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Question on "second tier" schools

twinsmamatwinsmama Registered User Posts: 1,397 Senior Member
(FYI, I don't spend all my time obsessing about boarding schools; I'm just addicted to this forum! :-) )

The prevailing advice on this board is to cast a wide net and to consider the so-called second-tier schools. Those of us new to the boarding school world can be a little hazy on where the line is drawn between the "top" tier and "second" tier. Every school we looked at and a few more that we considered had extraordinary facilities and presumably provides a fine education. However, I think the main reason my son started us on this adventure was that he wanted to go to school among really smart kids who care about learning. I have some concern that a high percentage of students at "second-tier" schools may not fall into that category.

My children spend some time at a private elementary school where most of their fellow students could pay the full tuition and will be heading to private high schools, prestigious boarding schools among them. My kids' opinion (which of course may not be accurate) was that almost no one else in their class cared about learning. They refused to consider applying to the private HS that many of their former classmates will attend (unfortunate because it is a fine school).

So what's your take on this? My kids are by no means geniuses, but they are decidedly "gifted" to use the prevailing term. Their love of learning has taken a lot of dings over the years and survived. Now, I don't have any way to gauge the average intelligence or interest in learning of the students attending any school other than average SSAT scores and the like. So what is the experience like for kids with high-90s SSATs, etc., etc., at schools where the average score is in the 60s or 70s? I know it is good for college choice to be at the top of whatever school, but that is not as important to any of us as the experience of spending high school among other kids who love to learn.
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Replies to: Question on "second tier" schools

  • cameo43cameo43 Registered User Posts: 1,336 Senior Member
    I don't think it matters what "tier" the school is supposedly in. At EVERY school including the acronyms you will have some kids who are there for reasons other than having an intense desire to learn every day I.e., perhaps due to parental expectations. But the majority are there because they want to be. The kids who are super eager earners will naturally end up gravitating to one another. In a couple of the classes my kid sat in on during visits last year, she noticed a kid or two being goofy during class... But it was boys at coed schools, in both cases, likely in an attempt to impress the visiting girls. I think that generally, the kids who really want to go to prep school are usually good independent thinkers and learners. The classes are so small and often discussion based, so kids who really don't want to be there likely won't hang in there for long. There is plenty of collaboration, but the serious students will find their way, together and separately, and won't get blown off course or dragged down by kids who goof off. There is plenty of rigor at the hidden gem schools, and plenty of support for kids who struggle occasionally, as well as for those who want to push their academic limits further. My kid was a mostly A student but with an extremely low SSAT, and she is having a great freshman year. Different kids bring different things to the community. We chose her school over more selective schools that admitted her, because it was the right fit.
  • i70sbandi70sband Registered User Posts: 155 Junior Member
    ^+1000. @albion: Awesome post!
  • SevenDadSevenDad Registered User Posts: 4,085 Senior Member
    What i70sband said. A great post from a BS insider...
  • DaykidmomDaykidmom Registered User Posts: 560 Member
    Some family friends of ours have 2 daughters, one go whom is currently at a "2nd tier" school ( that does get mentioned on these boards), and the other of whom graduated from the same school a few years ago. They chose it because they lived close by, and didn't want the girls to board. Both girls are very good students; the older is now at Amherst College ( her first choice, got in ED). Both girls take almost all honors or AP classes (except when not offered). The parents definitely feel like the girls were challenged and had smart students in their class-- but say many of the other kids in the school are much less committed. Therefore, they end up with the same small group of good students in every class. The older one was totally fine with that; the younger "wishes she'd gone to a better school, just to have more serious kids around her." That's one totally anecdotal story, of course-- it's just one issue to consider.
  • twinsmamatwinsmama Registered User Posts: 1,397 Senior Member
    Thanks, all. @Albion, that was exactly what I needed to know. Thank you for taking the time to post. Yes, the intellectual culture is more important; I don't care what kids' standardized test scores are if they really care about learning and are willing to have their narrow little teenage minds blown open -- and if there are teachers who really care about teaching and who will open the windows for them. Not sure about those metaphors...I probably wouldn't do too well in high school English anymore! But luckily I don't have to write an essay now, just cook dinner.
  • PhotographerMomPhotographerMom Registered User Posts: 1,818 Senior Member
    @twinsmama- Works for me! :)
  • patronyorkpatronyork Registered User Posts: 439 Member
    edited March 2014
    Kids have different learning styles. Some prefer learning through stiff competition with peers that have stronger academic motivation as found in top schools. There are also people who think second tier schools can provide a better chance for top college once they excel there. Some are more mature at an earlier stage and some are slow starters.

    I know one kid with very strong qualification who was accepted to one of the top boarding schools, attended there and quit after one year. He wasn't happy, moved to the second tier school and was early-accepted at HYPSM this year. Another kid I know couldn't go to top school because he was a complete lack of academic motivation. He went to the 'third tier' , suddenly 'woke up', moved to top boarding school last year and is flying there. So, there are many factors.

    In general, it is true that thee are higher percentage of the kids with strong academic motivation at top schools. But second tier schools do have such kids for various reasons. College matriculation stats support that.
  • moosiechica88moosiechica88 Registered User Posts: 200 Junior Member
    @Albion - You hit the nail right on the head! Moosieboy could've easily held his own applying to all the "top tier" schools, and as an URM student, he would've probably gotten at least one if not more offers. But it so happened that his DREAM school was a small independent school, which has lower SSAT averages than the top tier schools, and he got in with a VERY generous FA award. It's an academically rigorous school, but it also values balance in all areas of life. Since my son is an athlete, a musician, and is actively involved in Mock Trial, a school which provided a higher academic challenge but allowed little time for the things he enjoys the most would probably break his spirit. My feeling is that fit is much more important than having the "prestige" of going to a top-tier school. If one's desire is to go to (or send your child to, in the case of parents) to a school that will challenge the student to do his or her best, there are plenty of non-acronym schools that will do just that. :)
  • MIT8989MIT8989 Registered User Posts: 30 Junior Member
    @ Albion .... Thank you so much for reaffirming my gut feelings when I visited these schools.... After seeing numerous Tier 1 schools , I prayed my son would not get into them and we would have to decide ... As I felt the tier 2 schools were the best fit for him... The AO's did great job in my opinion , as he got into the 2 that were the best fit and wait listed at the others. All of the schools have Tier 1 faculty who really care about teenagers and their lives or they would be in a traditional high school setting not in a boarding school setting.
  • classicalmamaclassicalmama Registered User Posts: 2,261 Senior Member
    Agree with all of the above...which leads me to think that your kids would very likely find a community of peers who want to learn at that local private high school. Kids who weren't taking things seriously in junior high often come around when college starts to loom. I went to a mid-sized private Catholic school where most of the kids were not honors students--but I met a core group of fun-loving, serious students who remain solid friends today. You don't need an entire school of overachievers to be happy--just enough serious students to fill most of a class is really enough to change the school experience.
  • BenleyBenley Registered User Posts: 1,643 Senior Member
    You don't need an entire school of overachievers to be happy--just enough serious students to fill most of a class is really enough to change the school experience.
    Agreed. Then I think it depends on what type of kid you are working with. If they themselves are over-achievers, they may seek out those like-minded, but if they need the positive influence of a peer group to become an over-achiever, then the majority or overall quality of the peer group matters. This is actually what's happening in many public schools. Only a fraction of kids are highly motivated there. As a result, many kids stay uninspired and feel satisfied by being one of the "above average". (Note: I am not comparing the "second tier" schools with public schools. I don't know which ones are "second tier" or what they are like. Trying to make a general point here)
  • twinsmamatwinsmama Registered User Posts: 1,397 Senior Member
    @classicalmama, The local private HS I mentioned is actually a boarding school that is occasionally mentioned here. I think it would suit my daughter very well, my son not so much (and he has a bias against it). My husband, who has had a lot of professional contact with the school, doesn't think it is "good enough," but then he was sure our son would get into Exeter... :-) But the main reason we didn't look into it this year was that my son, who was leading the charge, really wanted to board.

    My kids test at about the same level, but their brains work very differently and their approach to schoolwork differs on gender-typical lines; my son puts in almost no effort (still gets straight As), and my daughter adds effort that isn't necessarily required for her straight As. I would like to see what happens when my son is actually challenged, and I know he wants that too or he wouldn't have started this whole thing. I know my daughter will find a way to challenge herself no matter what, but she does occasionally lament the lack of serious thought/concerns/interests among her peers. In the ideal situation, their classes would be filled with like-minded students.

    Anyway, I'm pretty sure that they hurt each other's chances for admission, just by existing. :-)

    Thank you all very much for your comments!
  • CariarCariar Registered User Posts: 144 Junior Member
    I just read Loomis is second tier! It took me by surprise
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