October 26, 2023

Rector’s eNews – 25 October 2023

/ Newsletters

On Sunday we inducted the new School Prefects/Heads of House along with the Second Prefect and Senior Prefect. All boys are expected to demonstrate alignment with the Michaelhouse Way and to respect the importance of our traditional values of integrity, courage, compassion, humility and service and to those elected into leadership roles there is a further emphasis on the significance of setting the right example, being able to motivate and empower others and the will to serve the broader community. As indicated to B Block parents in an email at the beginning of the term from our Deputy Rector: Pastoral, Mr Sibusiso Ncamani, there has been a process in each House over the course of the past year in which B Block boys have been assigned portfolios and have engaged in a structured programme over each term. Voting by staff and boys in each House has recently acted as a guideline to Housemasters in their appointment of House Prefects and these office-bearers are to be announced shortly. It has been pointed out to B Block boys that those who are not, at this stage, prefects and continue to demonstrate leadership qualities may be appointed at a later stage to such a role. Another opportunity to demonstrate leadership capacity will be explained to the boys at Monday’s assembly. This takes the form of the Rector’s Leadership Portfolio which enables boys to seize an opportunity to make an impact on others either inside or outside our community generally through a service activity and, in doing so, to demonstrate their capability.

We congratulate those who are elected to leadership roles and underline the fact that the notion of service is all-important in a 21st Century democracy. It is often hard work being a leader and our expectations of those boys elected to this office are high.

Our Senior Academic, Mr Gerry Noel, was invited to lead a party of schoolboys and schoolgirls from a variety of South African schools to visit some top-flight universities/colleges in the United States. This group did not include any Michaelhouse boys as we were not contacted with a view to our boys joining this group, but some 16 senior pupils visited Harvard, MIT, Yale, Princeton and Columbia over a ten day period.

It was in this connection that Mr Noel spoke to our top academic boys (TARPS) last evening about these universities/colleges and what he had discovered about them on this visit.

In general terms, these institutions are looking for students who have a special interest in and a passion for an area of study. They “want you to be on your way to doing something special” as Mr Noel pointed out.

Secondly, service/social action to or within a community over an extended period is vitally important in gaining acceptance. It is, therefore, not simply a question of an academic record being outstanding; it is equally important that applicants to such universities should already also have made an impact on society.

Thirdly, these universities value students who have a specific interest, but the expectation is that they should be rounded individuals and open to learning outside their particular areas of expertise. They expect students to be open to the value of the liberal arts as well as having a particular focus.

Fourthly, many students at these universities will go on to do post-graduate work and, in many cases, the students will conduct seminars for undergraduates.

Turning to the specific universities/colleges, Mr Noel made the following comments:

• Harvard: there is a 4% acceptance rate at this university. However, 10% of the students are international students which, naturally, means that it is relatively easy (though still tough) for students from abroad to achieve a place at Harvard. Graduate programmes (eg the MBA) are a speciality. Harvard is, perhaps, the most famous of the American tertiary institutions and a number of US presidents have been to Harvard.

• MIT: this is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is not actually an Ivy League university, but it is very famous. This institution suits a lot of people who are, not surprisingly, technologically minded. An example of the outcome of technological research at this university is a suit which you can put on to simulate going into labour. MIT has a 2% acceptance rate.

• Yale: the campus has a number of separate ‘houses’ a bit like Michaelhouse with a counsellor, a bit like a Housemaster, in charge of each residence. The residences have their own gyms, 24 hour cafeterias and their own recreation areas. The importance of studying something out of your field is regarded as vital. Another feature of Yale is that the classes tend to be very small with 8-12 students in a class and undergraduates are sometimes lectured by postgraduates, rather than professors. There is a 4% acceptance rate.

• Princeton: this university aims to be the most diverse and inclusive and yet many of the leading American families (eg the Carnegies) have been there. There is a 6% acceptance rate and Princeton is open to many international students. It is a smaller university than the others and community service is a critical feature of acceptance.

• Columbia: this is in New York City. It has a 36 acre campus with 24 000 students and was founded in 1874. 96 Nobel Prize winners have attended Columbia. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Barack Obama are among the alumni. It has an endowment of $10 billion and 4% of applicants are accepted.

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