Lakefield, ON | Grades 9 - 12 | Shortlist
The relationships between students and staff is truly like no other. Lakefield is a place where you do not only have to be great at one thing but to become good at many things. Pushing yourself to limits you may never have thought of before. The community environment and the facilities Lakefield has is what sets it apart from other schools. Being able to attend AP Biology classes 10 feet away from where you get to paddle and camp out with another class is an experience you cannot get anywhere else. The overall academics push your brain, the outdoor experience pushes your strength, the athletics push your physicality, and the arts test your creativity. These aspects create a Lakefield student that is ready to take on the world and future challenges that they may be faced with.
There are so many opportunities for leadership regardless of the grade you are in. The way leadership is structured at Lakefield is not necessarily through a "hierarchical" system like most schools. Each grade 9-11 has a “grade representative” program where 2 boarding and 2 day students get elected to represent their class, meeting regularly with the co-head students and school life team to ensure the atmosphere of the student body and overall school spirit stays high. These representatives also work with the grade 12 class through retreats and other programming to practice their leadership skills in order to prep them for greater responsibilities in grade 12.
Lakefield is unique because of the relationships between students and staff. Your head of house could also be your French teacher, basketball coach, and debate team leader. At this level, there is a certain amount of respect that has to be held within the different roles your teachers may play in your life at Lakefield. In the classroom environment, teachers are held to a higher standard because of the potential other relationships you have with that individual. After taking a variety of classes, both at the advanced level, academic level, and online summer programs. What I noticed is there was not a difference in the engagement teachers had in their materials between the different levels of academics I took part in. Every teacher, regardless of the subject or level, was there for their student’s success. If extra time or support was needed the teachers (without hesitation) would set aside time in their day (even if it affected their personal life) to help the student.
The academic culture at the school allows students to thrive at whichever level is best suited for them. Lakefield prides itself on being an academic learning level which is standard in high schools, with advanced placement options starting grade 11. It is always beneficial to have healthy competition between students to achieve a certain mark, which pushes them academically to be the best learner they can be. I found that the advanced placement classes that I took, specifically AP biology, best prepared me for the academically demanding environment of university. Largely due to the methods of assessment, and amount of external hours it takes to prep for the type of rigorous schedule students would be faced within their first year. The only area that I find LCS lacks in academics is the accommodations made to individuals with learning differences. Although there is a learning strategies program that encourages students with learning differences to practice different methods that could assist them in the academic culture of Lakefield, it is still expected through the application process for the school that the student holds a high academic standing.
When I was a student at Lakefield the year was split into three terms: fall, winter and spring. Each of these terms students were required to participate in an athletic co-curricular. The options changed throughout the year and took advantage of the many exceptional facilities that LCS has. Although some students may choose not to participate in a competitive sport, they have the option to challenge themselves to a new activity on a recreational team, or in an arts performance. In the fall there is a musical, winter is the dance showcase, and spring is another play put on by the students with staff directors. These different options allow for students to be amazing at many things, not just excellent at one thing.
The overall atmosphere of Lakefield is created largely in part due to the extensive hours the admissions team puts in to find great students that will not only succeed at Lakefield, but blend well, and give back to the community. LCS has been known for its small size of fewer than 400 students, which has started to grow due to the intense demand. What separates Lakefield from other private boarding schools other than its size is also the atmosphere. Because of the small population, everyone is destined to cross paths with each other at some point whether it be on the sports field, in class, in your residence, or in a club. These people see you at your very best and are there for you during the tough times. That is just what Lakefield is, a community where your basketball coach is your head of house, your academic advisor is also your nurse, and where your grade 12 mentor could be leading your dance showcase. It truly is a family that works together to ensure the community succeeds and helps you grow as a person.
I personally feel like I did the most growing during my time at Lakefield. I attended grades 9-12 and felt that each year came with its own challenges. In my first year and a half I was much more to myself but still stayed involved in school life and activities. If you ask the majority of the alumni population, many would say that Lakefield was the perfect fit for them. They grew the most there, found their identity, and strived to be the best version of themselves. Like any high school, it would not be surprising if there were many that did not feel this way. Due to the competitive nature of the academics, the mandatory involvement in sports and arts, those who lack organization skills or motivation to be up and moving for eight hours of the day may not get the most out of their experience and find it too challenging. Overall, Lakefield creates great leaders, people who are passionate about doing great things, and who want to help others.
I am in a unique position as I have played many roles at LCS. Started as a student, then worked as a staff member in communications (working closely with alumni), as well as doing residential coverage during the pandemic. What I have noticed by playing all of these roles is that the Lakefield atmosphere has not changed. I think that the amount of current staff who are alumni or have had previous connections with the school reflects the impact that Lakefield leaves you with. There is a separate parent group, known as the Grove Society that does various fundraisers for the school as well as hosts events during the year, sponsoring different student activities to encourage the engagement of parents; (largely because the parents envy the high school experience their child is getting). I completed my studies at Lakefield four years ago, and my current core friend group is still the group I was closest with in high school. Many of them have considered continuing their Lakefield involvement by giving back financially to the school, and even applying for residential positions because of how impactful their time at LCS was, and want to give the same experience to new students.
Lakefield itself is a very small town. The LCS campus is located just on the edge of town providing its own seclusion and safety from the rest of the greater community, but still close enough to an urban environment where boarding students can venture into town for groceries, local shopping and dining, as well as community service initiatives. The city of Peterborough is about a 20-minute drive from campus, where on the weekend’s students are allowed to be in Peterborough for special dinner leave, attend hockey games, and just have a chance to leave the property.
My biggest piece of advice for incoming students going through the application process is to just be yourself. You will have the greatest success through that process as well as being a student at Lakefield if you remain true to who you are. Regardless of the school you are applying for, it is important not to cater based on what you think the admissions teams want to hear, but who you truly are. As you go on a tour of the school try and picture yourself being there. Are the boarding houses somewhere you could see yourself living? Do the classroom settings cater to your individual needs? Are the library space and independent rooms somewhere you could focus on your studies? These are important questions that have to be asked when going through the application process to ensure the school you choose is the right fit, and the admissions team is there to guide you through that decision-making process.
Lakefield prides itself on having 100% University acceptance rates through its graduating class. The guidance class (which is usually a grade 10 credit course coinciding with civics) is actually taken for half the year in grade 12. This allows students in small groups to work closely with the guidance counsellors from starting the university research process, to making an acceptance, they are there to help you. These classes are planned accordingly to meet before many of the applications will be due to allow for a stress-free process and assurance that deadlines will be met by having the regular check-ins with the counsellor. The counsellors had many years of experience with school engagement therefore they know the student well enough before they even get to grade 12, and have had experience with applications for schools all over the world because of the diversity within the student body. No dream is too big for them.