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The Arcadia Quill

The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill


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Transitioning from Private to Public School: A Transformative Experience

Michael Hum
The environment of a public school offers unexpected benefits.

Private schools have long built their reputation on providing rigorous courses for exceptionally academic-centered students. However, beneath the veneer of excellence, not all private institutions live up to their lofty reputations of “being better than public schools.” In research conducted by the University of Virginia consisting of more than 1,000 students, they found that the benefits of private schools completely disappear when other characteristics are factored in, for example demographics. The study found that lower-income students without connections attending private schools receive the same amount of benefits as students attending public schools. 

With the end of COVID came an increase in the popularity of private schools. The change from required admission tests to optional completely skyrocketed application and enrollment rates. According to a chart created by NAIS, Data and Analysis for School Leadership. Private day schools received an increased application rate from 70.5% (2019-2020) to 72.3% (2020-2021) and private boarding-day schools received an increased application rate from 48.9% (2019-2020) to 56.0% (2020-2021). I myself was one of the contributing students to the boosted rates. 

Mid-pandemic, many of my eighth-grade friends started to apply for private high schools. In turn, they convinced me to follow in their footsteps by showing me the test score and college admission comparisons. I found myself devoting countless nights to researching information about private schools near me. Just like that, I found myself attending a local private school.

Upon finishing my first semester there, I found myself in the transfer process back to Arcadia High School. I transferred for the sole reason that I believed Arcadia High helps to equip students with the necessary academic survival skills needed in college, experiences that I would’ve missed out on at my old school.  When I joyfully informed my old classmates from Arcadia of my return, instead of welcoming me back with open arms, they cautioned me about the rigorous academic environment at Arcadia High School (AHS). I wasn’t frightened—after all, AHS was a public school. I only started to comprehend what they talked about after getting the first D in my life in Algebra 2 H. I spiraled downhill as I taught myself to start accepting my fate and convinced myself that I was no longer good at math. 

One of the most significant and immediate challenges students face when transferring from private schools to public is adapting to a new environment. Transfer students are introduced to larger student populations, new faces, different curriculums, and different school dynamics. Navigating through these differences is no easy task and may leave students feeling like outsiders. In all cases, students have to adjust to new classroom settings and teachers. This new setup requires students to adapt quickly and create self-study habits in case they can’t get in touch with their teachers. 

The transition between schools can also wreak havoc on the student’s academic performance. In my case, the change in curriculum between my old school and Arcadia High completely ruined my GPA. The academic expectations at Arcadia High were markedly different and to this day, I am still trying to adapt. For instance, during one semester of Spanish at my previous school, we only had to memorize about 30 words—but at Arcadia we would go through 30 words every chapter. On top of catching up on the vocabulary, I had to quickly improve my sentence composition, listening, and oral production skills, all of which we are tested on. Math was another subject I struggled with. For the first time in my life, equations and explanations that came out of my teacher’s mouth did not make sense. No matter how many Brian McLogan and The Organic Chemistry Tutor YouTube math videos I watched, I couldn’t grasp the concept. It was mentally draining and humiliating watching my test grades drop one score by one, while my classmates’ grades soared. 

Mid-semester transitions during high school should be avoided, if not altogether forbidden, due to the myriad negative effects it leaves. Instead of transferring to “better” schools, students should remain in the educational environments they are already familiar and comfortable with. 

After finishing my second semester, and going into my third I no longer feel the same amount of stress I felt when I first transferred. I’ve been encouraging myself to practice more productive study habits and so far things are looking bright for my grades.  Although the private school provided comfort and stability, Arcadia High helped to push me to my limits and made me more confident than before.



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