Boarding School Decisions

Hey, I’m an 8th grader in South Korea who is looking forwards to going to boarding school in grade 9 (2022~2023).

Here are my stats:

  • No SSAT, SAT, Toefl scores
  • Grades from G7: All A, A+
  • Athletics: Varsity Swimming, Tennis, Cross country, Soccer
  • Music/Art: None
  • Awards: IYNN Writing Challenge Gold, Immerse Education 20% scholarship, John Locke participant
  • Clubs: School Newspaper Editorial (working towards student council and service council)

The eight schools I am submitting applications to are: Lawrenceville, Hotchkiss, Deerfield, Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter, Cate School, The Hill School, and St. Paul’s.

I’m afraid that having no information on test scores and not having any legacy would put me at a disadvantage when entering top schools. I was wondering if there are certain things that I could do to improve my application. Should I prioritize maintaining a high GPA, study for the TOEFL, or participate in more clubs?

I am just going to give you the standard CC advice: cast a wider net! None of those schools are sure things. You might get into every single one, but you also might be rejected by every single one.

Also you don’t mention financial aid, being full pay would be important.

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I agree with cinnamon1212. Competition is insane at these schools. Looking at your list, be prepared to get into none, or maybe just Hill. I suggest you pick some safety schools and some 50/50 schools. Unless you will only enroll to this list, or you rather stay home. I know a brilliant kid from HK, applied to Exeter, Lawrenceville, Deerfield and Hotchkiss. Rejected by all, decided to stay back in HK, and subsequently got accepted by Columbia. And that was a few years ago when competition was less keen. Don’t get discouraged even if u don’t get in.

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I wouldn’t consider Hill a safety school anymore. We had roughly a 25% acceptance rate, which means most applicants do not get in. Most of these kids are extremely qualified, too.

I wouldn’t consider any boarding school a true safety school unless its acceptance rate is 100%.

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I wish to find a school that would support my service club pursuits, varsity swimming experience, and various subjects of study (majorly, ones related to writing, mathematics, and science). Should there be any other schools I should submit my application to, perhaps ones that could be safety schools?

I have emailed the Hill school’s head varsity swim coach of my motivation for swimming, meet results, and videos of myself swimming. I recently heard back, Mr. Spencer wanted to schedule a zoom meeting. Is that a good sign? What should I prepare for?

Also, if possible, could you please describe your experience at the Hill School? I would love insight.

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What are some safety schools you recommend? I wish to look for schools that provide similar levels of academics and athletic, only higher acceptance rates.

That is a good sign. Be prepared to answer questions about why you want to go to Hill, swimming experience, team experience, etc.

I’m a new student and don’t go on campus for about 2 weeks, but I can tell you that so far everyone has been super welcoming. I’ve made friends from Hill and everyone loves it. DEI council has been super helpful. I’ve met the headmaster in person and online, and he is super kind, and genuinely interested in getting to know his students. The whole community is super close, really. When I visited on campus, not a single person didn’t say hello. Our tour guide also knew everyone’s names. I’ll be sure to tell you more when I get on campus!

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Just a heads-up that St Paul’s doesn’t have a competitive swim team. Bizarrely they do have a pool but use it only for intramural and fitness, which seems a very expensive way to go about fitness. Maybe they used to have a swim team.

Anyway, it was a huge reason that SPS didn’t make our shortlist of schools to apply to since kiddo wanted to swim competitively in BS. It’s not a reason that you shouldn’t have it in your consideration set if it meets your other needs, just be careful touting your desire to swim competitively when talking with SPS.

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Nope

To add on to what @lilyesh said, my son will also be a new student at Hill this year. I think the acceptance rate might have been a tad lower at around 22% as this year the school received double the amount of applications. All of the schools did. BS has become very popular. He was accepted at two other “Ten Schools” one of which is on your list and one of which isn’t (but should be if you love writing) both “higher ranked” on niche (don’t give too much cred to that—its a guideline) and chose Hill because of the unmatched outreach from people who were very welcoming and seemed to really care. The culture at each school is different and this was the best fit for my DS. The other schools were excellent as well but in the end you go with where you will be most happy and feel comfortable, not what “niche” says. (This is true also with colleges btw.)
So be careful relying just on rank. I think it is a very good sign that this early the coach responded. Take up every coach or other school liaison on their offer to talk/zoom whatever. You are interviewing these schools as well to find your best fit. One thing you should take note of as you go along in this process is each school’s reach-out efforts. I cannot stress enough that whomever coined the phrase “love the school that loves you” rings true. Since applications are way up everywhere, it has raised the profile of many other schools (same as colleges) and you should apply to more schools outside of the “ten schools” list that are also excellent. If I were applying to schools this year instead of last, I would include many more. My DS was waitlisted at five of the 9 schools he applied to.
And @lilyesh was right about the headmaster at Hill. It was the only school where we had an opportunity to schedule a private zoom after acceptance and “ask anything” and then an in person visit. Very caring and kind. Gave parents a comfortable feeling. Best of luck to you on your new journey!

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Are the schools are your list test optional this year? If not, I would suggest that you take the SSAT or ISEE. You will also need to take TOEFL or Duolingo, unless you are currently attending an international school where 100% of courses are taught in English.

If you are ethnically Korean, all those schools on your list are going to expect you to score in the 90s on the SSAT. This is non-negotiable - unless you are a national-level athlete or have another hook. Among those, SPS historically has had a larger contingent of Koreans, due to the history of chaebol/diplomat kids since the 80s. However, if swimming is your passion, then it might not be worthwhile pursuing. Lawrenceville and the Phillips schools might serve you well in that regard, but the bigger class size also means that you will face stiff competition during tryout or early evaluation.

It is a great sign that you are in dialogue with the swim coach at Hill. Try and do the same with other schools, and if you can get endorsement from the coaches, it will greatly increase your chances of admission.

The general (and very sensible) advice here is to cast a wider net. Applying to 8 top schools does not mean that your chances will be improved by 8x. Also, Cate is a particularly small place, so the spots will be very few and you should adjust your expectations accordingly.

Good luck!

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