(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.