Hotchkiss School 2021

There are other threads comparing schools but I created this one to focus on Hotchkiss and get questions about Hotchkiss answered.

Recently got accepted and would like some help. Could someone help answer the following questions about Hotchkiss? I’d appreciate the positives and the negatives.

  1. What is the overall culture? Cutthroat?
  2. Is the school good for people not too big on athletics but willing to try?
  3. What are the academics like? Do they have special first semester programs(such as Andover Pass/Fail)?
  4. What are the physical dorms and the dorm facilities like?
  5. How are international students treated?
  6. What are the clubs and activities(non-athletic) like?
  7. Can you tell me a bit about the Speech/Debate program?
  8. Can you tell me a bit about the Music program?

I know this a lot but would greatly appreciate help on any of the questions and welcome all answers. Also, I’d appreciate that anyone else ask questions that they have to improve the overall quality of the thread.

One of my kids went to Hotchkiss, here’s our view:

  1. Overall culture is competitive but not cut throat. Kids work hard and want to do well but are also willing to help when asked.
  2. There are lots of “thirds” sports programs for kids that want to learn a sport. The sequence is thirds then jv then varsity (in terms of increasing skill).
  3. Academics are strong. As with any school, some teachers are better than others. In our experience, humanities, biology and government are particularly strong. I don’t think they have pass/fail terms.
  4. Physical dorms are generally nice. There are lots of singles. Each dorm has adults or families that live in an apartment on the floor. These adults help to support students, host feeds, and ensure that everyone is getting along. They tend to be more involved than at some of the other boarding schools my kids have attended.
  5. International students are generally treated like domestic students. The school makes an effort to ensure they have a place to go when breaks, etc. prevent them from traveling back to their home country.
  6. There are a wide variety of clubs and activities. They seem better organized than at some of the other schools as there is a clear process for starting a club, getting funded, and transferring leadership.
  7. No direct experience with Speech/Debate but many students have gone on to compete internationally.
  8. Music program is great. There are lots of practice rooms and private instruction is available on campus. My kid took voice for several years and also guitar. Financial aid for lessons is available for those who qualify (based on need, not talent.)

Also - advising program is strong, students are assigned an initial advisor but can switch to someone else if they like. They can stay with the same advisor all 4 years, if desired.

Lastly, Hotchkiss alumnae network is strong and welcoming.

Good luck!

2 Likes

Thanks so much! This is immensely helpful.

Congratulations @Dude1511! Two of my kids went to Hotchkiss, one graduated a few years ago, and the other is graduating this Spring. As a parent, I am not immersed in the day to day activities at Hotchkiss, speaking to a current student or three probably would be helpful. Nevertheless, here are my answers to your questions:

What is the overall culture? Cutthroat?

THE CULTURE IS COLLABORATIVE. NEITHER SON – WHO WERE VERY DIFFERENT KIDS – EXPERIENCED COMPETITIVENESS WITH EACH OTHER. THAT SAID, VIRTUALLY ALL THE STUDENTS ARE HIGH ACHIEVERS SO THEY CAN BE COMPETITIVE WITH THEMSELVES. THIS IS UNDOUBTEDLY TRUE AT ALL SO CALLED TOP BOARDING SCHOOLS. HOWEVER THE KIDS ARE ALL VERY SUPPORTIVE AND HELPFUL TO EACH OTHER. THE CURRENT HEAD OF SCHOOL IS FOCUSED ON THIS, TOO, SO THE CULTURE IS ONLY GOING TO GET EVEN MORE KIND AND GENTLE. (50 YEARS AGO, IT WAS NOT A KIND AND GENTLE PLACE).

Is the school good for people not too big on athletics but willing to try?

ABSOLUTELY! THERE ARE MANY OPTIONS FOR KIDS WHO WANT TO TRY SPORTS FOR THE FIRST TIME. I VIVIDLY REMEMBER A STUDENT FROM THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES TALKING ABOUT HOW GREAT IT WAS TO TRY THIRDS HOCKEY – HE’D NEVER SEEN AN ICE RINK, LET ALONE BEEN ON ONE. PLUS THERE ARE LOTS OF OTHER POSSIBLE ACTIVITIES IN LIEU OF SPORTS, INCLUDING THEATER, WORKING ON THE FARM, DOING SPORTSCASTING ETC. BUT DEFINITELY, THERE ARE MANY THIRDS TEAMS, WITH KIDS THAT HAVE NEVER DONE THAT SPORT BEFORE.

What are the academics like? Do they have special first semester programs(such as Andover Pass/Fail)?

THE ACADEMICS ARE EXCELLENT, OF COURSE (AGAIN, LIKE OTHER BOARDING SCHOOLS). HARKNESS IS PROMINENT, SO MY ADVICE IS TO MAKE YOURSELF SPEAK UP, IT WILL SOON BECOME SECOND NATURE. NO, THERE IS NO PASS/FAIL FIRST SEMESTER. ALL STUDENTS TAKE THE HUMANITIES PROGRAM WHICH INTEGRATES ENGLISH, HISTORY AND THE ART YOU CHOOSE. SO YOU MIGHT BE STUDYING RENAISSANCE AUTHORS IN ENGLISH, RENAISSANCE HISTORY IN HISTORY AND RENAISSANCE PAINTING, OR PLAYS IN ART OR THEATER.

What are the physical dorms and the dorm facilities like?

THEY ARE EXCELLENT. THE NEWEST ONES (FLINN AND EDELMAN AND ANOTHER WHOSE NAME ESCAPES ME RIGHT NOW) ARE THE NICEST, BUT THEY ARE ALL NICE AS YOU WOULD EXPECT AT A SCHOOL WITH THE RESOURCES HOTCHKISS HAS. (THEIR ENDOWMENT PER STUDENT IS SOMETHING LIKE $900,000, SOMETHING FEW COLLEGES HAVE. THIS MEANS THERE IS NO SKIMPING ON FACILITIES ETC)

How are international students treated?

VERY WELL. WE HAVE HOSTED QUITE A FEW OVER THE YEARS. THERE IS A DEDICATED OFFICE FOR THEM SO THERE IS FOCUS AND ATTENTION ON THE INTERNATIONAL STUDENT EXPERIENCE.

What are the clubs and activities(non-athletic) like?

THIS QUESTION IS TOO BROAD! THERE ARE A TON, YOU CAN START A CLUB IF NOTHING LIKE WHAT YOU WANT TO DO EXISTS.

Can you tell me a bit about the Speech/Debate program?

MY OLDEST SON DID DEBATE BRIEFLY; THAT WAS ABOUT 10 YEARS AGO, SO I’M DEFINITELY NOT CURRENT. HOWEVER AT THAT TIME HOTCHKISS WAS A DEBATE POWERHOUSE, AND THE BOY WHO PLACED FIRST AT THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS WAS A HOTCHKISS STUDENT. I EXPECT IT IS STILL A STRONG PROGRAM THOUGH I DON’T KNOW IF IT IS STILL WORLD CLASS. THIS IS WHERE ASKING TO SPEAK TO THE HEAD OF THE DEBATE CLUB WOULD BE HELPFUL.

Paging @Temperantia and @Mumof3Boyz

Thanks so much. I will definitely take the advice to heart and reach out to some current students.

The music program has to be among the strongest of any school in the country. Both of my kids pursued their arts requirement in music performance (piano and flute). The great thing about studying an instrument at Hotchkiss is that lessons are a part of the arts curriculum and lessons are for credit and integrated into the regular academic schedule so you don’t have to chose between music instruction and sports, for example. There are many ways to participate but if you happen to be very strong in an instrument you will have top notch instruction. While my kids were there, Hotchkiss students frequently placed in first and second place in the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) competition in CT and often progressed to regional and the national competition. One of my kids made it to Nationals in woodwinds. Both of my kids performed at Carnegie Hall in Hotchkiss sponsored recitals. Neither wanted to go the conservatory route for college but they could have. One received a great merit scholarship at her college of choice as a result. Both remain very involved in music and both will likely have music as a part of a double major in college. The program is welcoming at any level though and there are ensembles to suit any interest.

1 Like

Yeah, the program definitely looked very strong on paper. It’s so helpful to hear from a real person on the inside. Thanks!

I’m a class of '23 parent, and will echo that the music program is off the charts and it appears most competition is driven by the kids against themselves not each other.

I’ll add I thought the sports programs looked like ones where n00bs would not be accepted, but this was not the case. Our daughter has felt very welcomed and suitably challenged at the jv levels of the sports. She has welcomed the balance to her academic and musical interests.

Appreciate the response!

1 Like

Based on our virtual revisits, our view of Hotchkiss is nothing but all positive. It was always our kid’s one of the two top choices, but, to be honest, we weren’t expecting to like it so much after M10 though we already attended many events of the school before the J15. Anyone had the same experience after virtual revisits?

3 Likes

We agree: Hotchkiss has been great in all respects. Compared to most other schools of its ilk, it has also been much more responsive to individual requests for information and communication since M10. This gives me comfort that Hotchkiss will do a good job of keeping me informed, etc., if my DS ends up attending.

1 Like

Do you know if they allow mid-season promotions? My main athletic goal at boarding school is to make the varsity football team in Sophomore year.

I’m the wrong guy to ask but I bet if you’re good enough to be on the varsity team then you won’t have to beg. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Yeah I don’t mean beg. A promotion is when the coach on the varsity takes notice and promotes you based on merit. Begging to a coach gets you nowhere from what I have seen.

Re “beg” I was trying to be tongue-in-cheek. If how they “promote” talent in music and academics is any indication you’ll be placed where your skill level indicates. I don’t know why sports would be different, it’s taken very seriously at Hotchkiss and they’ll want the best players on varsity when they’re ready.

By the way, I’d bet ALL football players are varsity. Compare team listings Varsity Football - The Hotchkiss School | An independent boarding school for grades 9 through 12. which has no jv listing v. Girls Hockey - The Hotchkiss School which does. This is understandable, there are only ~300 boys at Hotchkiss. I suspect you were admitted in part with an intent to play on it!

You can also just reach out to the Football coach and ask. Good luck!

Thanks for this! It’s hard picking up sarcasm/teasing online. Especially nowadays with so many people online trying to demean others. Thanks for the link!

Yeah the hockey program is huge at Hotchkiss, looking at their rink (and their field in general) reminds me of a college