I’m a returning sophomore at Lawrenceville. Hope this helps!
The freshman system is great. They try to make sure you socialize with as much people as possible by not “splitting up” the grade early on—everyone is in the same house, for example, and the dining hall is different from the sophomore and junior dining hall in that it’s made up of long rows of tables rather than smaller circular ones. The “freshman area” of campus is specifically designed for their comfort—Dawes and Raymond (the two houses, for girls and boys respectively) are the closest to the various academic buildings, and are additionally located right across from each other overlooking “The Bowl,” a large lawn which is the official freshman “hangout spot.” There’s also many freshman only social events, especially early on in the year (some of which are mandatory!) for the purpose of helping you make friends, and they have “form meetings” each week to introduce a new aspect of the campus each week.
The dance program is pretty good. The main performing arts event of the Spring Term is the Spring Dance Concert, which is student-choreographed and participated in by everyone. Additionally, dance is one of the sport options and is split between beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes, to help give the best support possible (a lot of my friends do beginner dance in an off season because the teacher is very nice and it’s quite fun). There’s also many dance troupes, most famously Nachale (the Indian dance group), as well as the LSDC which is selective and even does outside performances. I don’t know how ballet specifically plays in, unfortunately.
Both STEM and humanities are good here, but Lawrenceville is known for excelling in humanities. The Harkness system (well, Exeter has that too, of course) is phenomenal, and the teachers are incredibly supportive and the course selections are amazing. Teachers will actively take time to help work with you individually (even outside of consultation) to make sure your writing is as good as possible, and the course content is very interesting. The assignments are also quite interesting—for example, in history class, to help develop source identification skills, we wrote an essay comparing two documentaries and arguing which one would be better to use in a classroom environment. Unique assignments like this are really interesting and serve as a nice break from normal classes. They also have two (very competitive) humanities summer research programs: Heely Scholars, which researches US History, and Merrill Scholars, which is for literary research. Here’s some information on both:
I can’t speak about Exeter’s environment beyond rumors (which I’d like to avoid), so regarding Lawrenceville, everybody is incredibly nice. Walking around campus you can pretty much wave hi to anyone you know (which will be a surprisingly high amount of people, especially given the size of the school) and they’ll wave back or even stop to chat with you, which is really nice, and making new friends is really easy. Once you get into the House System (sophomore year) the juniors and prefects will also be super welcoming and friendly, which is great because it pretty much gives you another entire group of people who can additionally help guide you later on (most importantly, with course selection). In terms of competition, I’d define Lawrenceville as “positively competitive”—people work together so that everybody can reach their potential, and I think this is mainly because of the heavy emphasis on collaboration that the Harkness system requires; we pretty much do groupwork daily in every single class. There’s even a very popular peer tutoring system that students sign up for to explicitly help others with their homework during study hall!
If you have any other specific questions, please let me know!