In the news: Chinese students looking for the elite American boarding school experience, Marvelwood School, a U.S. boarding school, said to be disillusioned

Dismayed by the school’s college placement record, Chen considered transferring. Instead, he began to enjoy himself. Because his courses were undemanding, he had time for friends and outside interests. He took four Advanced Placement[25] tests on his own.

“I’ve developed my personality a lot,” Chen said. “Everything turned out for the best.”

No Questions Asked

Chinese students at Marvelwood aren’t always so sanguine. Perched on a hillside overlooking the Housatonic River valley, Marvelwood provides “a structured environment and intense faculty involvement” for “students who have not previously been able to perform to their capabilities,” according to its website. Its mission “to fill the gap between conventional college preparatory schools and strictly remedial schools” has “remained fundamentally unchanged.”

That’s not the mission Todd Holt pitched on his annual recruiting trips to China as Marvelwood’s admission director from 2005 to 2008. Asked if he told Chinese parents about the school’s learning-disabled population, Holt said, “There was no reason to bring it up unless they had questions about the types of students their kid would be going to school with. In general, they wouldn’t ask that question.”

Foreign Student Body

Marvelwood worked in China with many agencies, most of which were paid by families rather than the school, Holt said.

When Alfred Brooks joined the school’s board in 2000, fewer than one in five students came from abroad, he said. By the time he retired as chair in 2010, almost 40 percent of its 170 boarding and day students were foreigners, predominantly Chinese, he said. Those students pay $46,500 for tuition, room and board, $4,800 for English-language classes, and a $995 international student fee introduced in 2008.

“The core mission expanded,” Brooks said.

“The Chinese — they’re high achievers,” he said. “Almost without exception, you’ll find that they get the highest grades. They’re very, very motivated. A lot of the students we have are very unmotivated. You have to find a way to motivate them.”

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