right arrow
Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
We have changed the way we log in on College Confidential. Read more here.

Help up find smaller, rigorous, non brand name schools.

ANewPathANewPath 3 replies4 threads New Member
Looking for suggestions for smaller schools outside the usual big names (the ones with acronyms!) that fulfill these criteria:

-Size (400-600 kids total)

-Approach (academically rigorous but not pressure cooker/grade obsessed)

-Reputation (kind of flies under the radar for most applicants)

-Location (within 2 hour drive of Boston Logan and within walking distance to a small town/has regular shuttle to a nearby city).

-High on parent's want list: Minimal amount of snobbery/cliques. Diversity is great, but more important are kids and teachers with an open mind.

-High on kid's list: NO Saturday classes.

We are an overseas, full paying family. SSAT above 90% and grades match up. STEM kid/decent athlete.

Thanks!
38 replies
· Reply · Share
«1

Replies to: Help up find smaller, rigorous, non brand name schools.

  • CaliMexCaliMex 1840 replies34 threads Senior Member
    I'd start by checking out Tabor, Millbrook, Middlesex, Governor's, Brewster, St. George, and Berkshire, which meet some of your criteria. (Don't know of any school that meets absolutely ALL of your criteria.)
    St. Andrew's School in Delaware is near a major airport, but not Boston (near Philadelphia, Baltimore, Wash DC).
    If you're willing to go smaller and send your child to the West Coast, highly recommend both Thacher and Cate. Very little snobbery and extraordinarily strong cultures of kindness.
    · Reply · Share
  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 292 replies5 threads Junior Member
    George (quaker school) In PA and Northfield Mount Hermon in MA. We loved that school. I think it checks all of your boxes, except it is 650 kids - a smidge larger.

    Cate has Saturday classes about half the time. Not sure about any other schools on that metric. Kiddo doesn’t mind them at all, fwiw. They sound worse than they are.
    · Reply · Share
  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 301 replies9 threads Member
    Swap out Middlesex which is an *extreme* pressure cooker and put in Concord Academy. High academic standards but not pressure cooker. Very diverse, inclusive community. In concord center (cute new england town with plenty for a teenager who also will need to study). CA really fits your criteria more smoothly than most of the schools in the area.

    · Reply · Share
  • CTMom21CTMom21 479 replies2 threads Member
    Suffield Academy in CT — north of Hartford and easily accessible to an international airport, and probably < 2 hours to Boston. I have a couple of friends with kids there who love it. Good sports. In a small town; I don’t know if or how often kids get to Hartford or Boston.

    Williston-Northampton School in MA — Just north of Springfield, MA and in a small town, and < 2 hours from Boston. It was recommended to us but we didn’t explore it since DS was interested in all-boys.

    I would guess both these schools have at least some Saturday classes but otherwise they fit your criteria.
    · Reply · Share
  • HarrietMWelschHarrietMWelsch 2560 replies31 threads Senior Member
    The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Breaks your time to Boston rule (more like 3.5 hours), but it's less than a half-hour's drive from NYC, and students can walk from campus to the commuter train line into NYC.

    It meets all of your other criteria.
    · Reply · Share
  • Golfgr8Golfgr8 1150 replies20 threads Senior Member
    Hey you all, the OP stated that they were looking for a school within 2 hours of Boston/Logan. The OP also stated they were an overseas family. Taking into consideration Boston/Logan perhaps for overseas flights? There is a regular flight from Europe into Hartford (Air Lingus)
    * St Marks School
    * Concord Academy
    * Governor’s Academy
    * Brooks
    * Lawrence Academy
    * Pomfret School (you can fly into Boston or Providence)
    * Suffield Academy (you can fly into Hartford on a couple overseas airlines)
    · Reply · Share
  • cinnamon1212cinnamon1212 539 replies6 threads Member
    A kid testing above the 90th percentile with similar grades . . . I think this kid would not be challenged at one of the less rigorous schools. My son, who *tested* similarly but didn't have the grades due to figuring out how to do school with ADHD *thrived* at such a school (Millbrook). He would have been crushed by a more "elite" school. But he had a lot to deal with.

    If your child doesn't have a learning difference, I would focus on schools where the student population is similar to your child. And within that group, find one that fits best (less pressure cooker, smaller, etc).
    · Reply · Share
  • Golfgr8Golfgr8 1150 replies20 threads Senior Member
    Agree with @cinnamon1212 @ Millbrook - plus they have their own zoo at the school and many service opportunities there!

    Are you looking also at all-boys or all-girls schools?
    · Reply · Share
  • cinnamon1212cinnamon1212 539 replies6 threads Member
    Ha ha @Golfgr8 although I *love* Millbrook, I am not sure it's a good fit for the OP's child. I would say the same possibly about Berkshire as well.

    I don't know the culture, but what about a school like Groton?
    · Reply · Share
  • Golfgr8Golfgr8 1150 replies20 threads Senior Member
    The OP stated that they don’t want a “pressure cooker” and they don’t want Saturday classes....Hmmm?? Does it have to be in the greater Boston area, OP? There are great schools within 2 hours of other major airports with international flights.
    · Reply · Share
  • prepschool172882prepschool172882 13 replies2 threads Junior Member
    What is an example of an snobby school?
    · Reply · Share
  • doschicosdoschicos 21585 replies226 threads Senior Member
    I, too, think Concord Academy is worth a look.
    · Reply · Share
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5983 replies10 threads Senior Member
    Is Boston because of family in the area? If that's the case, NMH would be one of my top picks. This one has long been a fave of Foregn Service families.

    If you want proximity to airports but can break the Boston rule, I would suggest George School. Pretty much checks all the boxes. Really lovely, diverse, inclusive community. Excellent academics (and IB is a plus if your child wants to entertain non U.S. universities.)

    Realizing @CateCAParent and I seem to be on the same wavelength...

    · Reply · Share
  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 292 replies5 threads Junior Member
    Well, that’s a compliment! 😜
    · Reply · Share
  • ANewPathANewPath 3 replies4 threads New Member
    Thank you all for the suggestions! It's refreshing to see different schools.

    We do like CA a lot (ticks all our boxes) and are actually wondering if there are more schools in that mold.

    Boston because it's an international airport easily reachable from our far away home, and because it is not as big as NYC, and yes we have family.

    Was looking at the other schools mentioned here, and really liked St. Andrews, George and Cate (of course, all not within 2 hours driving from Boston!)

    · Reply · Share
  • ANewPathANewPath 3 replies4 threads New Member
    one1ofeach wrote: »
    Swap out Middlesex which is an *extreme* pressure cooker and put in Concord Academy. High academic standards but not pressure cooker. Very diverse, inclusive community. In concord center (cute new england town with plenty for a teenager who also will need to study). CA really fits your criteria more smoothly than most of the schools in the area.

    Can you explain the extreme pressure cooker reputation of Middlesex? Is it a kid you know or ... ?
    · Reply · Share
  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 301 replies9 threads Member
    @ANewPath Middlesex 10 years ago was a more mild version of groton but has been working hard to grow into its own as a school. One of the by products of this is an extreme focus on academics similar to Groton Exeter Andover.

    I know kids at the school (some very good friends) and both my kids were accepted so I’ve been to two revisit days. Quote from revisit day “we purposefully give the kids more work than they can handle to force them into prioritizing.” From a mom whose kid is there now “stressed out of her mind.”

    I think it somehow still has the “more mild” reputation but it is not. If you don’t want a pressure cooker it’s not the place for you. Similarly to the other schools I mentioned the faculty is kind and caring but the academics are uber rigorous and there is too much work for any kid to handle smoothly.

    I also know kids at CA right now and I get a very different story. Highschool is an extreme step up for most kids but the CA kids have a ramp vs a boulder to get up their first semester.
    · Reply · Share
  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1545 replies13 threads Senior Member
    OP, I would take some of these comments with a grain of salt. All of the schools listed are good schools. Middlesex is not a "pressure cooker" We know of kids who went there and some who are students now and it's not an extreme school in terms of academics. Many types of kids. Likewise, Concord Academy is not less of a pressure cooker than Middlesex ( though it is very very different). Though I would not use that term for either school. There are kids at all NE BS who are intensely focused on their academics.
    @cinnamon1212 To say that a kid with scores above 90% wouldn't be challenged at these schools is incorrect. My kid got a 99% SSAT with zero test prep and is thriving at one of the schools mentioned in the thread above academically, socially and athletically. And challenged in every area.

    So, OP please don't fall into the trap that there are only certain schools which can challenge a bright kid. The schools are educating the whole student. And most parents want balance. Believe me, I am currently trying to sort this out with #2 and trying to get a kid to focus on the overall experience isn't easy.

    Not all of the schools mentioned have the right "balance" but many of those mentioned can fit your criteria. One of the things OP can do is reach out to people on CC via DM and ask direct questions about their schools. Also read the brochures and curriculum very carefully. The head of school usually has videos online. Watch them. Some schools also have facebook pages or twitter feeds ( read them). You will see what the school values. Also look at the speakers they bring in. Are the talks about topics your kid would value?
    If your kid has a strong interest in a particular field, look at that department closely and kick the tires. Many schools we found said they had a great art department and yet had not won any awards and the work by students wasn't good. Some were really strong in theater but not music. Know what your kid is likely to explore.
    And you must visit. The campus is one of the most important things to see. Even the layout is important to kids.
    · Reply · Share
  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 301 replies9 threads Member
    Well, I guess that's why visiting yourself and asking a lot of questions is really important. Different people have different experiences of the same school.

    I would agree with @cinnamon1212, my kid with higher SSAT scores would struggle to be happy in the classroom at some of the schools mentioned. Even in a class of 10 there is a pace that the teacher can go at and unless your kid is very very chill they may end up being bored at a slower pace.
    · Reply · Share
  • CaliMexCaliMex 1840 replies34 threads Senior Member
    What about Tabor?
    · Reply · Share
Sign In or Register to comment.

Recent Activity