June 2012 issue

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Military school attraction

Military schools in the USA are growing in popularity with overseas students as schools seek to diversify their international populations. Bethan Norris finds out more.

Military schools in the USA have a good reputation at home and overseas for producing high achieving, disciplined graduates, and parents and students from outside the USA are often attracted to their no-nonsense approach to educating teenagers.

Victor Traycey, Admission Counselor at Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, CA, says 24 per cent of the school’s population is from abroad and their largest overseas nationalities are Chinese, Taiwanese, Mexican, Russian and German. He explains, “The demand to study in the USA is very high in these countries. One could say that the aspects of leadership and character development are highly valued in these cultures. In addition, safety issues in Mexico have prompted many parents to send their sons to the USA.”

For many parents in the USA and overseas the view that military schools offer a distinct education and way of life that reflects the US military values of comradeship, discipline and cooperation is particularly attractive. Physical activities play a central part of the curriculum, and students are encouraged to develop leadership skills as well as high levels of self-discipline. Alisa Southwell, Director of Admissions at New York Military Academy (NYMA) in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY, where 18 per cent of the student body is from overseas, says that the school is “dedicated to developing young leaders who have that competitive hunger and desire for success and fulfilment in college and in life”.

She adds, “One of the things that set NYMA apart from the normal college prep school is what we call our ‘real-life leadership lab’. Putting our cadets in positions of increased accountability and responsibility in the Cadet Corps, while at the same time requiring them to maintain a high level of academic and athletic participation, requires them to constantly improve their organisation, planning, time management and multi-tasking skills. We believe development in these critical areas gives our graduates a distinct advantage over others, as they transend into some of the more prestigious colleges and universities in America.”

Many students attending a military school in the USA have the long-term goal of pursuing a career in the US army, navy or airforce and in this case, attending such a school offers distinct advantages. Southwell says, “Our school continues to be designated as an Honor Unit with Distinction by the Department of the Army (DA) and enjoys a solid reputation as one of the nation’s leading institutions in the number of graduates attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Air Force Academy and the United States Naval Academy. We also have an excellent track record of cadets competing for and earning four-year Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) college scholarships.”

However, despite the obvious links with the US military, graduates of military schools are expected to succeed in whatever career path they eventually follow. School representatives assert that the values instilled in students during their time at the school can help students in all areas of their future life. “The military structure helps students become focussed, disciplined, goal oriented and proactive,” says Nicoleta Freeman, International Admissions Officer at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, GA. “As a consequence, students succeed academically and personally. Our school focuses on academics and sports – a sound mind in a sound body – and the military aspect enhances each student’s potential.”

Many military schools in the USA run specific programmes geared towards international students attending the school full time or just for a few weeks in the summer. New York Military Academy offers a two-week intensive ESL programme in the summer for students with high academic goals. The ESL students not only experience practicum, literature and composition of the English language platform, they also have opportunities to visit four-to-six prestigious colleges and universities: Columbia, New York University, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University, to name a few.

Riverside Military Academy offers two summer ESL programmes, as well as support language classes for those following a full-time curriculum at the school. Freeman at the school adds that the institution works hard to integrate international students into the local community. “Families of current domestic students and local families sign up to ‘foster’ international students during weekends and holidays. Our international students not only feel welcome and receive that family-type of care, but learn about the American culture from within.”

Marketing overseas

Military schools report that they use an array of marketing methods to reach out to international students. Nicoleta Freeman, International Admissions Officer at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, GA, says that they use international recruiters, international visits by admissions and administrative staff and membership of The Association of Boarding Schools in order to increase their international profile. “We would like to increase our international diversity and we would like to start collaborating with agents/recruiters in Europe as well,” she says. “We are open to increasing our international students population from 20-to-30 per cent.”

Victor Traycey from Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, CA, says that developing their international student programme has also been placed high on the school’s agenda in recent years. “We hired a new Director of International Student Services a year ago to elevate and enhance our existing programme. We plan on attending other educational conferences around the world where we meet with agents, families and students. We would like to have 20-to-25 countries represented [by international students] and remain with 25 per cent of the student body.”

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