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What's the knock on these schools?

jjs123jjs123 Posts: 58Registered User Junior Member
edited November 2012 in Prep School Admissions
The information on the boards about schools is rich but tends toward the exclusively positive. No school is perfect - each has its own strengths and weaknesses, its own warts and areas for improvement. We've gather all the positives on the following schools, and these are the ones we are most interested in. Can anyone provide the knock on any of these schools keeping in mind that these are our favorites? Not looking for a savaging of these schools that are all great in our view, but we are looking for realism & balance:
Groton
St. Andrew's
St. Mark's
Lawrenceville
Middlesex
St. Paul's

Thanks

P.S. Feel free to PM if you aren't comfortable saying publicly.
Post edited by jjs123 on
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Replies to: What's the knock on these schools?

  • mountainhikermountainhiker Posts: 801Registered User Member
    What is a "plus" in one person's opinion can be a "minus" for someone else. On paper, St. Marks was a great fit for our DS. When he visited, he did not like the "all under one roof" layout of the school. He found the feel of the building to be claustrophobic, and took it off his list. Other students absolutely love the fact that you move from class to class without ever going outside, especially during cold winter months.
  • jjs123jjs123 Posts: 58Registered User Junior Member
    Thanks for the SMS perspective, mountainhiker. Agreed that one person's heaven can be another's hell. :)
  • opsops Posts: 810Registered User Member
    Pm'd you. 10 characters.
  • UKgirl23UKgirl23 Posts: 2,922Registered User Senior Member
    I was having a tour yesterday with just me and the student guide, when she started pointing out smoking spots and asked me if I smoked! That shocked me a bit, and probably put me off the school a bit too, and I'm sure there are a lot of schools that still have quite a heavy smoking/drinking atmosphere.
  • AxelrodAxelrod Posts: 663Registered User Member
    St.Paul's & Lawrenceville are great schools, but have very different atmospheres. Groton has had highly publicized issues in the not to distant past & has barrack type accommodations for the younger students. St.Mark's had, not sure about now, a very active drug scence, and, accordingly, was a very mellow school. I don't really know enough about Middlesex other than it's well respected. Research St. Andrew's over the past few years. Something negative was in the press, but I cannot recall the details.
    All are great schools offering outstanding instruction. Probably would not send an 8th or 9th grader to Groton, however.
  • SevenDadSevenDad Posts: 2,489Registered User Senior Member
    A couple of thoughts on SAS:

    - SAS lacks a "star" Science Center and associated tech doodads. So no DNA sequencer. No solar telescope. And, as far as I know, they do not have a robot team. Some people care about these things.

    - For that matter, to most people's eyes, SAS lacks a "star" building in the vein of Exeter's library, Choate's art center, etc. I happen to find Founders Hall at SAS extremely impressive, but then again, I'm the dad that's still pushing his kids to write handwritten notes. ;-P

    - Because of the size of the school, there are fewer performing arts options. I'm thinking here primarily of the acapella groups...the larger schools have multiple groups whereas SAS only has Noxontones (if we don't count the semi-official "Tad Off-Tones").

    - Because of the size of the school, there are fewer course options. So the course catalog isn't going to be as thick as someplace like Andover because they simply don't have the number of kids to support either ultra-ultra-high level math/science classes (like the kind that only 2% of the population would even understand) ora similar breadth of niche electives.

    - Looking at sheer numbers/percentages, the SAS college matric might seem weak to some. It doesn't send 20% to the HYP, MIT+ Stanford group. I think this matters to more people than will admit. That said, I know they've sent kids to HYP+S in the recent past. Their placement is certainly good enough for me, and I went to a non-HYP Ivy back in the day.

    - It's in Delaware. I personally don't think this is a "knock" but I know many do. To which I ask "Have you been to the thriving metropolis that is Lakeville, CT lately?

    - Small school could result in more limited social opportunities. I say COULD, because I doubt someone graduates from a school of 1000+ having more close friends than someone from a school of under 300.
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Posts: 2,594Registered User Senior Member
    I don't think there's an "active drug scene" at St. Mark's. Perhaps twenty years ago? Today, they do expel kids for substance use. It's a sanctuary school, which means students can claim sanctuary for themselves or a friend. This shields them from being expelled, and is thought to make it easier for students to report dangerous behavior. It gives kids a second chance (monitored, restrictions and therapy second chance.) A second incident has more severe consequences. I should note that they're firm on substance penalties, but they're even stricter on honor code violations (lying, cheating, etc.)

    The school does have a warmer, less pressured feeling than some other schools. It's small enough that interested students can try out thongs. The students do not all dress as if from the same catalog. Some students find serious interests in the arts while at St. Mark's. I suppose it is more mellow than some other schools, in part because they aren't all trying to Go Ivy.

    St. Mark's places emphasis on preparing students for lives of service and character. I'm afraid I agree with the importance of living one's ideals. Thus, I refuse to gossip about other schools.

    Visit. Fit will be obvious to you and your child. Listen to your child. If you are so fortunate as to have choices to make in March, go to all Revisit Days. Ask probing questions at that time of the other parents, students and faculty. I was a true pest at a school my kid didn't choose in the end. You will be stunned by the honesty of the answers you may receive in person. Above all, listen to your child and your gut.
  • AxelrodAxelrod Posts: 663Registered User Member
    St. Mark's had a major drug bust within the last 5 years, not 20 years ago. Probably pot, but I don't recall the details. Regardless, St. Mark's is more laid-back than most elite New England prep-boarding schools. Visit before deciding for all boarding schools.
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Posts: 2,594Registered User Senior Member
    You may be thinking of St. George's or Phillips Andover Academy.
  • jjs123jjs123 Posts: 58Registered User Junior Member
    We will be sizing up fit touring the six schools and, if fortunate enough to be accepted, revisiting when the time comes. Part of what I'm looking for is things you don't know until you are already committed and attending, things you wish you had known.

    Thanks to all for the feedback thus far. 7Dad - I appreciate the huge hunk of feedback. It is especially gratifying to get a full picture including knocks from someone who is a big backer of the school.

    Thanks.
  • SevenDadSevenDad Posts: 2,489Registered User Senior Member
    Oh wait, here are a few more possible downsides of SAS...

    - No internet in dorm rooms. Yes, you read that correctly. Not even ethernet cables. For that you have to go to one of the common rooms.

    - No phones in dorm rooms. Not such a big deal in this age of cellular phones, but worth mentioning.

    - SAS dorms are dated and adequate, nothing like the new dorms at Choate. But as I've noted before, it's not like SevenDaughter was sleeping in the Taj at our house. This may be the biggest "knock" I've heard from parents who've visited.

    - Fairly strict "no cell phones" in public policy. I think they are trying to fight the good fight against the "always be texting/tweeting/status updating" mindset of the younger generation.

    - Jacket & Tie Dress Code for boys, with similar guidelines (cardigans or blazers) for girls.
  • AxelrodAxelrod Posts: 663Registered User Member
    Periwinkle: I was thinking of St. Mark's, but I could be wrong. Regardless drugs are around at most high schools. if I could edit my earlier post, I would.
  • EnragedCamelEnragedCamel Posts: 43Registered User Junior Member
    I'm a current 11th grader at St. Mark's. You can PM me if you want.
  • WillemSWillemS Posts: 82Registered User Junior Member
    Let me just say that almost ALL boarding schools are going to have an "active drug scene". I'm a freshman in boarding school, and I know that drinking, smoking, etc. are common among students, especially because many students are rich and can afford to buy anything they want. I know many parents want to believe that they are sending their child to a safe bubble, but drugs, alcohol (and especially sex-it's a bunch of teens living together, let's be honest) are rampant. That being said, I love my boarding school experience so far, but I just thought this needed to be said, as many parents seem woefully ignorant.
  • 2kidsnoanswers2kidsnoanswers Posts: 555Registered User Member
    I'd like to back Willem up on this, as a parent. It seems that all of the above are available for those intent on seeking them out any *any* high school....public school in a wealthy/middle class/poor area, private day school, boarding school. Each student decides what is for them and what is not. There in no such thing as a perfectly safe bubble. The good news is that, at least as far as I can tell, each kid's choices are respected among their peers in the boarding environment. Those that abuse the rules are well aware of what they are doing, and do get caught on a regular basis.
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