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We often hear from our graduates, and their parents, about how well prepared they were for college, and the numbers bear that out. For example, a couple of years ago an admission professional with the University of Georgia recognized the MDS class of 2017 on Twitter for earning an average 3.58 GPA as freshmen. As he said, “That is pretty impressive, trust me.”

How do we ensure that our students have the knowledge and the skills to succeed beyond high school? We implement a strategic, multi-pronged approach to education that develops independent learners and critical thinkers.

Flexible College Preparatory Curriculum

Most college preparatory schools like Mount de Sales will offer a variety of rigorous courses in order to challenge students and teach advanced concepts. What sets MDS apart is that we respond to the needs of our alumni in college and have the flexibility to add or change courses to strengthen the educational foundation. For instance, we added Organic Chemistry as a science elective four years ago to help pre-med students navigate this ‘make-or-break’ college class.

A recent graduate, who is taking Organic Chemistry at Georgia College & State University, reached out in appreciation to his MDS teacher saying, “Everything we have covered thus far in our class has been an absolute breeze. Thanks to your excellent teaching skills, my sister and I both made a perfect score on the exam. We would be lost without the prior knowledge gained from your class.”

Opportunities to Take College Classes

Many independent and public schools offer Advanced Placement courses, which are equivalent to an introductory-level college class. Since AP courses are challenging and require a comprehensive exam, students learn how to handle college coursework. In fact, according to the College Board, students who take AP exams earn higher grades in college than those who do not. While some secondary schools allow only students with the highest grades to take AP exams, MDS requires all of its AP students to sit for them. In the past three years, more than 60% of MDS students scored high enough on AP exams to qualify for college credit.

Another way to develop college readiness is to take dual-enrollment courses, which are actual college classes for which the student automatically earns both high school and college credit hours. MDS offers college English, math, and language classes. The advantage to taking dual-enrollment courses at Mount de Sales is that our faculty members are adjunct professors who teach Wesleyan College courses on our campus; thus, students have the comfort level of taking classes taught by teacher they know in a familiar environment.

Teaching Critical Skills

Success in college requires strong organizational, collaboration, and communication skills. Mount de Sales’s core curriculum and elective courses are infused with opportunities to practice these skills. MDS is the only independent school in Middle Georgia approved to offer AP Research and AP Seminar. In AP Research, students investigate topics in a variety of subject areas, write research-based essays, and design and give presentations both individually and as part of a team. In the follow-up course, AP Seminar, students design, plan, and conduct a yearlong research-based investigation to address a self-selected research question.

Encouraging Independence

The college selection process is a great opportunity for students to practice taking ownership for their education. Beginning in the eighth grade, counseling staff guide and encourage students to assess their strengths and interests. Throughout high school, MDS students use Naviance, a college and career planning software tool, to build their portfolio and manage their own admission process. Students also can accelerate in math through a self-directed, artificially intelligent learning and assessment system that is incorporated into ninth grade math classes.

Does Mount de Sales’s multi-pronged approach work? We know it does! A 2018 graduate recently completed his degree at the University of Alabama in three years. He graduated with honors and enrolled at Washington University Law School. These are his words: “I appreciate MDS for instilling perseverance, hard work, dedication, and commitment…It is because of the intense workload and the excuses that MDS did not tolerate for missing assignments that helped to enhance my success. I was used to doing a lot of rigorous work when I enrolled in college, and because of MDS, I was acclimated. Sadly, there were many students who started with me that did not return because they just could not get used to the intense workload.”

Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties. MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.