good Thoughts

Welcome to our blog! Look here for tips and observations from the Admission staff at St. John's.

Last Minute Reminders!

The Middle School admission application deadline is fast approaching! In four days to be exact!

We have received many calls from families who are putting the finishing touches on their applications. We thought it would be helpful to write about some of the questions we hear most frequently these days.

How do I apply to St. John's Prep?

Parents have received an email with directions for how to create a password and login for the admission portal. Once you log into the portal, you will have access to the parent and student questionnaires, and you will be able to view the admission checklist. Do you have an account already but you've forgot your password? Use this link to submit your email address and retrieve your password. If you run into trouble with the admission portal, email Joan Spencer.

How do I know if the Prep has received all parts of my son's application?

In the online admission portal you will be able to view a checklist of application items. Items that are required for St. John's will have an orange text box stating "required." When we receive an item, it turns from orange to green, and the checklist shows the date it was received. Keep your login credentials handy. It will be helpful in tracking whether your son's application is complete.

When do we receive the results of the entrance exam?

You will receive your son's test results within a couple of weeks of taking the test. If your son has already take the test, the application checklist will show that the scores have arrived at St. John's.

My son's school said they submitted his transcript, but it's not showing up on the application checklist. What do I do?

At this busy time, it can take our admission staff two days to process the mail and emails we receive each day. Please bear with us. We ask that you allow sufficient time for your son's school to mail the documents and for us to process it before calling to check on whether we have received it.

My son's teacher is having trouble accessing the online teacher recommendation form.

Here are some troubleshooting tips for your son's teacher to try: 1.) Check the spam or trash folder. The email might be in there. 2.) If the email link won't open, cut and paste the link into a different browser. 3.) If those two don't work, contact our office at 978-624-1301 and we will send the teacher a PDF copy of the form.

My son's coach (or pastor, family friend, music teacher, etc.) wants to write a recommendation on his behalf. Do you accept additional letters of recommendation, and is there a form they should use?

If you feel this person knows your son well and can bring to light a dimension not conveyed in the rest of the application, please feel free to add the recommendation to your son's materials. There is no official form for additional recommendations. The person writing the recommendation should simply send a letter to the Admission Office. Of course, this is not required, and you should not feel the need to submit recommendations beyond what is required.

When are applications due?

For applicants to the Middle School at St. John's, the deadline to apply to for admission, and tuition assistance, is Sunday, January 15. The Admission Office staff will be hard at work over the long weekend making sure everyone's application files are complete. If something isn't checked off on the checklist by January 15, it is probably in the mail, so try not to worry. If we run into an issue, we will contact you to try to get it resolved.

When will we receive notification?

We will post Middle School admission decisions in the admission portal on February 15, 2017; we will also mail decision letters on the same day. (Tuition assistance notification will be mailed with the decision letters, but not posted on the portal.)

We haven't visited the campus yet. Is it too late?

No problem! Give the Office of Admission a call to schedule a campus tour for you and your son. Also, your son is invited to spend the day with us through our Eagle Experience program. The shadow program gives your son a chance to spend a typical day on campus and attend classes with a Prep student. Shadow days are scheduled through Alison Barnes.

If you have questions or need assistance in any way, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us.

Posted by Mrs. Jennifer Glover on Wednesday January 11 at 10:54AM
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Good Stuff Happens After Classes End!!

Did you see this article on our homepage? I had to share it with you because it's a great example of why after-school clubs are such a popular part of school life at the Prep!

Avenues to Explore Science, Technology and Research

If you’re interested in green technology, bio-medical research and engineering, you just might want to check out the Prep’s Science and Technology Club

In addition to going inside some of the most innovative companies and tech incubators in the Boston area, the club provides a setting and support for original student research, not to mention that it runs a number of cool contests. Pasta cars anyone? More on that later.  

The research component is the heart of the enterprise, according to Gary Smith, chair of the Science Department, who moderates the club with science teacher Christine Erwin. “We have students who really like science and want to spend time on longer term research projects. The club provides an opportunity for them to take on something really creative and novel,” says Mr. Smith.

One of the projects underway now is a self-sufficient aquaponics system. The creative minds behind this project – Mattheus Carpenter '18, Robby Huang '18, Bill Shi '18 and Sparrow Tian '17  – hope to design and build a system that can be easily replicated in local communities.

Seeing Professionals at Work

Another important part of the club’s purpose is visiting local companies to see innovation and research in action, says Mr. Smith. “It’s eye opening for students to see that it takes a lot of people who are very skilled in their own ways to make things happen in these organizations.”

Already this year, students have visited Greentown Labs, a tech incubator in Somerville; the Community Exploration & Learning Lab (CELL) at Novartis in Cambridge; and Histogenics, a regenerative medicine company in Waltham.

During a trip to “demo day” at Greentown Labs, students saw the full range of some 50 start-up companies that share space and resources in a converted watch factory in Somerville. One of the companies they visited is NBDNano, which was founded by Deckerd Sorensen and Miquel Galvez, both Prep grads from the Class of 2008.

More recently, students visited Histogenics, where they suited up in lab coats to take a wide-angle look at all facets of the company, from pioneering medical research and engineering to business operations. Steve Kennedy, chief technology office at Histogenics and a Prep parent, arranged the visit, which included the opportunity for students to meet with many of his colleagues.

“They graciously gave their time to explain what they do, and how their careers led them to this place,” said Mr. Smith. “Together, they gave our group an inside look at the people who make this startup company work, the scientific and engineering hurdles they have had to overcome, a look at the business side of the company's operation in addition to teaching us about the entire field of regenerative medicine.”

A Little Friendly Competition

Next up, the group will organize a series of in-house competitions. Winners will earn the rights to represent St. John's at the upcoming Physics Olympics in April. First, the group will gear up for a pasta car competition. The challenge will be to make a car entirely out of pasta, spot welded with glue, and lubricated only with olive oil. After that, the club will sponsor a paper airplane competition, along with a few other surprises.

“The creative possibilities are endless,” says Mr. Smith. Time to start your engines, gentlemen!

Posted by Mrs. Jennifer Glover on Tuesday January 10 at 04:47PM
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Built to Compete. Programmed to Win.

We're so proud of our robotics team! They took first place in the VEX robotics tournament at North Andover High School recently, outscoring 17 other high schools. That earned them a spot to compete with schools from across New England in March.

Robotics is one of the co-curricular activities we offer at the Prep. These programs give students hands-on opportunities to collaborate and put into action what they learn in class. And let's not forget that co-curriculars are just plain fun. So much fun, in fact, that the robotics team got together in August to begin planning for the VEX tournament. Here's a story about the big win!

“Everything has to go right at these competitions, and it did,” said team coach and Computer Science Department Chair Bernie Gilmore. “It was the best performance we've ever had in the elimination rounds of a tournament. The boys won their best of three in quarterfinals, semis, and finals without ever needing to play a third match.”

The Prep sent two teams to the tournament with a total of 26 students, including many seasoned competitors. The teams earned three distinctions at the tournament: Teams A and B led the winning alliance of teams, team B won the excellence award, and the Prep won programming skills competition. The excellence award is the competition’s top judged award. Shawsheen Valley Technical High School joined the Prep's teams A and B to form the winning alliance.

"Winning the Excellence Award is akin to winning best in show," said computer science teacher Lisa Standring, who also coaches the team.

The challenge in this VEX tournament was called Starstruck. It required teams to build and program robots that could lift star-shaped objects and heavier cubes over a fence and then move them from one side of the competition arena to the other. Teams won points based on how far they could move the objects. In VEX-sponsored competitions such as the one at North Andover High School, teams were limited to using kit parts to build their robots. Students can bend and shape the various components, but they must use the same parts. The robots must fit into an 18"x18" cube.

“In more than a few instances, when another team was throwing a cube over the fence, our team would be able to grab it before it landed. It was a measure of how well our boys designed their robot and how effectively they could use it,” said Mr. Gilmore.

Ingenuity and Creativity

The Prep students brought considerable experience and ingenuity to preparing for the competition. Team B, for example, decided to use a pneumatic system to drive their robot. In their research during the weeks leading up to the tournament, they found another team that used a pneumatic system. Members of team B emailed and conferenced on Skype with the other students to explore the advantages and challenges of using a similar system.

“The judges were fascinated. St. John’s was the only team at the tournament to use pneumatics, and our students were very articulate in talking about how and why they did it,” said Mr. Gilmore.

Focus on Preparation  

After a series of qualifying rounds at the start of the tournament, the top teams go on to elimination rounds. In these rounds, two teams pair up and then select a third team to join their alliance. Choosing that third team is key to a successful tournament strategy, according to Mr. Gilmore.

The Prep team took a disciplined approach to the task, creating spreadsheets to score various opponents’ strengths and weaknesses in order to the find teams that would make the best match. Freshmen led this important part of the Prep's strategy. “You’re looking for robots and teams that complement your team. That’s what the scoring is all about,” said Mr. Gilmore.

“The veteran team members work incredibly well together. They have a wide variety of personalities and strengths, but they are able to hash out their differences in a fruitful way. I love hearing them talk. And the freshmen are learning the ropes. This tournament was very exciting for them. To go to your first and see your team be so stunningly successful was great.”

Posted by Mrs. Jennifer Glover on Friday December 2, 2016 at 10:02AM
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Questions? We've got answers!

It's that time of the year—the High School admission application deadline is fast approaching! We have received many calls from families who are putting the finishing touches on their applications. I thought it would be helpful to write about some of the questions we hear most frequently these days.

How do I apply to St. John's Prep?

Parents have received an email with directions for how to create a password and login for the admission portal. Once you log into the portal, you will have access to the parent and student questionnaires, and you will be able to view the admission checklist. Do you have an account already but you've forgot your password? Use this link to submit your email address and retrieve your password. If you run into trouble with the admission portal, send an email to Michael Kelley at mkelley@stjohnsprep.org.

How do I know if the Prep has received all parts of my son’s application?

In the online admission portal you will be able to view a checklist of application items. Items that are required for St. John's will have an orange text box stating "required." When we receive an item, it turns from orange to green, and the checklist shows the date it was received. Keep your login credentials handy. It will be helpful in tracking whether your son's application is complete.

When do we receive the results of the HSPT placement test?

You will receive your son's test results within a few weeks of taking the test. If your son has already take the test, the application checklist will show that the scores have arrived at St. John’s. Students who take the test in December will see it marked as complete on their checklist in a few weeks.

My son's school said they submitted his transcript, but they're not showing up on the application checklist. What do I do?

At this busy time, it can take our admission staff two days to process the mail we receive each day. Please bear with us. We ask that you allow sufficient time for your son's school to mail the documents and for us to process it before calling to check on whether we have received it.

My son's teacher is having trouble accessing the online teacher recommendation form.

Here are some troubleshooting tips for your son's teacher to try: 1.) Check the spam or trash folder. The email might be in there. 2.) If the email link won't open, cut and paste the link into a different browser. 3.) If those two don't work, contact our office at 978-624-1301 and we will send the teacher a PDF copy of the form.

My son’s coach (or pastor, family friend, music teacher, etc.) wants to write a recommendation on his behalf. Do you accept additional letters of recommendation, and is there a form they should use?

If you feel this person knows your son well and can bring to light a dimension not conveyed in the rest of the application, please feel free to add the recommendation to your son's materials. There is no official form for additional recommendations. The person writing the recommendation should simply send a letter to the Office of Admission. Of course, this is not required, and you should not feel the need to submit recommendations beyond what is required.

When are applications due?

For applicants to the High School at St. John's, the deadline to apply to for admission, and tuition assistance, is Thursday, December 15. The Admission Office staff will be hard at work over the holidays making sure everyone's application files are complete. If something isn't checked off on the checklist by December 15, it is probably in the mail, so try not to worry. If we run into an issue, we will contact you to try to get it resolved.

When will we receive notification?

We will post High School admission decisions in the admission portal on February 6, 2017; we will also mail decision letters on the same day. (Tuition assistance notification will be mailed with the decision letters, but not posted on the portal.)

We haven't visited the campus yet. Is it too late?

No problem! Give the Office of Admission a call to schedule a campus tour for you and your son. Also, your son is invited to spend the day with us through our Eagle for a Day Student Shadow Program. The shadow program gives your son a chance to spend a typical day on campus and attend classes with a Prep student. Shadow days are scheduled Monday through Friday.

Posted by Mrs. Jennifer Glover on Friday December 2, 2016 at 08:45AM
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Which Test to Take?

We are frequently asked which test students should take. It depends on a couple of things: which grade is your son applying to and which schools?

We truly do not have a preference for either test. At St. John's Prep, we give options so that families can find the test that works best for their budget and schedule. Use this outline to review your options:

I'm Applying to Middle School
  • ISEE  – $80
  • SSAT – $127
I'm Applying to High School: Catholic Schools Only
  • HSPT – $25.60
I'm Applying to High School: St. John's Prep and Independent Schools
  • SSAT – $127

Once you decide which test your son will take, you will need to register. You'll note that we've indicated the dates when the HSPT and ISEE are given at St. John's. Check the SSAT link for locations, as well as times and dates.

Middle School-ISEE

Saturday, December 17 – offered at St. John's
Register online.

Saturday, January 14  offered at St. John's
Register online.

Middle School-SSAT

Saturday, November 12
Register online.

Saturday, December 10
Register online.

Saturday, January 7
Register online.

High School HSPT

Saturday, November 5  offered at St. John's
Deadline to
register online is Thursday, November 3. However, walk-ins will be accepted.

Saturday, December 3  offered at St. John's
Deadline to
register online is Thursday, December 1. However, walk-ins will be accepted.

High School SSAT

Saturday, November 12
Register online.

Saturday, December 10
Register online.

Posted by Mrs. Jennifer Glover on Thursday November 3, 2016 at 08:57AM
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When Walls Come Down

Have you noticed that some experiences stay with you for a long time?

Maybe you volunteer at a food pantry or go on a retreat at school. You feel good, but it’s not until later that you realize the experience made a lasting impact.

We hear these stories all the time about the retreats offered by our Campus Ministry staff. Take Connor May ’11 and the Prep Leadership Institute (PLI), for example.

First, a little background. PLI is a five-day retreat offered every August for rising seniors. The idea is to bring students together, away from school, to talk about servant leadership – the willingness to put your convictions into action for the benefit of others. When seniors come back in the fall, they bring the lessons of PLI with them. But just as important, the lessons stay with them in college, and later, in their personal and professional lives.

What makes PLI the kind of experience that sticks?

“I didn't have an epiphany at the time, but it left an impact on who I wanted to be for my classmates. The conversations you have at PLI are the most important thing. Because you’re away from campus, you’re not immersed in classes and sports. Everything can be put aside and walls come down. You're able to share things you don't share in the hallways. There’s a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood,” says Connor. “Faculty being there in such large numbers is key. Their walls come down, too. Seeing teachers and students be vulnerable became the foundation for building a sense of faith for me.”

PLI was at work in the back of Connor’s mind when he went to college at Holy Cross – and when he decided to spend a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, teaching at Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy on the Crow reservation in St. Xavier, Montana.

He lived with three other volunteers, all recent college grads, in a trailer next the school. A self-described “utility player,” he taught gym and dancing, facilitated a math program, and provided academic support in language arts, reading and science.

“I really wanted to live in an intentional community around four values: spirituality, community, social justice and simple living,” says Connor. “Realizing my limitations was a big struggle for me. You hear all these speeches about changing the world, and then you're in a tutoring session and you feel helpless. It’s humbling. A lot of these kids never leave the reservation. They deserve the all of the same opportunities I deserve. It's a matter of luck that I was born with the privileges I had.”

Today, Connor is in graduate school at Boston College, studying theology and ministry. The experiences he had at St. John’s Prep continue to guide him. “PLI opened up spaces to talk about issues that are relevant to a high school kid – realizing that life is not perfect, how am I supposed to live in this is world and not be conscious of other people's struggles? St. John’s really opened up those conversations.”

Photos: Top photo shows Connor and two students on Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy's eighth grade class trip to Newport, Oregon. The second photo was taken on what a local rancher told Connor is "the lonliest road in Montana." It runs through the Crow Reservation, from the town of Prior (population 400) to St. Xavier (population 84).

Posted by Mrs. Jennifer Glover on Thursday November 3, 2016 at 06:10AM
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Will We See You at Open House?

The leaves are turning vibrant shades of crimson and gold at St. John’s Prep. Every season on our campus holds its own beauty, but I have to admit, fall is one of my favorites. We simply don’t have this kind of thing in Texas, where I was born and raised.


Fall is the perfect time for to attend our Open House on Sunday, October 30. Here are some tips to make the most of your time on campus!


Explore our website before you arrive for open house. You’ll find a lot of valuable information to help you once you get to campus. By previewing the website first, you will be better prepared to ask about the programs, courses, and activities that interest you. Open House is also a great time to tour the campus and connect with the people who could be part of your experience at the Prep. As you talk with the students, teachers and parents you will meet at Open House, here are some good questions to ask.

  • How do families new to the school integrate into the community?
  • What is freshman year like, both socially and academically?

  • What are some of the things that students like best about the classes, and why?

  • What do you think sets St. John’s Prep apart?

  • How accessible are teachers for students?

  • I read on the website that St. John’s Prep offers over 60 clubs and activities and a wide variety of sports. How widely do students participate in these programs?

These kinds of open-ended questions will help students and teachers tell you what the St. John’s Prep experience is really like.

Open House is a great opportunity to dig a little deeper into academic life at the Prep. Representatives from every department will be available to meet and talk with you. There will also be a panel discussion on academics offered at various times throughout Open House. Be sure to look for panel discussions on student life and tuition assistance, as well. And finally, stop by the gym to meet representatives of clubs and sports offered at St. John’s. You’ll find everything from aviation and filmmakers to basketball, mountain biking and rugby!

I invite you to come to our Fall Open House on Sunday, October 30. We’d love to meet you! For more information and to register, visit www.stjohnsprep.org/openhouse.

Posted by Mrs. Jennifer Glover on Tuesday October 25, 2016 at 08:36AM
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A Good Story

This is a story about how one person's GOOD idea can make a big difference. In this case, a big difference in the lives of a lot of children.

David Caputo has always loved to read and felt lucky to grow up in a house filled with books. In sophomore year at St. John's he was searching for a confirmation service project when he happened to read that 61 percent of low income children have no books in their homes. That was it. The search was over. He decided that he would put a dent in that 61 percent, one book at a time.

He started at home, gathering up all of the children’s books he and his brother and sister had outgrown. He put a collection box in his church, and enlisted students at St. John’s and other schools to donate their own gently used books. In short order, he collected hundreds of books and donated them to GIRLS, Inc., a non-profit organization in Lynn that offers education and support programs for school-age girls.

The folks at GIRLS, Inc. were thrilled, and said they could find homes for as many books as David could collect. He continued to grow the program, which he named Literacy Link. The whole family got involved, and when David left for the University of Michigan in the fall of 2014, his sister and brother took over for him. As of this summer, they were at 6,500 books and counting.

We were proud, but not surprised, when David received the Life of Significance Award from Penn Mutual after his college rugby coach nominated him for the honor. The best part of the award for David? It came with a $5,000 prize that he could donate to the charity of his choice. Giving it to Girls, Inc. was an easy choice. They'll use the money to fund their entire summer literacy program.

We love stories about students who share their good ideas and make a difference. You can read more about David and his experiences – filling bookshelves for kids and playing rugby for the Wolverines!

One last thing: Be sure to notice what David says about the doors that opened after he didn't make the freshman baseball team. A good example of resilience!

Photo credit: diarugby.com

Posted by Mrs. Jennifer Glover on Friday October 14, 2016 at 08:31AM
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Choosing the Right School

Growing up, many of us just walked up the street or rode our bikes to the school that was closest to home. Families today have many options when it comes to schools for their children. Finding the right fit can seem daunting, but with a little information, it doesn’t have to be.

To do a good job, it helps to do your research and network with other parents to make sure you know about all of the choices. My advice: Trust your instincts. No one knows your child better than you. When choosing a school, use your head and your heart. You’ll know it when you see it. Here are some things to consider when researching schools for your child:

  • School values: What kind of person do you want your child to become and how does that align with the school’s mission? Everything we do at St. John’s stems from our values as a Xaverian school – compassion, humility, simplicity, trust and zeal. In the classroom and after school, we help students make the connection between those values and the actions they take every day.
  • Academics: Does the school offer an academic program that will both challenge and support your child? Our goal is to help every student unleash his potential. We do that with dedicated teachers in dynamic classes offered at multiple levels – College Prep, Accelerated, Honors and Advanced Placement. A network of resources, from school counselors to the Center for Learning and Academic Success, helps us meet every young man where he is on his journey.
  • Class Size: What is the student-teacher ratio? In grades 6, 7 and 8, the student-teacher ratio is 10:1 and the average class size is 10. In grades 9 through 12, the student-teacher ratio is 11:1 and the average class size is 18.
  • Extracurricular Opportunities: What does the school offer for clubs, athletics and service organizations? Do they match up with your child’s interests? With 60+ clubs, after-school life is BIG at St. John’s. Clubs and activities like Model UN, theater or Aviation Club are a great way to make friends, gain self-confidence, and use classroom lessons in a real-life, hands-on situation.
  • Teachers: How available are the teachers to the students? Teachers are available before and after class for students who want to check in on a project or go over material from class. Teachers also get to know students as club moderators, coaches and mentors.
  • Transportation: How will your child get to/from school if it is not nearby? Our students come from 80 different cities and towns, so many families carpool. We also offer bus transportation along five convenient routes.
  • Cost: Does the school offer tuition assistance for families? We know that an independent school is an important investment in your child. We encourage families to ask about tuition assistance. We meet 99% of families’ financial need, on average, so be sure to ask about how to apply for tuition assistance.
  • Type of School: Are you looking for a boarding or day school, single gender or co-ed, Catholic, independent? Independent schools offer many options. At a boy’s school like St. John’s, young men feel free to be themselves. It builds a brotherhood where students accept, support and challenge one another.

Once you’ve prioritized what is important to you, it’s time to start gathering information. One of the best ways is to delve into a school’s website. This is where you’ll find basic information parents are looking for, and it will give you a feeling for the school. Plus, it’s non-committal! Take a look at the “Frequently Asked Questions” section. Most schools list details such as how many AP courses are offered, how many students go on to four-year colleges, what percentage of students are involved in athletics, etc.

If you like what you see in a school’s website, the next step is to attend an Open House. Stepping foot on campus, meeting the school leadership and talking with teachers and students is the best way to help you make a decision. Be sure to check out a future blog post on what to look for at a school’s open house.

Admission Open House at St. John’s Prep is coming up on Sunday, October 30. You can register here.

Posted by Mrs. Jennifer Glover on Thursday October 6, 2016 at 03:38PM
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