Does Residential Life have a Beneficial Role in High School Education?

Upon entry into IMSA, many students feared living away from home, complaining about the competitive culture, loose residential sphere, and debilitating duties that come with independence. With the need to develop group study habits, feed oneself, maintain emotional sanctity in one’s immediate sphere, and more, discovering how to conquer residential life is no small task. Although students find themselves overwhelmed with the superfluous stresses of residential life, they are continuously uplifted with a simple and bittersweet phrase:

“It might be terrible now, but, trust me, when you get to college, you will fly.”

IMSA, being a college preparatory school, prides itself in the atypical educational experience it offers outside of the classroom: how to take care of yourself. While most are thankful to IMSA for preparing them for colleges in ways which cannot be taught in classroom, others debate whether high school is really the ideal time to conquer the task of emotional and academic self-sustainability. Are the benefits of residential high schools worth it to prepare for the individual’s future? Or does it force premature independence, initiating a temporary flight, only to discover we will later crash and burn?

Keith McIntosh, Associate Director of Student Life and previous Resident Counselor, has witnessed the positive results that come from an pre-college residential life experience. He explains “It’s about taking baby steps. You learn independence and the ability to take care of yourself. For some people, they go in without that prep, and it’s daunting. They go in with no discipline or skill, and are vulnerable. I know people who come from IMSA and when they get to college, they don’t miss a beat.” He reminisces on his previous experiences in military academy, where he had a preliminary exposure to diversity: “College, it throws you into a melting pot. In the Mojave Desert, we slept in tents with 60 people. Problem was, we all wanted to listen to music at the same time, and that led to chaos. What happened? We learned how to listen to each other’s music. And I learned about rock, classical, country, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent. We could’ve just put in headphones, but we got to learn instead.”

Moreover, AC Michelle Hoehn, IMSA Class of 2005, has seen both the student and counselor side of high school dorm life. “It definitely builds your life skills with simple things, like doing your laundry and making your own food, which make college easier.” Alternatively, she acknowledges the detrimental effects a residential lifestyle can have: “Sometimes it offers opportunities to make poor decisions, because it’s easy to stray from the path you are supposed to be on. All-nighters are easy. Your parents aren’t there to regulate your procrastination. There are those students who are not ready for that lifestyle yet.” Nonetheless, she reflects on the benefits in these challenges. “It’s important to learn it now. You will end up being so ready to balance your social, academic, and extracurricular life. College is ten times easier when you are used to self-regulation.”

The difficulties of residential life are apparent, potentially prohibiting students from a balanced lifestyle, causing some to stray away from original priorities, and even discouraging them from reaching their utmost potential. Alongside the potential hazards that come with residential living, one must not forget the learning experiences it offers. Regardless of the late nights and disruptive study hours, the residential life at IMSA allows for an atmosphere unlike any other school. Not only do we grow create a strong IMSA network, but we experience an early experience of social diversity. We are allowed to mature and learn some vital skills from beyond the classroom. Res Life: it is not a chaotic scheme originally created for just academic collaboration, but rather one of the greatest learning opportunities an academy can offer in order to strengthen one’s own morale.

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