A number of us promoted the Hidden Gem designation as a means of offering new CC users information about the many truly great schools that receive little airtime compared to the half-dozen well known players (like Exeter, Andover, SPS etc). Most experienced boarding school parents put the importance of making a thoughtful, accurate match of child and school above any other criteria and having complete information is essential.
The Hidden Gem list is subjective, of course (no other way to have such a list, really). The core attributes are: primarily boarding, academically excellent (non-therapeutic), with a healthy community, great (often unique) extracurriculars, financial strength and a wonderful faculty. Beyond those basics, schools don’t appear (or not appear) based on statistical differences like admit rate. I’m a Thacher booster because the school is mentioned less frequently than the big, brand names, even though it is a diamond among gems!
Below is the last appearance of the listing. If you believe a school should be added, it’s up to you, a la Wikipedia, to write the entry and then republish the list.
(drmaQueen) My Dau is attending Asheville School... rising 6th form... it's been a great experience.
Rigorous academics... Tight community... Beautiful campus.
Berkshire School MA
nestled into the base of a mountain, has a fantastic "mountain program" that takes advantage of the natural setting of the school (including a maple syrup corporation, back country skills, rock climbing, mountain biking, etc.). Big into sustainability. Excellent advanced math/science research program (2 Intel semi-finalists in last two years) and a new math-science building will be ready in late 2012. Strong ice hockey program. Smallish size--just under 400 students. Genuinely nice feel to the school; the Head and faculty seem to care very much about the whole child.
Blair Academy NJ
Welcome to Blair Academy
Blairstown, northwest NJ close to Appalachian Trail and Delaware Water Gap)
Welcome to Blair Academy Beautiful hilltop campus with most buildings and athletic facilities new or recently renovated. Challenging academics for academically talented students. Good college matriculation. Many leadership opportunities. They have a range of students and offer a range to courses. Faculty/student relationships are very close. The faculty sits down to discuss every student 5 times a year.
While founded in 1848, this school used to be run by Presbyterian ministers whose agenda was different from many boarding schools. Around 30 or so years ago, the school was restructured to a standard board of trustees. The trustees hired a great Headmaster who has been there for more than 20 years. I think 3 of the trustees are among the Forbes 400. Changes were made to how the school operates, and an ambitious plan was launched to upgrade or build new facilities which just finished. It is an up and coming school now. Most parents love the school. Last year there was 81% participation in the Parents Fund, which is an impressive record.
Brooks School MA
N. Andover, MA. On a lake. Top notch facilities, great study abroad programs, prestigious internships in the Boston tech/medical sectors.
Chatham Hall | A Virginia Girls Boarding School
All girls--80% boarding
Beautiful campus in rural Chatham, Virginia.
Strong international influence.
Rigorous academics & athletics
Strong honor code
Large endowment & scholarship program
Colorado Rocky Mountain School CO www.crmsorg
An amazing little school in an even more amazing setting. No boarding school has a view like it! Only 20 miles north of Aspen, the potential for skiing and outdoor adventure is unique among boarding schools. The curriculum/faculty is strong (attracts outdoorsy teachers). My youngest sister graduated in 2006 and had an extraordinary experience…she even moved back to Carbondale after college! A very neat school for kids looking for a different experience from the norm but still looking for great academics and a warm community.
Culver Academies IN
well known in the midwest, less so in the east - good size, great academics, sports, and arts - 20% international students - fully integrated humanities curriculum (english + history), working on increasing the interaction between the science and math departments, block system has given my student the time to dig deeply into subjects. Horsemanship program for both boys and girls (costs extra if you want to do it, but it's there). Each dorm has a full time counselor in addition to dorm parent, serving as the primary advisor to the student and hand-holder to the parent. Leadership program: Military for the boys, Prefect system for the girls. The leadership program is real, backed up with curriculum and practical experience. The parts of the leadership program that my student talks about - taking direction from your peers, giving directions to your peers (including your friends), interviewing for the higher positions, responsibility for finishing a job - strike me as things that will translate pretty well to the workplace. Beautiful lake-front campus, and big support from alumni.
Emma Willard School
(emjay805) I think a great school that would qualify as a hidden gem is Emma Willard School. I think the fact that it's not in Connecticut or Massachusetts like the majority of all-girls schools, it's great faculty-student relationships, architecture, and student population make it a great school and it's sad that not many students have heard of it.
It's a great school that doesn't have the type of snob feel that many other boarding schools do have around it. It's like the "low-key" boarding school if I were to categorize it, not in it's academics, but in the fact that the student population is so diverse, ethnically and socioeconomically and the students enjoy that.
Episcopal High School VA
Episcopal High School
DC Metro Area
Great close-knit community because it is 100% boarding and is right across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. Every Wednesday afternoon, the kids go into Washington for cultural experiences - no extra fees. I think when I visited they had just watched Cirque du Soleil. The campus is gorgeous with a new arts and athletic center they just built. For senior year, many of the students have internships with people in Washington for first-hand experience. The teachers and staff are very caring and the classes are small yet rigorous The school is putting tremendous focus on expanding their applicant pool into New England, so expect acceptance rate to go down in the future.
430 students in the school, but no one slips through the cracks. Formal dress for class and sit-down lunches plus assembly chapel 3x week, and students take the honor code seriously. Strong visual arts programs (especially digital arts and ceramics), strong foreign languages including a SYA option which sends students to italy, France, Spain or Austria. School spirit is really strong, and many of the athletic teams are contenders year after year. Kids there are really happy and love their school.
Governor's Academy MA
The Governor's Academy
Under-recognized medium sized school. Oldest BS in operation. State of the art facilities. Dorms are smaller and intimate (i.e. fewer students per building). Supportive FA for middle class families, strong dedicated support for international students including English as Second Language. Has an international exchange program. Highly supportive of students and families. Parent participation is highly encouraged. Students are a name not a number and don't get "lost" in the system. Is not a "sink or swim" experience. Rigor is strong enough for top schools.
The Hill School (Pottstown PA)
The Hill was founded in 1851. It provides a unique family learning experience for the college bound student. Virtually all Hill faculty members live in residence halls with the students. Students have a great degree of interaction with faculty at meals and in the residence halls. Hill has a more formal dress code and a formal seated lunch every day. The entire student body has lunch together in the Dining Hall with faculty advisors at each table. The Hill is 76%/24% boarding/day students. Students come from 27 states and 20 foreign countries. Students matriculate at the top colleges in the country. Hill is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League. The website is The Hill School- private college preparatory boarding school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania
Holderness school (Plymouth NH)
Holderness is the most welcoming campus we visited this year; everywhere we went people were saying hello to us and asking if we liked it. The school has an excellent ski/snowboard program but isnt just about athletics unlike other ski academys. On revisit day I was paired with a girl from my town and middle school who was extremely kind and willing to answer all my questions. The campus is gorgeous and they are currently building two new dorms for the upcoming school year so it's an 8:1 student-faculty ratio.
Indian Springs School AL
Co-educational 8th through 12th grade school focused on intense academics with small class sizes. Although a small school (270) there is considerable depth in math, AP courses, and 90% of faculty with advanced degrees. ISS is able to seek resources and individual programming to meet the needs and interests of the students. Nearly 50% sing in the school choir. 30% boarding, 2010 SAT average 1970. Provides merit scholarships.
Memphis University School** TN
all-male, traditional prep school that produces many of the people who run the South. FedEx CEO, Autozone CEO, Paypal Co-Founder, etc...
Millbrook School NY
Millbrook School ~ Millbrook School, a coeducational boarding school in Millbrook, NY
~ Millbrook School, a coeducational boarding school in Millbrook, NY
Let me put it like this - their physics teacher went to Cambridge, they've had the same headmaster for 20 years, and they have a campus zoo! Almost the entire campus was renovated in 2008, and their facilities rival that of nearby Hotchkiss and Kent.
I was also pleasantly surprised by how warm the student body was, and how everyone seemed to LOVE Millbrook. I would recommend it to everyone! This school is really serious about community service and works hard to be more green and sustainable. Kids who would get lost at a bigger school often thrive under all the personal atterntion here.
Northfield Mount Hermon MA
Home | Northfield Mount Hermon
HUGE campus, very progressive educational philosophy; Head, Heart & Hand. Exceptional website and promotional materials. Strong emphasis on the arts, international education (both in terms of study abroad programs & the % of internationals in the students body). PGs--strong in many athletics, competes against HADES schools and the other large prep schools like Lville, etc.
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Beautiful rural campus, yet close to Boston, Providence, Hartford. Strong Athletics & academics. Great community feel. Unique Digital Arts programs, and significant commitment to the arts in education. Incoming Head a longtime Dean at St. George's and an Andover fac brat from childhood. Highly regarded.
Peddie School NJ
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NJ A low-acceptance school with awesome academics and sports, yet not "snobby". For the academics, they have an unrivaled science center (in my opinion) with a DNA splicing lab, and teachers with life experiences that many will never get. Math, history, English, and language courses are great as well. For sports, they are also great (their crew, basketball, and swimming win constant awards). Their matriculation includes Ivies, GW, Georgetown, etc.
Randolph-Macon Academy VA
S is a junior boarder at the co-ed Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA) and has had more opportunities than I ever dreamed. First, the academics have been top-notch. S has discovered a love of anatomy through his terrific anatomy teacher. When S first enrolled at R-MA, he absolutely hated studying a foreign language and now is completing his fourth year (at a college level course) and has persuaded his class to continue with a fifth year. School has many AP (and Honors) courses, so cirriculum is about as rigorous as you want to make it.
Leadership is very important, as R-MA has a Jr. Air Force ROTC program. S is in a leadership position where he is responsible for a "flight" of boys. I think it gives him a taste of what it's like to be a parent in that he performs room inspections and counsels boys on behavior.
R-MA is a small school, class size ranges from 8-15 students. S has played varisty football (only started at R-MA), run track, participated in an exchange program with students from a "sister" school in England, and is now learning to fly a plane.
I think best of all is that he's learned to appreciate the wisdom of adults. R-MA has a mentoring program, plus he's really connected with many of his teachers. Price-wise, I haven't done a lot of comparison, but for tuition, room and board it runs around $30K/year. (2011)
St. Andrew's School, Delaware
Ops wrote: SAS advocate here and willing to answer to the best of my abilities any questions from a parent's perspective. My family was traditionally all NE boarding schools and it wasn't until I learned that my father in-law attended SAS did I even hear of the school. I started checking the school's website two years before my oldest could apply. The more I read, the more impressed I became with the school. Someone once remarked to me "anyone who knows anything about boarding schools, knows about St. Andrew's". I've seen and experienced so much of the boarding school scene but I have never witnessed such cohesiveness between the student body and the faculty that I have seen at St. Andrew's. The academics certainly are challenging and their college matriculation list speaks for itself. Tad Roach is the epitome of a headmaster, an educator, leader, thinker, writer. St. Andrew's is a quite little gem that provides exceptional inspiration and challenges to the students lucky enough to attend. For those looking for a small excellent boarding school, I strongly recommend St. Andrew's School. Please check out the website and the new admissions video. St Andrew's School, Delaware
St. Marks School MA
Setting: suburban Massachusetts, near Boston and Cambridge.
80% boarding, 20% day
Languages, Classical and Modern: Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, Chinese (starting in Sept., 2011)
Affiliated with the Episcopalian church. Saturday classes. "Neat casual" dress code. Financial aid awarded upon the basis of need. Admissions decisions are made separately from financial aid decisions.
Saint Mark's School, Southborough, MA
Solebury School PA
Solebury School: Home
A small, quirky, homey progressive school for self-directed kids who are interested in social justice. Although it doesn't have the fanciest facilities, there has been recent construction to update and improve the campus, and many of the teachers have been there for a long time. A true hidden gem, the school's theater teacher used to be the head of theater at NYU and Lakers center Andrew Bynum also attended the school.
Tabor Academy MA
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Gorgeous campus, right on the water. Outstanding marine biology program.
Taft School CT
The Taft School
Medium sized, academically competitive school. Long term headmasters (i.e. low turnover) Good financial stewardship (according to charity navigator) and healthy endowment. Good FA consideration for middle class families. Consortium school for SYA. State of the Arts gym, science and math facilities. Large library. Strong Arts program (dance, visual arts, performance arts, digital/video). Routinely schedules travel for students (and parents) out of the country. In the last year, took 35 students to South Africa, 70 students (dance, jazz and chamber music) to the Czech Republic. Choir touring Italy over the summer, Video student travel world to shoot independent film each summer. Best asset - every parent and student is a name not a number. Every staff member knows every student and no one gets "lost in the system." When you call for information, you're treated like one of the "family" (not a donor). Proactive with student intervention. IS NOT a sink or swim school. Lives up to its reputation "Taft takes care of its own."
Thacher School CA
240 students, especially close, happy & healthy community, school code is “lived” everywhere and everyday: Honor, Fairness, Kindness & Truth // a culture and love of learning with outstanding professors (70% + with advanced degrees) and incredibly close student-faculty relationships // unique and celebrated connection between the classroom and the natural world including the horse program (the only one of its kind in the U.S.), extended camping trips, adventuring of all sorts // fantastic sports programs with routine regional and state achievement and huge emphasis on sportsmanship // stunning 400+ acre, southern California campus in Ojai, CA (photographed to represent Shangri-La in the 1939 movie, The Lost Horizon) at the base of the Topa Topa mountains, nestled among orange and avocado groves, stunning views, exceptional weather // top-notch college admissions (Ivy + LAC + Stanford/MIT + other great schools), admission rate 13%, SSAT >90%, highest yield of any boarding school or college in the U.S. 82%+, a powerhouse with a heart!
A friend of ours found Tilton to be a great find for a small school, 300 students. It's a few miles north of Concord in NH. The campus is in the town of Tilton which is great for the students to walk to. They built new academic buildings in 07. The campus has a mix of grand old and modern. Kids seem very happy there. They also have a diverse international student population.
Trinity-Pawling School NY
Traditional Boys school known for athletics and program for students with learning disabilities. What's less known is that the school limits the number of LD students to no more than 20% of the school population. Students run the gamut of academic ability; some go on to top LACs and occasionally the Ivies, some head for vocational training. Strong sense of school spirit, beautiful campus.
United World Colleges International
UWC | UWC
International collection of very hidden gems. Only one of them is in the US, but all of them are multinational. UWC - UWC-USA | UWC. At Brown University there a lot of students who went to these high schools, (who are fiercely loyal to the schools). In part there are a lot of students at Brown from UWC because they are very well prepared, and in part because there apparently are some form of full scholarships to Brown for UWC grads who are qualified.
Western Reserve Academy OH
Western Reserve Academy
Great school in Hudson, OH. It is between Akron and Cleveland. Beautiful town. Campus looks like small college.From its Website: Founded in 1826 as a preparatory school for Western Reserve College, Western Reserve Academy is one of the oldest boarding schools in the nation and the premier school of its kind in the Midwest. WRA offers a challenging curriculum that prepares our 390 students for future academic success - and for leading purposeful, fulfilling lives. Attending WRA is a transformational experience, where students learn to strive for excellence, live with integrity and act with compassion.
Westminster School CT
This has always been fine school with outstanding facilities (the theatre is a jewel; there is an incredible squash pavillion, swimming pool and playing fields) save for the academic building (where most classes were held), which had been somewhat cramped, dated and overlooked in the school's recent development.
That has all changed now with the recently opened "Academic Center", a breathtaking and expansive building that has brought into line that most essential element of a school -- its academics! An expanded libray is incorporated into one of the center's wings. Applicant's are going to be very attracted to this school! More developments include possibly building a new dining hall on the site of the old academic building.
Bill Phillip is the new headmaster, replacing Graham Cole who did much to strengthen Westminster's quality and image -- one that had been pretty, damn good to begin with -- and whose legacy includes guiding through the new academic center's completion, from start to finish. Mr. Phillip will, no doubt, continue the upward trajectory.
Grab this school while you can!
Westtown School: Home
I was glad to see Westtown restored to the list. I am the graduate of public schools, my kids are public school (except when living abroad) educated. Private school is not in our price zone and we are fortunate to have access to excellent public schools.
HOWEVER, I have a friend who teaches at Westtown and has taught at several of the better known prep schools. We have visited Westtown and felt sad that it is beyond the reach for our daughter financially although she is an excellent student. It is one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen. The kids are uniformly friendly and respectful to teachers and visitors.
Our friend thinks that Westtown is the best school he has taught at because:
1. truly intellectual environment.
2. quaker values and traditions.
3. the kids are kind, respectful and fun...unlike his experience at some of the schools that are not "hidden" gems (but have been brought up ad naseum on this forum) where he found there was too frequently a culture of cut-throat competition, arrogance and entitlement.
Westover School CT
All girls prestigous boarding school in Central-West CT. WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) Program and strong Dance/Arts (Manhattan School of Arts Program).
Beautiful Campus, Strong endowment. Excellent Integration of Day students and warm environment for 200 girls
Williston Northampton School MA
The Williston Northampton School
Like a college campus, virtually adjacent to the small town of Easthampton, which is a real plus as kids have access to the small town of Easthampton as well as having access to all the culture and colleges in nearby Northampton. WN offers a well-rounded curriculum and has a friendlier, more down-to-earth feel than some the New England prep schools. It's challenging but allows students to explore more interests. Definitely a "hidden gem."
(yan19454) My son went to Woodberry Forest school. caring faculties , devoted parents, tight community. If you google woodberry forest football game, you will know what I mean.
Worcester Academy MA
Worcester, MA is a day/boarding school, very unique urban setting, diverse student body, excellent sports,arts, fabulous leadership and extracurricular ops. Its We the People team has won state competition two years in row and they are off to nationals. Its Math team has won state comp 5 of 6 yrs in row and are going for 7th. Great place for all kinds of kids.
Unique boarding and day school in Central Mass. Check it out! Rigorous academics, long tradition of athletics, wonderful arts programs. Warm, welcoming, diverse community.
Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School
Preschool to 12
My son is attending Wyoming Seminary in September. He received a tuition scholarship to attend.
Seminary is located in Kingston, Pa and is a small boarding program of 200 students+day= 400 students. Traditional program, very old school. Strong in athletics (football, ice hockey, women's field hockey, lacrosse). Also very strong program in theatre arts with new arts building under construction. 20% international students.