Middle School Retainment

Wylly Willmott

The high school decision process in the middle school is approached with such modesty on the part of OES that it almost seems like they want us to leave… or maybe that was just me? 

Volunteering at the Open House a few weeks ago reminded me that many 8th graders, despite what little freedom they are given in Middle School, are tasked with choosing the place where they will spend the next four years.

To debunk any misconceptions about what OES high school is like, I asked 8th grade students to tell me why they are considering leaving our school. I didn’t include the middle schooler’s names to prevent their parents from going ham and banning The Dig from the middle school… again.

Next, I had high schoolers respond to each 8th grader’s concerns anonymously to ensure it was their genuine advice. I made sure to have students respond to quotes they could share insight on. For example, lifers were asked about what it’s like to have been here so long, and people who live far away responded about their experience commuting. 

The middle school quotes are in bold, while the high schooler responses are beneath them.

“I want to leave OES so I can take AP/harder classes

“We have AP classes.”

“Most other schools do not have the level of academic rigor that OES does.”

“After seeing my friends from other schools’ homework, the level of content we learn is much deeper and has greater application that just memorization like at Jesuit.” 

“I’ve heard from multiple OES graduates that junior year at OES is harder than freshman year of college.”

“The only reason to take AP classes is to either get college credit or stress yourself out.”

“Admissions Officers know how hard OES classes are. There’s no utility in terms of college to load up on APs verses taking classes that are your level offered at OES. It’s only going to make your life harder, not affect your college admission process.”

“Very few colleges apply AP credit.”

“Other schools have a higher level of sports.” 

“You get to play and be the star earlier in your career at OES.”

“You’ll get better highlights for college videos when you play shit teams.”

“Playing outside of school at a club is a better way to get seen. Nobody watches high school sports.”

“Our teams are really supportive and close here.”

“We were the OSAA 3a cup winner last year, so basically the best at all sports and activities.”

“You have the opportunity to play more sports at OES. You get more clout for being good at more things.”

“There was a student at OES who was a basketball and golf star, and was gonna be starter and an all-state athlete. He went to Jesuit and didn’t make any team. That’s what big schools do to you.”

“Athletes need to understand that high school is only so long. You can only play sports in a competitive environment for 4 years. Only 8% of all athletes play in college, so at a small school you can take advantage and get the most out of the opportunity you have.”

“It’s small”/“I want a bigger school with more people

“If you go somewhere bigger you won’t form as close connections with people”

“Going to a small school has positive and negative aspects. Positive would be if you have good friend group it’s easy to get close with people. If you don’t have that it could be harder to make friends because it’s pretty cliquey here.”

“Being at a small school means you get closer with people from other grades. You can be weird. OES does a good job of making it fun.”

“I like that OES is small because you get closer with your teachers and you know everyone you see. I don’t wish I had gone to a bigger school.”

“Cause a lot of people leave

“That doesn’t matter and you’ll make friends. They probably won’t get in to another school so they won’t even leave.”

“It’s been fine. A lot of my friends left and it didn’t end up affecting me that much.”

“It sucks because I liked my friends who left, but I have new awesome friends except for Marlie.”

“Do what’s best for you and what your family decides. Don’t leave just because your friends do.”

“I want a new/different experience than the Middle School.

“The highschool is so different from the Middle School that it doesn’t feel like the same school.”

“You’ll interact more with the other grades in high school. Teachers are also way more chill.”

“The difference in freedom between the middle and high school here is crazy.”

“It’s just a lot better.”

“Everyone gets more attractive. Actually say everyone gets a little hotter. Mmm wait say some people.”

“My sibling goes to a different school.

“Being away from your sibling is nice.” 

“My sibling gets really annoying, so it’s nice to be away from them. You’ll see them at the end of the day, so it’s good to get a break.”

“OES is so expensive.

While I didn’t take direct quotes from students about their financial aid situation because it varies for each person, I went to the business office to find out more information about the process. Through a mixture of my conversations in the office and the “Affording OES” page on the website, I determined a few key facts:

  1. Reduced tuition is solely need based. 

A discounted education is awarded exclusively off of calculations. A very simplified version of the chart is available on the website. Academic, musical, or athletic success is not a factor at all in qualifying for aid.

  1. Almost all financial aid needs are met.

The kicker with this one is that what OES’ statistics say a family can afford does not always line up with what a family thinks or may actually need. The monetary stress that accompanies going to school here may not be worth it or feasible for everyone.

  1. You need to disclose all financial information to qualify for aid.

If tax returns or other assets are not something your family is comfortable sharing with the school, then unfortunately no financial aid can be awarded. These documents are necessary for the assessment and allocation of tuition money.

“I want to leave OES for a better education

“You will get a better education here.”

“That’s counter intuitive. The question isn’t what school has the better education, but is it worth it? You’re not gonna get a 4.0 here but you will be better prepared for college.”

“You won’t get one in Oregon and that’s a fact.”

“Come to Matthew Li’s house Mon Weds Fri for free tutoring.”

“Boarding schools have more opportunities

 “OES gives you a lot of opportunities to build your resume due to its size.”

“There is time for you to be at school away from your family in college. You should enjoy your time at home with your friends while you can. Also you can’t drive or have a car at boarding school. And OES is a boarding school.”

“You love your family.”

“OES is really far away from my house.” 

“It’s really bad.” 

“Don’t go here.”

“You’re going to save so much time and gas if you leave.”

“If you leave after 7:15 you’re screwed.” 

“It’s annoying for events, but once you can drive it gets a lot better.”

“I want to leave because I’ve been here for a long time” 

“I’m glad I didn’t leave. I do understand why people would want to meet new people, but there are other ways to do that through outside sports or clubs. Staying here for four more years has gotten me more ready for college and excited for a bigger community. High school isn’t the only chance to be a part of a huge community.”

“High school is such a hard time that it’s nice to have a baseline of friends that can help you through it.”

“It’s fun to see old teachers and it’s nice to know people in other grades above and below me because I’ve been forced to branch out more.”

“Your life’s gonna get a lot worse if you leave. I do not regret my choice.”

To those of you who are already members of the OES high school, I hope reading these quotes has affirmed your decision to go here like it did mine. We’re so lucky to be apart of such a special community. 

If you’re an 8th grader in the midst of the decision process, this should hopefully clear up any doubt or concerns you might have about being a ‘Vark the next four years.

Thanks for reading.