When you think of your own high school experience is the first word that comes to mind confidence? If you are like me and millions of other Americans I am guessing that maybe confidence is not among the first few words that comes to mind. I will spare you the first few words that come to my own mind when I think of my teenage years!
However, confidence is a word that keeps reappearing in my conversations with Dublin students, their parents, and alumni of the school. Recently a group of parents spoke to some prospective new parents of the school and related that the child they dropped off here on the first day of school is not the same student they are seeing today. The difference, to many of them, is the sense of confidence that their children are revealing in their day-to-day interactions. They are standing a little taller, speaking in public, and trying out new sports, activities and classes. I recently asked Michael Scully ’90, who works for BMW and designed the bobsleds for the US Bobsled team in Sochi, about his experience at Dublin School. In our long and wonderful conversation he indicated that, “the word that comes to mind when I think about my time at Dublin is confidence. The level of confidence that comes with being at a small, intimate, supportive community is very important.” That very confidence inspired him to try competitive sports for the first time, reach out to and learn from students from other cultures and embrace leadership roles on campus. This was not false confidence, something that would fade once he reached a bigger pond. The confidence he earned was reinforced at each step of the way and allowed him to take risks and try new things.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his most recent book David and Goliath, talks about how students in the lower 70% of their class in academic standing at elite colleges often drop out of competitive academic programs because they do not feel smart enough to continue despite the fact that they are among the very smartest students in the world. Gladwell points out that were those students in the lower 70% of their class at those schools to go to less “elite” schools they would be more likely to enjoy increased confidence and greater academic and professional success (he measures these by studying academic publishing rates of graduates). I believe that Gladwell’s thesis supports the notion that small boarding schools like Dublin are terrific places for young people to gain confidence and launch out into the world ready for the opportunities and challenges that await them.