Under Cover: Young Newporter Pens “Boarding School Survival Guide”

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All month long, you have been hearing me sing the praises of family reading. So, by now, we can probably just accept as gospel truth the notion that, to re-tool an old adage, the family that reads together, stays together.

Have you ever considered, however, what else might come to the family that reads together? Well, if becoming a better reader leads to becoming a better writer, it would seem to follow then, that the family that reads together might also be the family that writes and publishes books together.

Lest you think I’m overstating things, allow me to re-introduce you to the Muchnick family of Newport Beach.

In 2013, mom, Cindy, and her oldest son, Justin, released the book they co-authored, “Straight-A Study Skills: More Than 200 Essential Strategies to Ace Your Exams, Boost Your Grades, and Achieve Lasting Academic Success.”

Received with rave reviews, the book, which enjoys a five-star rating on Amazon, offers both an adult and student perspective on how to succeed in the academic arena, but Justin, a boarding school student, recognized that there was another area in which he was uniquely qualified to offer guidance. Thus began the journey to his second book, “The Boarding School Survival Guide,” which makes its debut on June 10.

As a middle school student, Muchnick knew that he wanted to attend a boarding school, but the concept was a totally foreign one. Neither of his parents, nor anyone else in his inner circle, had attended a boarding school, and finding real life advice on how to navigate those new waters proved to be a challenge.

Of course, there were glossy brochures, and website testimonials galore, but where was the real advice, like how to deal with homesickness, or find a mentor, or what to do when you simply could not eat one more dining hall meal?

Justin Muchnick — Photo by Kate Houlihan ©
Justin Muchnick
— Photo by Kate Houlihan ©

In the book’s introduction, Muchnick says, “I wanted to hear the authentic experiences and tips from people who had ventured down the boarding school path ahead of me. So I embarked on a mission to write this book because it is one that I wish had been available to me throughout the application, selection, and transitional processes… I can say with conviction that I definitely would have read every word of this book—if it had existed back then.”

Recognizing that he couldn’t speak to every possible boarding school experience, Muchnick invited other students from schools across the country to submit essays sharing advice based on their own experiences.

After an exhaustive process of selecting and editing the most relevant essays, the final result is a virtual boarding school bible, offering advice on every topic from money-management, to test taking, to laundry, and even how to deal with hazing.

John Palfrey, Head of School at the esteemed Phillips Academy, Andover, says, “What a great way to introduce oneself to the world of boarding schools! This book belongs on the nightstand of any prospective boarding school student and her or his parent.”

After spending the last two years as a boarding school student, Muchnick also realizes how costly the opportunity is, so he is offering two scholarships of $1000 each to readers of his book, payable directly to their school, in an effort to help the winners defray the cost of their tuition.

Applicants must submit a 500-word essay detailing their thoughts on the boarding school experience, and may find further submission instructions in the book.

No book release would be complete without an author appearance, and of course, Muchnick is happy to oblige. He will be visiting Barnes and Noble, Metro Pointe for a book signing on Sunday, June 8, from 1 to 3 p.m.

I recommend popping in to say hello, because with two books under his belt at only 16 years old, this kid is definitely going places!

For more information, please contact Justin Muchnick via the Twitter handle @BoardingSchl, or email [email protected].

To read reporter Sara Hall’s interview with the author, click here.

Edie Crabtree is an avid reader and the mother of three active boys.  She can be reached at [email protected].

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