In-depth look at DA vs. SPS vs. Groton

<p>My D has got accepted by all the schools she applied to. Her top choices are: DA, SPS & Groton, with a slight leaning towards DA right now. We loved all three from our school visits. While my wife and I are trying not to interfere in her decision process, we can't help asking around other parents, and this board to hopefully help her reach a better decision.</p>

<p>D is a well-rounded, independent, very smart kid, but not a nerd (although 99%tile SSAT) - she is more interested in hanging out with her friends, going shopping, student government, …, than studying anything extra (She does have lots of untapped potentials… ). She plays many sports for fun and for competitions, but sport isn't her strength. </p>

<p>While deciding which school to go, there are many factors to consider. Since she will be enrolling as a 10th grader, I also have some concerns from social assimilations point of view. From Greenes' Guide to BS (old data), SPS has 33 incoming 10th graders, Groton has 15, and DA has 68 (!).</p>

<p>Other things to consider: I think that D has a much easier time with math, logic thinking and science than LA. She is a very good writer, but not as gifted as with Math. I heard that in SPS, the Humanities Program counts double credits, which is pretty much a LA involving lots of essay writings. This certainly favors natural, gifted writers; FA is not an issue here, since she doesn’t need any; Chapel programs, SPS & G have it, really nice. But for those who are not Episcopalians, what about their experiences?
There are probably lots of other details I’ll try to compile in my “homework,” and hoping that I can add my input to D’s decision matrix. And it’s too bad that she can’t go to any re-visits due to an overseas school trip at the same time period.</p>

<p>I am sure that many of you, students and parents alike are in similar situations. I hope that we can have some more in-depth discussions about these (CC or PM) and find the best fit /choice for each person. Inputs from current students are much appreciated, so are inputs from everyone else.</p>

<p>Academically, all three schools are very strong and to create differences would be splitting hairs. The Humanities program at SPS is wonderfully exciting and unique. I really think the best thing for a parent to do is to help their children think about the overall environment and culture. ARe you doing the revisit days? Those are powerful programs and I know you will leave those programs with a very clear sense of what is the right school for her. Trying to answer the questions before revisit days is very difficult. Good luck and have fun with this...she is in a wonderful position.</p>

<p>My first thought when you said
she is more interested in hanging out with her friends, going shopping, student government, …, than studying anything extra (She does have lots of untapped potentials… ).

is that St. Pauls study time is very unstructured (if you start to "flounder" you will get put in a more structured one), but in general, it's not usually the best place for students that put homework on the bottom of the list (my son fits that bill - I love SPS, just not for all kids).</p>

<p>On the other hand, I agree with kbk1967 that I love the SPS concept of Humanities - making english more exciting and that might help a student develop that area.</p>

<p>Of the 3 schools I beleive the Deerfield math and science program is probably the strongest. And I do know that Deerfield does have many new 10th graders each year. Personally, we like the family style meals that Deerfield has 6-7 times a week. I think it is great for building a community and especially for new students to get to know others. </p>

<p>Of the 3 schools, I know next to nothing about Groton, a fair amount about SPS and quite a bit about Deerfield. Also feel free to PM me any specific DA questions.</p>

<p>Good luck!<br>

<p>Actually, I sort of disagree with Linda about SPS. At school we’ve been talking extensively about how much freedom new students should be allowed, with the administration considering tightening the rules and the students against it. The argument for tightening the rules has been, as Linda S basically said, the rules aren’t good for kid who procrastinate- they don’t always force these students to work. The response has generally been, while that is true, the vast majority of students learn from their mistakes and shape up. At other schools, students have study hall up until junior or even senior year, and when given that freedom the students don’t know how to manage their time. So essentially, everyone will have to learn to manage his or her time, but you would you rather have your daughter do it earlier or later? </p>

<p>The Humanities program really is not like LA with a lot of essays. I had LA in middle school and humanities is different. It’s a combination of history, English, religion, and culture. While the classes have essays, there are not huge amounts. Instead, the classes are primarily discussion based (Harkness table) with readings comprising most of the homework.</p>

<p>As for math, it’s very a strong department. It’s one of the few fields that has an honors track in it. Kids enter SPS at every level and they can go as far as they want. The standard AP classes are offered in math (stats, AB, BC) although they are not labeled as such (we technically don’t offer any AP classes which definitely works to our advantage).</p>

<p>Chapel – I love chapel. As you probably know, it’s four days a week (MTThF) for half an hour. It’s much more of an all school meeting than a religious service, although we do say prayers and sing a hymn. Normally there will be a music performance, senior speech, faculty reflection, etc. The entire community (all students and all faculty members) attends. </p>

<p>Hope that helps, any other questions?</p>

<p>I see that side of it as well pseud08. For some kids though, I think having the structure TEACHES them to use their time wisely and when they do get the freedom, they already know how to manage it. Either way, I think works for different kinds of kids & as parents we have to hope we know our kids well enough to determine which would work best.</p>

<p>One thing I liked about SPS was that it was ALL boarding. I think that makes a differance in that everybody is there all of the time. Some of the things I saw interviewing were slight problems with the day students (not totally involved, had cars) and the boarders (study together at night, play at night). That is why SPS was my first choice</p>

<p>I attend Groton and seems how there hasn't been much input here I go:
Groton's Math program is very strong and has been taking steps to improve their science program, including the building of new state of the art science wing
Chapel is a wonderful experiance. I myself am not religious at all. On weekdays morning chapels is basically a time for the community to come together before classes. We say a prayer and listen to a reading. Then either a senior or a faculty gives a "chapel talk" about whatever he/she choices. more often then not, actually almost 100% of the time the talks have nothing to do with religion. Then Sunday Chapel is much more religious, although if you are say Buddist, Jewish, Christian, etc you can go to another service. Chapel on weekdays usually last about 1/2 hour whereas sunday chapel ranges from 45 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes...
Groton does have mandatory study hours for 8th-10th graders. It is a great time to get work done and after having those set work hours most of the time by 11th and 12th grades the students sit down to do their work then anyways. Having set study hours does allow you time to be social without having to worry about when to get your homework done.
The only word of advise I have for you is to make sure you daughter realizes that all 3 of these schools are hard academic schools and that she will have to work a lot harder then she does now to get similar/ decent grades.
Any specific Questions about Groton let me know</p>

<p>Have a kid at Deerfield. Couple observations: having 68 new kids coming in is a good thing - helps them to all assimilate together. Kids meet with advisors once a week - although sometimes in group setting. This is very different from many other schools, (although not sure about SPS and Groton). I do believe that the support network at DF will catch a kid going off track earlier than almost any other school - not only the sitdown meals and advising, but also the teachers, coaches, proctors, etc. Also not a commuter campus - kids stick around on weekends. New science center is a real showpiece. Also have plans to renovate the student center in next year.</p>

<p>Between SPS, Groton and Deerfield: at which one would I be most able to participate in sports, and also other activities like music, theater and debate? If you are on a competitive team does that mean you can't be in a play or a music ensemble or participate on the debate team?</p>

<p>At SPS you could pretty much do all of those. Sports are from 3-5 or on Wed. and Sat. from 1-5. Music ensembles meet twice a week at either 6;45 or 7;45. Theater is taken as an academic class during the school day with additional nighttime rehearsals when the performances get closer. Debate meets at night, but I'm fairly sure it's usually later then music ensembles or tries to be on a different night. There are plenty of people who participate in two or more of these activities.</p>

<p>Thanks pseud08, that answer makes me lean towards going to SPS!</p>

<p>My son just graduated from DA and was a very strong math and science student. The girls who were good at M&S did very well there. His best math teachers were women- and he took an advanced course of math (although I know one is no longer there, another might be coming back- and there were several more who I think are still there), which I thought was great. Physics is very strong there, Chemistry is good, and I have heard good things about Bio. DA is a social place, so she will enjoy that... and sports are a big part of life. I think the kids motivate each other, and there is a lot of positive peer pressure because they are all working pretty hard. I think kids who are naturally bright are not necessarily given the "benefit of the doubt" and they want to see them work hard, which seems to bring out the best in those who can be very productive at 50% (my son was capable of this at times).</p>

<p>He's very well prepared for college... and feels his math and science preparation was superior to most of his classmates in college.</p>

<p>Thank you all for your kind replies. And thanks for the PMs also (which I will reply individually later. My D will be thrilled to email you when she comes back from the trip). </p>

<p>I’ll go by sequence to reply to each quickly before I have to head out. I hope to keep this thread alive for a while.</p>

<p>bkk1967, re-visits will be the best solution but she can’t make it as she will be going out soon on this long-planned overseas school trip. We have visited each campus during the summers before, but it really is not the same.</p>

<p>Linda, I think that my D is like your S. She tends to procrastinate and tends to also do too many things at the same time. Then again, our current school is not as challenging. So, once at BS, I hope she will have to be more focused. Still I worry a bit in case SPS gives them too much “freedom”, : -).</p>

<p>Pseud08, thanks for sharing your first-hand experiences. I guess that sooner or later she will have to learn to manage her time and tasks better… The Humanities program is a great idea. It’s just that my friend’s daughter who went there seemed to think it turn into lots of essay writings. D will probably won’t want to be a science major in college, yet she is stronger in math & science now. Things will change. We love the Chapel program from what we heard also.</p>

<p>NEprepgoer, thanks for sharing Groton experiences. It’s rarer. The Chapel program is similar to SPS’ and is certainly attractive. With Groton, you have 8th grade. One concern I have is that for the ~15 new 10th graders, in the beginning while adjusting to life at Groton, they’ll also have to merge into the crowd of students (even all nice, kind ones!) who half have been there 2 years(!), and half been there 1 year. Is it easy to break into the alreay formed bonds / circles?</p>

<p>Balto55, thanks! I agree with you that DA’s ~68 incoming sophomores, which is about 40% of the total, do feel very reassuring to help them assimilate into the stream. Sit-down meals are great to allow kids (and adults) getting acquainted. PEA / PA’s big buffet dinning halls where kids just come in all time, “grab and eat” and go back to study among sea of “strangers” just turned us off. However, don’t you or your kid think that 7 or 8 sitdown meals a week is a bit overdone? :- ). BTW, the Koch Center is just amazing!</p>

<p>Cllgemom, thanks for sharing your son’s science experiences. I am glad to hear that they have lots of women science teachers also. Yeah, I hope that DA’s workload will bring out the potentials of those smart but not focused or “lazy” kids. Honestly, all three schools are great ones. It means that she will need to work much harder, and just rely upon smartness won’t be enough. </p>

<p>However, I just worried if the pressure will be too much and “burn them out”. We were hoping that, these 3 schools won’t be like PEA/PA/Hotchkiss (no offense intended) in fostering too much competitions among the kids. I don’t mind them put positive pressures on the kids, and make it challenging enough even for a kid with high SSAT. I was told that Andover grades their students “on a curve,” - talking about generating competitions and rivalries! What for? I hope that none of these 3 schools (DA/SPS/G) do that kind of grading. </p>

<p>Thanks to others for participating… </p>

<p>I learned a lot from you all.</p>


<p>Hello, abc 2008, sorry I don't have much input since I'm also debating between which schools to go to, and I hope you don't mind if I ask a question here. I was wondering if anyone here can comment on dorms at Deerfield. Thanks in advance!</p>

<p>abc2008 - re your question, my kid (now a sophomore) has never complained about sit down meals - they rotate the tables every month or so and I think that keeps it fresh. Also a balance of lunch and dinner. They do require class dress - jacket and tie for sit down meals. However guys are most likely wearing sandals and shorts on the bottom half. </p>

<p>al612 - virtually all dorms at deerfield are singles, particularly for fresh/soph. Some have been recently renovated - carpet, etc, some are old style linoleum. All fresh/soph dorms have about 12 kids, a mix of fresh/soph/new/returning students with one or two proctors and a faculty member living in an apartment at the end of the hall. They have frequent "feeds" where food is supplied. I think they believe the kids have enough adjustments to make without adjusting to a roommate also</p>

<p>Your daughter has three fantastic choices. I know the "freedom with responsibility" of SPS concerned me as I had no idea, really, whether my daughter was such a good performer because in part we pushed her at home (she's an only child). We tended to talk at home a lot about her assignments and encourage time plans for completing work, etc. So I was worried that without that input, she would slack off some. Quite the contrary has been the case - when I visited her dorm at SPS, on her wall was a to-do list and her master calendar and she just, as a new 9th grader, has been on top of her game academically, earning the same grades at SPS that she did before she went there, all the while competing in sports both terms (a varsity one the first term). While SPS is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, the chapels do readings from sacred texts of many different faiths. My daughter is agnostic, and she debates in Humanities class spiritedly about the religious topics they cover, offering a different perspective which is not unappreciated I guess, since she is earning the highest mark possible.</p>

<p>I guess what I will say is this: I felt I knew which school would be best for my daughter and she had a different opinion, and my husband had a third opinion still. She ended up going to the school SHE wanted to attend, for reasons she could not fully explicate then, or now, and she is happy and doing well there. So handing some of the reins over to your daughter in this decision-making process, and trusting her spidey senses and instincts, now that she has this array of great choices in front of her, might be the best advice I could give.</p>

<p>We only saw DA on your list, however my son was sold by the dorms and superb science center. I do worry that he won't have time for the french horn because he plays 3 team sports competitively. DA is the perfect compromise between an overly uptight atmosphere where the student appear 50 rather than 15 and a granola-style anything goes school.</p>

<p>Sorry, this may be a stupid question, but where is DA and what does DA stand for?</p>

<p>DA stands for Deerfield Academy and it is in Deerfield, Massachusetts</p>

<p>abs2008-We have been going through essentially the same comparison so I will share what we have gleaned and thought important. All three are amazing but very different places. Deerfield is the largest. (In grades 9-12, it is actually about double the size of Groton.) It also has a reputation for being the most serious about its sports. (The athletic league it is in allows post-graduates, which can raise the level of competition, but can also be demoralizing to rising seniors finally hoping for their chance. SPS and Groton are in a different sports league and do not allow pg's.) There are no Saturday classes at DA. This is great if you want to take your child skiing a lot in VT, which is close, or have them come home. It also gives kids more of a break from class. On the other hand, it gives them a lot more time on their hands in a remote place, which can be a mixed blessing. Almost everyone who is new gets a single room on the theory that they don't yet know the students well enough to place them with roommates who will be likely to get along. That may increase the loneliness/homesickness factor for some. It probably accounts for the somewhat independent nature most of the DA grads I have known seem to have (although I haven't known a huge number). What really impressed me about DA was their response to a noted sleep doctor from Cornell who lectured there in September. After he pointed out that the 7-8th hours of sleep are the most important for memory and processing what you have learned, DA changed its entire calendar to start classes 1/2 hour later and to end evening activities 1/2 hour earlier to give both the students and faculty and extra hour of sleep.
SPS is, to me, the most beautiful campus. I like the way you have to cross it numerous times each day to go places. The privacy is wonderful, but it is also the farthest away of nearly any school from most places. It is also one of the only all boarding schools, which I like. I think it has the largest endowment per student, which gives it the ability to offer really amazing programs. They are also in the process of starting to raise the funds to build a major new math/science center, although I am not sure when it will be completed. I have never met a Paulie in recent years who didn't love their time at SPS. There is an enormous comparative amount of independence given to all the students. Whether this is right for your child is something only you can answer. I really respect the concept of having the students learn time management skills before college-where there is often little or no safety net if you are unable to handle all the freedom. However, there are some serious issues. One is the endemic lack of sleep. Every major pediatric medical association says that teenagers need a minimum of 9 hours rest at night. No one at SPS get that, and very few get 8. Many students don't start their homework until after visitation or activities end, and that means they are up until 1 or 2 (especially if a paper is due). Also, while most students love the mix of 9th through 12th graders all living together in the same dorms, the reality is that the whole dorm stays up later (11:30ish). I know this is currently a point of discussion, and I hope they adopt some compromise which would designate certain floors or dorms as quiet floors/dorms starting at 10 or 10:30. Perhaps the most important point about SPS is that many of the faculty seem focused on educating, coaching, advising the students, etc. However, whether consciously or simply because they are overstretched, I don't get the sense that they are as focused on the in loco parentis role. That is fine for college; I am not as sure it is appropriate for minors.
When you consider what Groton does with a student body 60% the size of SPS and 1/2 of DA, it really is amazing. And to be competitve in college placement with SPS and DA (and without the same level of diversity as SPS, which has to hurt their college placement some), is really impressive. (I understand they are attempting to increase diversity.) As I have gotten to know more about Groton, I have really become much more of a fan-but I am viewing it from our S's perspective and where I think he will thrive. For example, when I first saw the cubicle thing where the 9th graders sleep, I was a little put off. I assumed it was a relic from when they had a lower school with 7th and 8th graders. However, now I understand that it is out of genuine concern for homesickness. Our S said he really liked it! (I hope he is not thinking of pillow fights and water balloons, as I sense Groton may be a little stricter than the other schools.) I think the smaller size permits one to form closer friendships as well as perhaps have more opportunities for leadership. They have study halls for the younger students and then required study hours as you get older. You seem to progress into more responsibility. I can't really explain why I sense this, but I feel strongly that Groton somehow still understands that they are not just educating but molding, guiding, sheparding and helping young people develop into their fullest potential. I hope I am right, since we are very serious about it.
Finally, if you can't somehow arrange for your D to return early (which is what we did) or join her European trip late, then you might consider going to the revisits yourselves without your D. Good luck! I hope these help, and I didn't mean to offend anyone with strong loyalties to any of the schools.</p>