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New England vs Mid Atlantic schools

ANewPathANewPath 5 replies6 threads New Member
I've come across comments on the board saying NE schools are different from Mid Atlantic schools. But no explanation/elaboration about the differences. What is meant by the differences here, apart from location? Is it the student body? The college matriculation? The size?

And CT schools such as Choate and Loomis, are they usually categorized as NE or Mid Atlantic?
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Replies to: New England vs Mid Atlantic schools

  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6127 replies10 threads Senior Member
    Choate and Loomis are in NE.

    Honestly, most schools have their own vibe regardless of location and sizes vary. Some have day students, some do not.

    George and Hill, both near each other in PA, are very different places in terms of vibe!

    But I do think that overall, the Middle Atlantic schools feel a little less competitive. It may be their proximity to so many excellent, but somewhat less selective, colleges that gives folks the feeling that the world won't end if they don't get into a top 10 school. (With that said, plenty of kids end up at many of the same colleges from all prep schools, especially the most selective ones.) It could be a regional difference in culture.

    At one point I saw a study that showed that a high percentage of students choose schools within 3 hours of home. I think that the BS tradition is stronger in NE (and there are more schools), so many NE families looking at BS don't consider ones in PA, DE, or NJ.

    For families who aren't looking for proximity (or can't!), these schools are often hidden gems.
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  • ThacherParentThacherParent 836 replies49 threads Member
    IMO, geography does not seem like a differentiating factor between NE and mid-Atlantic per se. Sure, the schools are different, but I don't think that has anything to do with those two geos; they're too close. Now, if you're comparing schools in the mid-Atlantic or NE to the South or the West, then the geo differences do begin to exert distinct and differentiating influences.
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  • TemperantiaTemperantia 282 replies0 threads Junior Member
    The biggest difference that I see is that the New England schools play in different sports leagues so they rarely interact with the mid-Atlantic schools so there is less familiarity if your focus is on one region or the other.
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1683 replies13 threads Senior Member
    @ThacherParent I'd respectfully say that most NE boarding school parents would never consider a non-NE BS. Strange but it is a thing that in NE, many families have sent their kids to BS for generations. And even if they don't all go to the same school, they usually go in NE. People in NE do not consider Mid-Atlantic to be close for BS. Many come up for weekends to see their kids play sports or to pick them up. Also, many have old connections to colleges in NE. While this is changing and kids are looking at broader geographies when considering college, many BS kids still end up at small LAC's.

    I'm not saying that they are very different, it's just that they aren't in the realm of what is considered.

    We know maybe 30 NE families whose kids are presently at BS. Not a single one is outside NE. And most, are all at the same handful of schools. Same for our family. 6 close family members and not a single one outside NE. Maybe we're an oddity but I don't think so. When I talk to other BS parents the same names come up all the time. Any one else see NE families being open to all schools? Maybe it will happen eventually?
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 527 replies13 threads Member
    edited December 2019
    Any one else see NE families being open to all schools? Maybe it will happen eventually?

    We don't know a ton of BS kids because that wasn't our world so my sample set is small :)

    Half the BS kids we know (5 kids) are outside of NE. They all applied to NE schools as well but weren't offered a spot so went midAtlantic/South. In hindsight, they probably applied to the wrong NE BS for their academic profiles. Those 5 are at either SAS or Episcopal.
    edited December 2019
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1683 replies13 threads Senior Member
    @one1ofeach That’s interesting. We know a lot who followed a sibling/parent ( legacy). We also know a lot who used sports as the lever to get in. I didn’t hear of anyone applying to non-NE BS, but we live in an area with many schools inside a 2-4 hour radius.
    Love to know if maybe our experience is unusual.
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  • ThacherParentThacherParent 836 replies49 threads Member
    edited December 2019
    @Happytimes2001 , also having a passing familiarity with NE boarding schools, mid-Atlantic boarding schools and, of course, Thacher in California, I am not shocked by your perspective; many hold it. Confirmation bias runs deep on this site for loads of parents and kids.

    It's totally fine to favor a NE decision for a million great reasons, just don't be fooled into thinking it is a better/worse calculus when making comparisons to schools in other geos.

    Like you, my worldview was purely SPS, SMS, PE, Groton, Choate etc - all neighbor powerhouses full of family alumni. Yet Thacher ended up being the unanimous choice. Sometime "over a beer," I can tell you why it was the best tuition money that we ever spent (and that includes private day schools and Ivy universities - we have three children). You don't know what you don't know! You should read @SevenDad's epic overview of how he and his daughter decided on a Delaware school. I like it because it shows a family determined to avoid "but we've always done it this way" thinking.
    edited December 2019
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  • Sue22Sue22 6438 replies115 threads Senior Member
    We know maybe 30 NE families whose kids are presently at BS. Not a single one is outside NE.

    I think one of the reasons for this is that we have so many top notch boarding schools in New England. I live in Massachusetts and there are fifteen traditional private high schools with boarding programs within an hour of my house, plus a few additional junior boarding schools and non-traditional BS. 20 of the top 34 BS's on Boarding School Review are in New England. Another 5 are in California, leaving only 9 for the rest of the country. The boarding school tradition is just deeper in the Northeast than the rest of the country.

    Of my daughter's class at a private K-8 about 20 ended up at schools with boarding, but they were spread among more than a dozen schools. Lots of different kinds of kids who could all find a match locally. Only one went outside New England, and that was to a specialized school.

    I do see SAS and Episcopal as popular schools for NE kids going outside the region. Thacher, Cate, and Lawrenceville are also on a lot of NE families' lists for kids who want to look a little farther afield.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6127 replies10 threads Senior Member
    My kid went to school in PA. He had classmates from NE, but not a lot. More from CA, I think, in terms of "further away" as well as the south. He also had friends who turned down "big name" NE schools in favor of being closer to home, friends at that school, an environment that was more diverse, etc.

    I understand why parents want to be relatively close if it's possible, and it is in most of NE. And if you can find what you're looking for close to home, why go further? I also understand the power of the familiar (even if it's just a familiar name) when you are talking about a relatively young not adult person, living away from home.

    With all that said, I think that there are a lot of kids who would have been happier had they landed at schools they never considered.







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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1683 replies13 threads Senior Member
    @ThacherParent Yes, agree. Did not mean to imply anywhere that BS outside NE were in any way inferior or second choices. I think there are loads of schools that should get more attention.
    I was really replying to your notion that NE and Mid Atlantic are the same geographically. That wouldn’t be the case for most people.
    Venturing out seems like an excellent idea and I think it will eventually happen.
    Thacher sounds like a place that people love and are fiercely protective of. That’s great.
    Do you know the New Yorker cartoon, New Yorkers view of the world? Well, I think it’s a bit like that. What you value tends to appear bigger than it is. Would be funny to see various versions based in each boarding school.
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  • Sue22Sue22 6438 replies115 threads Senior Member
    I don't really think it has to do with perceived value or quality. I think it's just a matter of proximity. Unless something is so much better that it's worth the hassle of flights and only being able to come home at holidays most families are going to choose the local or semi-local option. It's not just that New England has a number of rigorous boarding schools, it also has schools for a wide variety of kids, everything from kids with 99% SSATs to schools for kids with severe LDs. Among some of the kids I know who went out of area were a serious horseback rider, a triplet who wanted to be at a different school from the other siblings, a kid who attended a school headed by a relative, and one who needed a therapeutic school.

    Of course there are kids without special needs or interests who find that there are curricular or other features to a school that just fit them better, and sometimes kids have more success with admissions if they're willing to venture outside their geographic region. I certainly don't think New Englanders look down on schools in other parts of the country.
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  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 320 replies5 threads Member
    My guess is that what @Sue22 said is exactly right. It isn't a snob thing that keeps the NE kids in NE. It is a totally normal parent thing. The experienced NE bs parents know a thing or two about a thing or two that us newbies don't. I was going to say something about how New Englanders needing to be more open-minded and come west -- but that's silly. It is totally legit to require the proximity, especially when there are so many great, familiar schools to choose from.

    Having loved some of those great NE schools during our search, kiddo still ended up close enough so that we could drive to him in a pinch. I now appreciate how important that proximity is to me. At the time, it seemed so do-able to have him be across the country. He would be fine wherever he landed, but I wouldn't fare as well. It is easier to let go, if I can get to him same day. If I were an East Coast person, I totally see the appeal of staying within driving distance and considering only what is familiar, even if that means taking some great schools off the list.
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  • 417WHB417WHB 120 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Of course proximity is a huge deal. Even between MA and NE, if you live in NJ you are likely to seriously consider Lawrenceville first, while if you live in CT you will look at Choate, Taft, Hotchkiss etc. And why wouldn't you? Unless you are looking for something very specific, odds are the closer school makes more sense for your family. I really disagree NE people should look outside of NE. Why? Many/most don't even do that when applying to college, let alone high school. There are a ton of great schools within reasonable driving distance, why would you ship off your 14yo on a plane? And unless there is drama at home kids want to escape I don't see why would they be happier further away. They are still kids after all, and seeing family/siblings on regular basis does count for a lot. Besides most of these kids are involved in extracurriculars that do not happen through the BS, so family is needed to facilitate that, otherwise you need to throw a ton of money on it.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 527 replies13 threads Member
    Agreed. Why take on the expense and hassle of a plane ride away? Especially when you don’t qualify for FA but can barely afford BS. Those extras are a lot of money. Why disrupt club sports if they are important to a kid? When you live in an area with a huge diversity of private day and boarding schools there’s little reason to go out of NE.

    As I said, the kids I know who went out of NE did so because they weren’t able to get into the schools they applied to in NE. (I also maintain that their parents targeted schools incorrectly and did not actually look at their kid as an individual. There are certainly schools they could have gotten into in NE.)
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6127 replies10 threads Senior Member
    There is a universe of folks, particularly those in NYC, for whom both are viable options. DS had lots of friends from NYC who could hop on the train and be home quite quickly. Had they gone to NE, the same would have been true.

    And there are things at certain schools that simply are not available at a school in the other region. So not all NE kids end up in mid-Atlantic schools (or vice versa) as a result of not having been admitted to a school in their region.
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  • ThacherParentThacherParent 836 replies49 threads Member
    @Happytimes2001 - I think that I read your initial note more as NE is the only place to go for a quality education than a geo statement; I was too quick to be defensive. Apologies. Of course, geography is a dominant deciding element and it makes perfect sense to me that a New England family would not want or need to go outside their backyard.
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  • buuzn03buuzn03 1620 replies15 threads Senior Member
    Interesting discussion...especially for those of us that to attend a “true” BS (one where over 50% board), we have to look several states and thousands of miles away. DS focused in NE for sport reasons...DD is literally all over the map for her list. However, not one school is within a day’s drive...all require a day’s plane ride. Yet, all schools are similar in size, programs offered and such on paper and the ones we’ve seen and have stayed on her list have the same vibe.
    I truly envy those who can see their kid more often by getting in the car for a weekend toad trip.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 527 replies13 threads Member
    edited December 2019
    Yes, I say alllll the time that I’m grateful to live in an area so rich in excellent schools, both public and private. There’s something for any type of student and it’s all close by.

    We probably make up for it with our tax bill ;)
    edited December 2019
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6127 replies10 threads Senior Member
    @buuzn03 , it's hard to be far away but in some ways, once you take that out of the equation, it can be liberating. And it can also be liberating to be in a region where Hotchkiss and Westtown both draw equally blank stares. It can be really hard to completely ignore the opinions of others, so it helps when they have none!
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  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 320 replies5 threads Member
    On the flip side, I totally get why parents make the trade off too - and why proximity does not rule the day. There are things in the East Coast schools that can’t be gotten in Cal, and vice versa. And think of all of those international students. Blows my mind that people send their kids halfway around the globe to a country that speaks a different language. But they do it because they love their kids.

    When you get down to it, choosing what the best boarding school is for your kid is the ultimate first world problem. How fortunate we all are.
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