Elsewhere in the Blog section of the Informed Educational Solutions website, we have discussed the origins of America’s selective independent schools and introduced the concept of the “repeat year” into the equation that predicts success in the process of gaining admission to one of these wonderful places. What, exactly, is a repeat year and who will be likely to benefit from doing it?
The repeat year is a device used by many academically competitive independent schools to bring an otherwise viable candidate up to speed with the new school’s performance expectations. First mention of the idea sends chills up the spine of most teenagers, but, with time, becomes accepted as a valuable part of an overall strategy for scholastic success – enduring success that continues to pay dividends throughout one’s lifetime. So, how does it work? Am I losing a whole year just to get into a selective school?
The term “repeat year” is really a misnomer. Students who take an extra year in an independent school actually don’t repeat anything they have already accomplished in prior school years. They will normally take placement exams to determine whether their background in specific subjects justifies moving forward to the next level. In many years of admissions work, this writer received countless transcripts indicating successful completion of Spanish Four or Algebra Two/Trig from schools whose Spanish Four did not amount to a full Spanish One curriculum in the selective school. Algebra Two on a transcript often meant that it represented the second half of Algebra One – two years of time spent, but only the second half of an Algebra One textbook. The repeat year, then, allows for catch-up in areas of possible deficiency. But what else can it accomplish for the student willing to consider it?
* The repeat year offers the certainty of taking more advanced courses, thereby enriching the final
transcript for college admission.
* The repeat year has the effect of burying a bad year. That C in 9th grade Algebra I disappears when
it is relegated to 8th grade status on the four-year high school transcript.
* The repeat year provides an extra year of maturation – an advantage for both getting in and staying
in college, when that time comes.
* For the student-athlete, the extra year can bring tremendous benefits in skills development,
physical maturity, exposure to first-rate coaching, and a higher profile for those seeking collegiate
There is almost no downside to taking a repeat year. Sometimes, parents or students are worried that friendships will be disturbed or that the decision might be interpreted as a failure by skeptical outsiders. I have often responded to such questions by reminding the family that A) the results will justify the means; and B) “friends” who ridicule the decision are not friends. Years later, no one will ever ask whether you were 18 years and 3 months or 19 years and 2 months of age when you graduated from high school. All that will matter is the person you have become, and that person will probably be found to be much more accomplished as the result of that repeat year.
Carter P. Reese, Director
Informed Educational Solutions