest I took with one other student. The school is in the process of adding more courses to the curriculum, but already offers a number of AP courses unfamiliar to my current colleagues at college. Without ranking (except for Valedictorian and Salutatorian at the end of Senior Year) the environment is certainly collegial. Students are there to do well, but not to do better than each other. I wouldn't say that Mercersburg has a weak department to speak of. The arts are certainly advancing with the construction of the Burgin Center for the Arts, but I found every other department enthusiastic and more than qualified to be teaching high school students. In my first semester at Columbia University I have found myself excited to reenter the fast-paced environment I remember from Mercersburg, and missing the personal connections I made there.
By my Senior year I had involved myself in every aspect of extracurricular activities at Mercersburg except dance and voice. Although you do have to, essentially, choose between sports/drama/dance for each season, I managed to play Varsity Soccer and Squash and still participate actively in the Stony Batter theater group. The weekly student newspaper (The Mercersburg NEWS) is a particularly strong publication which sends its editors to Indiana University's summer training camp each year. The Model United Nations program regularly garners top awards at conferences in New York and Philadelphia. The student Writing Center is open each weeknight for any student to get help with any piece of written work. And the Burgin Center for the Arts provides a stunning setting for artists with two theaters, two recital halls, two dance studios, two computer labs, and labs for sculpting, drawing, painting, and ceramics.
For a small-town boarding school in rural Pennsylvania, Mercersburg still manages to impress students with various on- and off-campus activities. The outdoor education program (MOE) takes students into the beautiful habitat surrounding the school for activities ranging from whitewater rafting to rock-climbing. A particular highlight of the year is the Irving-Marshal competition held in the last week of the winter term (in place of exams). The entire school is divided into two literary societies for a week of Harry Potteresque competitions ranging from swimming to poker to Declamation. That final speaking contest is one of the school's greatest traditions and usually determines the winning society. The dorms range from your standard order to high-ceilinged, hardwood-floored rooms. For girls there is also Culbertson House, home to 12 students each year. All dorms are close to the heart of campus, although the gym can be a bit of a hike for those living on front campus. While the student body was probably not the most diverse among boarding schools, it certainly played host to students from most every background. Generous financial aid allowed many students to attend who would not have been able to do so otherwise. Exchange programs and recruiting efforts abroad bring in large numbers of students from Eastern Asia, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe. Apart from the large day-student population there was little connection to the surrounding communities unless one sought it out through community service opportunities. Such programs were certainly available, but not tremendously popular.
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