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Frequently Asked Questions

General School Information
What is the one best reason for coming to SSA?
Why three schools?
What is the Academy’s enrollment?
What is your rate of attrition?
How many teachers have advanced degrees?
What colleges do SSA graduates attend?
Is there a dress code?

Parents
How are parents involved in SSA?
What do you expect of parents?

Academics/Arts/Athletics
What is the average class size?
How much homework do students receive?
Do you offer advanced placement or “honors” courses?
How extensive is your fine arts programming?
Can you describe your athletic program?
How big is your library?
What types of support do you have for students?

After School/Campus Life
What is 5-day boarding?
Where do most of your students live?
How diverse and inclusive is the community?
Do you offer child care before and/or after school?
What transportation options are available?

Cost/Financial Aid
Does Shady Side Academy offer financial assistance to families?
Are there expenses beyond tuition?

Admissions
How are admissions decisions made?
What kinds of students do well at Shady Side Academy?
Do you give preference to the relatives of past and present students?
How does a family begin the process of selecting the right school?

General School Information

What is the one best reason for coming to SSA?
We believe it’s the people you find here, the SSA family: committed, experienced faculty and staff, who put in long hours as coaches and advisors; a motivated student body dedicated to learning and discovery; families who are genuinely interested in learning and ideas. A student receives the highest quality education in an environment that values individuals and families.

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Why three schools?
SSA was founded in 1883 as a boys’ school located in the Shadyside section of Pittsburgh. As the need for expansion became apparent, SSA in 1919 found enough property in Fox Chapel, then a farmland, to build a boarding and day school campus for grades 7–12. The Fox Chapel campus is our present day Senior School, where a boarding program still exists alongside the day program. In 1958, SSA created a Middle School, also in Fox Chapel, for grades 6–8, the first of its kind in the Pittsburgh area. SSA grades K–5 continued to be housed in the East End of Pittsburgh, eventually moving, in 1940, to the current location on Braddock Avenue. In the fall of 2007, a pre-kindergarten program for 4 year-olds, with its own unique building, was opened at the Junior School. We are committed to this region and believe the geographical transition students make, from one campus to the next, broadens their learning experience.

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What is the Academy’s enrollment?
Enrollment at the Junior School (PK through grade 5) is 217; enrollment at the Middle School (grades 6- 8) is 229. The Senior School (grades 9-12) enrolls 453 day students and 40 boarding students in its suburban Pittsburgh campus. SSA is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and the Pennsylvania Association of Private Academic Schools. The school is also a member of the National Association of Independent Schools, The Association of Boarding Schools, and the Pittsburgh Consortium of Independent Schools.

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What is your rate of attrition?
Attrition is very low at Shady Side Academy, about 5 percent (grades PK through 12), and falls below the national average. A majority of students move up to the next grade and to the next school. We are dedicated to providing a continuous program where students can build on a foundation, develop a wide range of skills, increasingly make choices, and discover their own areas of strength. From pre-kindergarten through high school, we strive to create excitement and enthusiasm for learning in students and teachers alike. The result is a true community of learners.

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How many teachers have advanced degrees?
The Academy has 121 full and part-time faculty and more than 63 percent hold advanced degrees.

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What colleges do SSA graduates attend?
Our extensive college counseling program helps students find the best school and fit for them. Three college counselors begin working with families as early as freshman year and students will choose their college counselor in the junior year. During 9th and 10th grades, the counselors hold information sessions for parents and students who want to learn about the college process early on. Numerous workshops occur during students junior and senior years to facilitate and aid in the application process. More than 120 college admissions officers visit Shady Side's campus each fall. 100 percent of our graduates attend college. View the list of schools of the Class of 2014.

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Is there a dress code?
While there is no uniform required at any level in SSA, there are dress codes at each school that offer a fairly wide variety of options. In general, the higher the grade, the more dress options a student has.

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Parents

How are parents involved in SSA?
Many parents are involved as hands-on volunteers in the library, in classrooms, as grade parents and as hosts of field trips and other events. We have an active Parents Association, which is open to all, and we make sure new parents are offered a variety of ways to learn about us.

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What do you expect of parents?
To the extent that they are able, we hope parents will become involved in their child’s life at school. It is important to attend meetings with advisors and faculty, such as Parents’ Night in the fall and Parent Conferences. Parents are also asked to contribute to the Annual Fund as tuition and fees cover only 75 percent of the cost of sending a child to SSA. Additionally, the school has an active Parents' Association; all parents are welcome and encouraged to participate!

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Academics/Arts/Athletics

What is the average class size?
From pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, class sizes range from 15 to 20 students. In the Senior School, grades 9 to 12, the average class size is 13 students. Overall, the ratio of students to teachers is about 8:1.

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How much homework do students receive?
Daily homework expectations are different for each school. At the Senior School each class generates about 40 minutes of homework a day, although study halls help 9th and 10th grade students manage their time. Homework expectations for 11th and 12th grade students will increase. In grades six to eight, homework ranges from one to two hours a day, the actual time depending on a student’s ability to plan and organize. Homework in the Junior School ranges from 10 minutes in first grade to the maximum of an hour and a half in fifth grade.

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Do you offer advanced placement or “honors” courses?
The Middle School offers accelerated sections in math. At the Senior School, all courses are honors level or higher, following a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. Advanced Placement courses, where the AP examination is required, are offered in Calculus AB/BC, French V, Spanish V, German V and Computer AP. Students may elect to take AP exams in all areas, which are offered at the school in May. Overall, in 2013, 82 percent of those students who wrote advanced placement exams earned a score of 3 or higher.

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How extensive is your fine arts programming?
In the performing arts, students, faculty and visiting artists create and perform more than 50 musical concerts, 8 to 10 major theatrical works and innumerable smaller presentations every year. At the Junior School, each student is a participant in music and arts. The Middle School encourages students to hone their individual interests and further develop their skills, while the Senior School promotes the arts as an essential part of a well-rounded education and motivates students to further develop their individual creative abilities. At the Senior School, the Hillman Center for Performing Arts opened in the fall of 2004 providing students with a dedicated facility for both the production and performance of theater arts. Visual arts shows are constant events at SSA. The Benedum Visual Arts Center at the Senior School houses studios for painting, ceramics, wood and metal work, and architecture. The Gailliot Gallery holds shows where students, faculty, alumni and visiting artists exhibit.

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Can you describe your athletic program?
The Junior School has an extensive physical education program. Interscholastic sports begin in sixth grade at the Middle School. At the Senior School we compete in the WPIAL and a wide range of team and individual sports is available, some competitive and some not. No matter what the sport, however, a student can discover that exploring your potential, reaching for your best and learning the value of teamwork are just as important as winning.

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How big is your library?
We have three libraries: the Junior School library has 12,000 volumes, the Middle School 14,000 volumes; and more than 21,000 volumes are shelved at the Senior School, along with more than 100 magazine subscriptions, 10 newspapers and full text databases. All three libraries provide Internet access and subscribe to numerous full-text databases via the web. Since Shady Side Academy libraries provide remote access to these subscription databases, students are able to use these resources and the catalog from home or on campus via a personal wireless device 24 hours/day. Internet capability allows students access to the catalogs of area public and university libraries as well. The libraries also offer a free Destiny Quest iOS app to allow students to access the catalog, reserve items, rate and review books, and more while on the go. Shady Side Academy is a member of the statewide Inter-Library Loan System, enabling students to borrow books from libraries all across Pennsylvania.

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What types of support do you have for students?
The Senior School has a Dean of Studies, a personal counselor, a school psychologist and each class has a Form Dean. Additionally, our College Counseling Office has three counselors. Each student also has a specific faculty or staff member as an advisor and the two meet regularly. An advisory system at the Middle School assigns one faculty or staff member to each student for daily meetings. Also on staff are a licensed clinical psychologist/school counselor and a learning specialist. A school counselor, a learning specialist and a reading coordinator are on staff at the Junior School. Throughout the Academy, faculty members actively participate in the lives of our students, in and out of the classroom.

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After School/Campus Life

What is 5-day boarding?
Five day boarding allows students to concentrate on studies and prepare for independent college life by living on campus Monday through Friday, while still spending weekends at home with their families. Two on-campus residences house full-time boarders and students who board part-time during sports seasons, theatrical productions, or winter weather. Many faculty and staff members and their families live on campus, enjoy their meals in McCune Dining Hall with students, and are available for informal counsel and support. Many campus facilities are open in the evenings to boarders.

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Where do most of your students live?
Five-day boarding brings in students from Ohio, West Virginia and occasionally beyond. Day and boarding students come from a wide variety of Pittsburgh area neighborhoods and western Pennsylvania towns: Allison Park, Aspinwall, Bethel Park, Butler, Cranberry, East Liberty, Edgewood/ Churchill, Export, Fox Chapel, Freeport, Gibsonia, Glenshaw, Greensburg, Lawrenceville, Mars, McMurray, Monroeville, Mt. Lebanon, Murrysville, Natrona Heights, New Castle, New Kensington, New Wilmington, North Side, Oakland, Penn Hills, Point Breeze, Ross, Sewickley, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Uniontown, Upper St. Clair, Wexford.

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How diverse and inclusive is the community?
We celebrate both our similarities and uniquenesses as individuals. We share with one another the history and significance of religious and cultural holidays and their relevance to our past and present. We strongly adhere to our five Guiding Principles which act as the lens through which engage with one another every day.  Our admissions policies incorporate a long-standing commitment to enrolling a diverse student body from a variety of cultural, religious, racial and socio-economic backgrounds and reflecting many talents and interests. Our gender balance is 56 percent boys and 44 percent girls and students of color make up 22 percent of the student body. View our Dignity & Respect video.                     

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Do you offer child care before and/or after school?
The Junior School provides an extended day program and After School Explorers Program where children enjoy a snack and special activities from school dismissal up to 6 p.m. In the morning parents may drop off students beginning at 7:30 a.m.

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What transportation options are available?
Bus and van transportation is available daily to all three campuses from Pittsburgh and many suburban neighborhoods. School districts are required by law to offer the same transportation to all students, including those enrolled in private schools, provided the district where the family lives is within 10 miles of the school. Based on the number of students, Shady Side may offer, under private contract, bus/van services to the school. Please see our Transportation page for further information.

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Cost/Financial Aid

Does Shady Side Academy offer financial assistance to families?
SSA grants financial assistance to families on the basis of need, subject to availability of funds. We give approximately $2.9 million in aid each year. About one student in eight receives financial aid, which is available to students in grades PK through 12. We work with the School and Student Service for Financial Aid of Princeton, New Jersey, an organization that has created guidelines to establish need. All financial aid awards are reassessed annually. Tuition payment plans are also available. For more information, see the Financial Aid page in the Affording Shady Side section of this site.

For our five-day boarding program at the Senior School, an annual merit scholarship program is available. This program recognizes academic talent and achievement, character, and commitment to community. Through an application process, students are evaluated and chosen based on the above criteria and on their ability to contribute and add strength to Shady Side Academy and its five-day boarding program.

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Are there expenses beyond tuition?
Additional expenses include books (approximately $300-$700 a year at the Middle School and Senior School) and lunches (from $595 to $640 a year at the Junior School, $5.95 per meal at the Middle School and $6.75 at the Senior School). For students playing ice hockey, there is an annual fee. There are also expenses associated with certain clubs and activities. While not unlimited, Shady Side Academy does have access to certain annual and endowed funds to help families with these extra costs.

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Admissions

How are admissions decisions made?
Five separate steps make up the admissions process for grades 6 through 12: completing an interview and touring the school; completing the written application; submitting teacher recommendations; taking the admissions test, and providing us with a school transcript. For pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, we evaluate children for their school readiness; for grades 1 through 5 we require a test appropriate to developmental levels. Teacher recommendations and transcripts, if applicable, are also required. Each step in this process is important to the admissions committee in determining if SSA is the right match for each child. The committee is made up of administrators, faculty, and at the Senior School, student representatives. We encourage applicants to visit classes for a day and experience first hand what it means to be a SSA student. In general, admission is highly competitive. Admissions at SSA are need-blind: that is, students are evaluated on the basis of character and performance without regard for a family’s ability to pay full tuition.

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What kinds of students do well at Shady Side Academy?
At every grade level we look for motivated students who are excited about learning and exploration, who are willing to take risks and try new things and whose potential can blossom in an environment of academic challenge and support.

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Do you give preference to the relatives of past and present students?
We place the most emphasis on each prospective student’s abilities and potential, although we understand the importance parents place on keeping siblings in the same school. We also greatly value the connection we have with alumni. It is most important, though, that Shady Side Academy is the right match for the student.

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How does a family begin the process of selecting the right school?
While independent schools are committed to providing a positive and safe educational experience for all of their students, there is no common mold. Each school has developed a distinctive program and culture based on its mission and suited to its own community. Finding the right match is an important process and parents should gather as much information as possible. It helps to begin the process the fall before the year your child would enroll.

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