Impressions of Hotchkiss (since we can't revisit) -- students, parents, visitors, etc... welcomed

Hi everyone!
Since we can’t revisit, I would love to collect impressions on schools to help create a picture for future students, applicant families, and applicants who are considering become future students right now.
You don’t have to be a current HK student or parent to have a thought here – I welcome any impressions you may have, even if you have only visited. It would be great, though, to say how you have your impression so we can keep that in mind – a 2-hour tour is very different from attending a school for 4 years, of course.

I’ll put my notes in a separate post below.

One of the VERY best pieces of advice I got here on CC was to record a conversation on my phone’s voice memo in the car immediately after visiting while we were driving to our next destination.
DD and I just chatted about the school for a half hour or so, and then to keep things easy to compare later on, she gave each school an overall score from 1-10. This made it SO much easier for us later to keep straight which schools she had the overall highest impression of, and it became easier to decide which schools to apply to, and which to drop from the list.

We had no idea at the time how useful it would be for us to go back to those recordings in the absence of revisits and listen to our own voices talking about the schools right after leaving campus!

So, we just listened to the schools and thought I would share what we felt about HK.
Note – these are merely our impressions after touring and interviewing, so just our opinions.

We were surprised by how forward-thinking it was. We both had expected something more preppy and maybe even a bit stuffy, but it was not at all. It felt fresh and modern, compared to what we had imagined. The students were incredibly friendly and open, and it felt like the most truly international school we visited with a rich variety of countries that we hadn’t heard mentioned at other schools. (again, just an impression – not basing this on stats).
The campus was unbelievably gorgeous.
We liked the seated meals, but wished they more than just occasional.
We noticed that our tour guide was able to do sports and theatre in the same season because theatre met during study hours. My DD wouldn’t do that (not a performer), but we thought it was interesting that our tour guide was able to manage the workload while losing her study hours. That said that the workload was somewhat reasonable. Also, IF someone wanted to do theatre and a sport at the same time, it seems that they could. (Again, didn’t affect us, so we didn’t explore that thread.)

The thing that we loved the most about HK was the truly special integrated humanities program, which is (I think) fairly well-discussed in the BS-discussion world. What I had forgotten until I heard our conversation was how this humanities program is grounded in some key philosophical questions that (if I recall correctly) were painted on the wall in the main academic building. Questions like “what makes a life well-lived?” and “what makes a society good?” These deeper questions driving one’s education made us feel like “this is something that we could NEVER get from home.” It felt like a true shift in focus. We loved how our tour guide explained that she studied merchant of venice in english and in theatre, and how the classes are integrated based on time, so you aren’t learning “english facts” and “history facts” and “philosophy facts” in a silo.

One downside – we couldn’t find any reasonably-priced hotels nearby at all, and ended up staying in a very overpriced awful small inn that was easily the yuckiest place we stayed, and we had a very hard time finding a bite to eat since it was after 8 pm. I’m sure that we just didn’t know where to go, but it did give us some pause regarding how rural the location is, and the difficulty we would have in transport, visits, etc… Not a dealbreaker, but boy, that night was pretty stressful and yucky. We tried to leave the hotel and just lose our money, but no other hotel was available below several hundred a night. Again, we probably would learn the ins-and-outs, but it was a negative for us.

Hello @Calliemomofgirls,

I am a parent of a current Hotchkiss student, I am happy to give you some insight into our kid’s and family’s experience at Hotchkiss. I will PM you.

If I may, I will address one small thing in this post - accommodations, and Hotchkiss’ rural location.

I don’t know where you are travelling from when you visit. We travel to Hotchkiss for the odd athletic event, to play golf with our kid on the Hotchkiss golf course, or for parent events. We love the drive, because it is so beautiful, and we sometimes plan small excursions and culinary visits on the way. There are some great Inns and restaurants in the general area. The White Hart Inn in Salisbury, 3 miles away, is open late and has GREAT food. The Boat House has good food and surprisingly high level Sushi! Arethusa in Bantam, CT, Amenia, NY, Litchfield County restaurants, various towns in the Berkshires have appealing options. The key is to book hotels ahead of time. There are many Inns within 15 minutes, far fewer within 5 minutes.

Most of the BS schools have peak event booking issues, Hotchkiss more so than others, however we have embraced the challenge and this has made it a fun excursion. (I think I know what Inn you are talking about!).

Cheers.

Thanks @Mumof3Boyz – Makes sense. I’m sure you just have to know where to go! This was first week of October and we booked everything online because we flew across country to do the grand tour of schools, so I’m sure we didn’t have the insider’s scoops!
I welcome any DM and conversation, and I hope that anything that might be helpful for everyone, you can post here too! Thanks again for sharing!

@Calliemomofgirls I understand my PM’ing is restricted until I have 15 posts, so we’ll touch base shortly. All the best.

I can only base my comment on our revisit, but I loved Hotchkiss! I loved the campus and the buildings and even loved the cute little town nearby. We had a delicious cozy lunch at Harney & Sons and the AO was incredible. Definitely our favorite parent interview out of the 7 schools we visited. Having said that, our daughter wouldn’t even apply. I’d love to hear others refute her impressions because I think we just had bad luck with the tour guide as she totally turned our daughter off Hotchkiss. Every other sentence out of her mouth talked about how stressed she was. She was stressed about an upcoming musical performance, she liked chapel meetings because its the one time during the day she can relax and not be stressed, she liked to go to the gym on Sundays to workout because it relieves stress etc etc! She also mentioned several times that the seniors always yell at the freshman for walking on specific grass, or going through the wrong doors. But the clincher was the fact that my daughter couldn’t easily do orchestra and an art class since the orchestra requires enrollment in a specific music class. Which is a huge bummer because the art wing was absolutely incredible. The view from those classroom windows was amazing! I tried my hardest to convince my daughter to just apply, but she said she would never go there, so it would be a waste of everyone’s time.

Oh on our way out of town (headed to Massachusetts), we stopped at the cutest little apple orchard stand and grabbed apple pie, apple cider and apple butter. I may have to find another excuse to go back there again!

@cityran Our daughter flat out refused to apply too. She was also turned off by our tour guides. The girls were nice but not really engaged. She also felt like it looked too much like a public school with the large main building and she didn’t like that. ?
It was one of my my “top fit” schools when we were doing research so I was sad she would at least try. Oh well.

My daughter is a high school senior now but years ago our consultant matched her with 12 schools with Hotchkiss being one of them. We made an appointment for a visit and a tour. Unfortunately, we left there knowing that Hotchkiss would not be an option for DD. From the moment the admissions officer approached my daughter for her part of the interview through our part it was apparent that she was not interested in my daughter or our family. Never smiled, never looked us in the eye and seemed totally disinterested and preoccupied. I was disappointed to have left with that impression because I am not a hard person to please. There was only one other school on our list other than Hotchkiss that we were not exactly impressed with out of the 12. She ended up attending an amazing school that from day one I was impressed with and continue to be the perfect match for my daughter. However, the saying that “you never have a second chance to make a first impression” is true.

I will weigh in on HK with the caveat this is from two visits one for DD in Oct and one for DS (albeit 10 years ago). We also did video recording this time around so I referred to my recordings.

Of all the schools we visited we felt that HK had the most beautiful campus. When we arrive we met a maintenance man who was super friendly. Chatting with us and walking us to where we needed to be. The receptionist, DoA and DDs interviewer were also extremely friendly…. But that was where the friendliness stopped.

Our tour guide really dampened our experience, she talked non-stop and I mean non-stop neither DD nor I got to ask a single question and was extremely stressed so I wonder if we got the same tour guide as @cityran and @msc3173 . Then while on the tour when we stopped outside a classroom with tour guide still chatting a teacher came and ‘slammed’ the door shut without a word. I guess it was the reaction that was more disappointing than the action. Tour guide continued chatting as if what happened was the most normal thing in the world.

Unlike the other schools we visited we did not note any ‘friendliness’ on the part of the students we met. I dont mean the kids were ‘unfriendly’ but on the notes of all the other schools we had comments saying how the kids were really friendly etc.

I do think that the school was one of the most diverse of all the schools we visited. However not so with black kids. I think for us we are always wary when we hear the words ‘very diverse’ and we always ask for a breakdown i.e. number of Asians, black, Hispanic etc. In this respect HK was not very diverse with AA kids.

We stayed away from ‘academic’ notes and focused on ‘how did you feel when…’ notes because these are the intangibles that cannot be gleamed from a website and fancy brochure.

Despite all the things above I still liked HK for DD (for me it lost its ‘1st choice on paper’ slot to SPS) but was not DD first choice.

Since HK was the only school that rejected DD I take it they felt that DD would not be a good fit, sometimes these decisions are taken out of our hands :sweat_smile:

I’m not much of a contributor here, but based on the last few comments I just wanted to chime in and say as a parent of a current student we’ve had nothing but a great experience so far. Our visits to campus through the admission cycles, and (back in the good-old-days) revisit day were always very welcoming and we always felt like everyone was fully interested in us and very helpful and courteous. That hasn’t changed post-admission. Our experience with the teaching staff has been great, our kid generally likes almost all of her teachers, and they are generally all very engaged with the students across all aspects of academic, sports, and dorm life. I think they genuinely care about the students, and really love their jobs. I think it’s really too bad that several folks here seem to have some away with that impression because I don’t think it’s typical from what I’ve seen and heard from other parents.

I’ll hit on a few more points. While the work is definitely not easy, we don’t get the “I’M SO STRESSED” vibe from our kid at all. Kids work hard, but they seem to relish the challenge. Of course, everyone is different and I have no doubt there are kids who feel a lot of stress (in any school). I’m very surprised anyone would think that the facilities remind them of a public school … they’re really pretty amazing across the board, even compared to other BSs from what I’ve seen. (side note - in the New England winter having the vast majority of your classes in one building is REALLY convenient - my kid saw that as a huge plus…).

Lakeville is definitely in the boonies, and the value you get for your hotel and dining dollar is pretty low. There are a few more hotel options ~30 minutes away in Great Barrington - bigger chains with reasonable prices, and we’ve done that for family weekends, etc, because the local (overpriced but convenient) hotels fill up very fast. It’s not super-convenient being 30min away, but it’s manageable. It’s also not as easy to get to/from campus if you’re a flight away. Frankly I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have my high-school aged kid a bit more isolated and not in a school where there’s a lot of off-campus stuff they can do, hop a train to (whatever-city), etc. And NW Connecticut is really a beautiful part of the country, and Hotchkiss is really in a spot where there are some incredible views (like someone mentioned regarding the art wing), there are great hiking trails, the lake, the farm, lots of great natural resources for kids to take advantage of.

It’s obviously a tough year for people trying to make decisions with everything going on (and not going on), but I’m more than happy to help answer any specific questions if anyone has them.

1 Like

Hello @Calliemomofgirls,

My daughter attends Hotchkiss. I will share why our experience has been an amazing one.
a) Head of School: When we were finalizing the school, this was one of the main factors we considered. Mr Bradley is an amazing human and a strong leader, and has excellent vision for the school, and more important they are executing to the plan. On Hotchkiss website, you should search for Hotchkiss Magazine (Winter 2019), and read the article “The Hotchkiss School - Strategic Priorities”.
b) Our daughter was a bit unsure and nervous when she joined the school. We told her that if she does not like the school, she can just come back and join back her local school. In a month’s time, we could see her getting comfortable in setting. She was so much welcomed in her dorm and different student organizations, and she genuinely considered Hotchkiss her second home
c) The teachers are amazing and very supporting. They are available after school hours and during weekend, and genuinely care about the progress of each and every student.
d) The student body is collaborative, and my daughter has not mentioned any issues related to competition between the students.
e) We were a bit apprehensive about ‘peppy’ image of the school (which we had read), but our daughter has not found anything of that sort
f) School group is diverse, and administration makes sure that there is inclusiveness.
g) Since school has almost 100% boarding, there is a strong bond between the students.
h) Whenever we have reached out to any teacher/any staff member, they have responded within 24 hours.
i) Lastly, we have seen our daughter blossom during her stay at Hotchkiss. She has become more confident, takes initiative, emerged as a leader. The academics are rigorous, but there is enough support.
In short, my daughter has enjoyed every minute of her time at Hotchkiss.

I hope, this helps. Best of luck

1 Like

I’ve been connected to Hotchkiss one way or another for the past 20 years, had one son graduate about 7 years ago, and have a current student there. Where to even begin??!

On the stress level: it is almost totally student dependent. If your child is tightly wound and melts down over an A-, I can guarantee you they will be stressed. If they are easy going, are trying for the A, but ok with the A-, or disappointed with the B but decide they will work harder, they will be fine.

I was PM-ing with someone who had a lot of questions about Hotchkiss, so I asked my current student how much homework there was, and his reply was there was 2 hours in 9th grade, 2 1/2 in 10th and now in 11th there is 2 hours 45 minutes on average. Now, he’s a kid with phenomenal time management skills; other kids may take longer, but it is not that there actually is 4 hours of homework being routinely assigned.

Agree that Hotchkiss is super diverse in the range of countries kids come from, and I strongly feel that everyone is integrated and connected to each other. It is diverse also economically, though not many kids from the donut hole middle class (an AO person told me they were working on that though).

As for doing several things – my current student did a sport and also had a role in the play, and did a few other extracurriculars. (He’s the one with the excellent time management). My other son ended up being diagnosed with ADHD at Hotchkiss, and he had terrible time management skills. For him, doing classes and sports and one club he was serious about was his limit. So again, it is kid dependent as to just how much they can take on.

Hotchkiss is in a rural area, yes. That’s either a positive or a negative, and again up to the individual family. Hartford airport is about an hour and 15 minutes away (or Westchester airport). Other parents tell me that Air BnB is a good resource for places to stay. Part of the isolation is that there is terrible cell service in the area. That means that everyone uses wireless, and that means that Hotchkiss can control the internet much more than other places. Specifically they shut down access to social media during study hall, and they shut off internet access to 9th and 10th graders after 11, unless the student has special permission.

One thing that sets it apart from some other schools is the “no chance” policy. Some people like it, others don’t. I personally don’t like it, but my current student does!

I guess I’ll stop now. Happy to answer more questions, or PM if anyone wants more info!

@cinnamon1212

==>>Re: One thing that sets it apart from some other schools is the “no chance” policy. Some people like it, others don’t. I personally don’t like it, but my current student does!==<<

As a parent, I was leery of this as well, but our kid strongly supports it, with the justification that it just stops “most” kids from even considering drugs/alcohol on or near campus, and reduces the peer pressure to engage in this stuff.

Yes, my son says the same thing.

Interesting observations by a couple of posters about one main building for classes.

@Publisher Hotchkiss has 3 academic buildings. Main Building, the Griswold Science Building, and the Eastman Music Center.

@Mumof3Boyz: Thank you. That is why I posted because I was aware of the science building in addition to the main academic building.

I should have ended my post with a question mark rather than a period.

Thank you for the clarification.

The music center is not a separate building, it’s adjoined to the main building (it’s an amazing facility BTW). The Science building is a separate building - that’s typically the only case where students are outdoors between classes (except for to/from dorms).

Unlike many peer schools, Hotchkiss does not guaranty admission to faculty kids. That means there are more spots open for College Confidential kids (yay!) but it also affects their ability to attract and retain great teachers who have kids of their own.

@CaliMex now that is some real insider information:-) And, as an insider, it is correct. It’s probably going a little too far to say that it materially affects Hotchkiss’ ability to attract and retain faculty though.