Lawrenceville or Exeter?

Hi! I recently got admitted to Exeter, Hothckiss, Lawrenceville, St. Paul’s and Deerfield as well as Harvard westlake. My family and I pretty much narrowed it down to just exeter or lawrenceville. I wanted to know mainly about how it is like to be in both schools. Since COVID happened, we weren’t able to visit schools to “get the vibe” and I’m scared I will choose a school that is too competitive for me. Some info about me:

I will be entering as a freshman
I am a dancer (ballet) so having a strong dance program is good
I am not really a STEM person, so I’m more into arts and literature
I really want a warmer, less competitive environment

Thank you so much for your help!

We visited all those schools, except H-WL, last year. The two that jump out from that list for a ballerina (I have a ballerina daughter myself) were two you aren’t considering anymore: SPS, of course, if you want near pre-pro level training, and Deerfield if you want solid recreational level.

But, there may be other reasons you removed those schools from consideration. Ballet may be a nice-to-have, not a driving factor.

Warmer, less competitive – it’s really subjective of course. But again, of the 5 you mentioned, there were two schools we visited, toured, and interviewed at that we removed because they did not feel warm to us and they are the very two you are considering. Others will completely have different experiences. But for us, by far the warmest, least competitive environment of those 5 seemed to be Hotchkiss.
Again – all subjective.
And, not helpful, if you are only considering Exeter and Lville.

I don’t recall any mention of dance during those two tours, but that was over a year ago. But if I had to guess, I would say Exeter might have a stronger dance program just because of its size.

FWIW, all of these schools will be fairly intense. Exeter and Lville are often considered to be on the even-more intense side of the fairly intense spectrum. But, I don’t have a child at either, so in all fairness, this is based on impressions during application season and listening to others share about their experiences.

Congratulations on such wonderful choices.

You specifically mentioned that you prefer a school that is warmer and less competitive. If that really is your main criterion, then I would urge you to give some more thought to Hotchkiss and SPS.

I know L’ville very well and also have friends who attended Exeter. Both schools are large, intense, and filled with overachievers. If you are an artsy kid and not into STEM, there is a chance that you might feel overwhelmed by academics.

Hotchkiss and SPS are both strong in the arts. They are medium-sized, which makes for a closer-knit community, and have a warm feel on campus. I have not personally visited DA before but have also heard great things about the campus vibe. You really owe it to yourself to do some more work on these schools. Try and speak with current students/recent grads/parents before you make up your mind.

Good luck!

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Kiddo is only a freshman, but she has found the work at Lville to be intense but collaborative. Our impression so far is that Lville kids like to work hard and put forth their best effort, but they don’t do so at the expense of others. Kiddo absolutely loves her humanities classes (the teachers demand a lot of work but the students and teachers are supportive), and her foundations of art class. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on ballet (though SPS always comes to mind for ballerinas), but hopefully @confusedaboutFA will chime in with more detailed answers.

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!


Hum. I wonder if you know SweetBoy IRL

I think you if you serious about dancing you need to give SPS and Hotchkiss another look.

Big congrats! I concur with others to take another look at SPS and Hotchkiss.

Hi! Wow- impressive. Congrats on all your acceptances! I also just recently was admitted to boarding schools like Lawrenceville, Hotchkiss, Andover, and Choate. I’m also going to be entering as a freshman and I’m having trouble deciding which school to go to, since just like you, I’m not able to officially visit the campuses. However, here is some of the information I have collected:

From what I have learned and noticed, Lawrenceville has the “warmest” community, although I’m sure all the other schools have friendly communities too. I know that Lawrenceville’s house system is quite unique from most others, and they seem to be very fun (you might want to check out their website in case you don’t know much about the house system). I’m not that heavily involved in dance as I am in the other parts of performing arts, so I’m not exactly sure which school has a better dance program, sorry about that.

I didn’t apply to Exeter, so I’m not as informed about the school as Lawrenceville. But, I would say one of the main reasons I didn’t apply to Exeter is because it’s sooo competitive. I believe Andover and Exeter are two very top schools, so I decided to only apply for one of the two, because I also don’t really want such a competitive community. I know a mom who went to Exeter, and even she said the community was very competitive. (I think she even dropped out of Exeter in the end!) Although it’s been some time from when she was a student at Exeter, I doubt the environment has changed immensely.

I don’t want to talk so negatively about Exeter since I don’t really know everything about the school, but that’s just my opinion. Since I live somewhat close to Lawrenceville, I actually drove there to do a “drive-by”, just to get a feel for the town. In case you didn’t know, right next to Lawrenceville is a nice, kinda metropolitan area with a Starbucks literally right outside Lawrenceville’s gates. Also, Lawrenceville’s campus is nicely gated in, which I personally like.

I’m leaning towards Lawrenceville myself, but I hope what I wrote helps! Good luck deciding- might even see you at Lawrenceville next year if we both decide to go :slight_smile:

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Not helpful here but my kiddo will be attending Deerfield next fall and is a serious, pre-professional dancer. We have been impressed with the videos we have seen and with our discussion with the dance director. We also know two dancers at SPS, and have consistently heard that SPS has a top notch dance program, and Deerfield an excellent but more recreational one. Good luck wit your decision.

We are down to three likely schools and still trying to flesh out the fit. Does anybody know how to access GPA for Exeter (and Groton). Choate lists it plainly in its college profile.

Thank you everyone for your help! I know a lot of people are confused as to why I eliminated SPS and Hotchkiss. For Hotchkiss, my mom is concerned about the location, so she doesn’t exactly approve of where the school is located. For SPS, it was eliminated because I didn’t really want to be part of the SPSBC (the ballet company) as it would require too much devotion. I am a pretty intense dancer, but I want to use high school to develop my other passions while doing some dance.


The new Lawrenceville Athletic Center (Tsai Field House) is going to be spectacular and more aesthetically pleasing vs Exeter’s Boyce Thompson Field House (which is also otherwise spectacular).

In my opinion, the Exeter campus lacks the warmth of L’Ville’s largely due to Exeter’s need to build multiple taller structures in a relatively confined albeit long campus footprint. Some have referred to Exeter’s campus as jail like but it’s not that bad…


Hey there! Thats great! I’m leaning toward Lawrenceville myself as well, and it would be awesome to be classmates next year hahahaha

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LVille tuition is 10k more per year. Not that matters to kids…


Exeter is very competitive and challenging. I can not speak for it’s actual dance program but I can say that newly opened Goel Center for Theater and Dance is absolutely outstanding and world class. When I speak to my kids about how rigorous Exeter is… they simply look at me and say that I will never be able to comprehend. Then when I ask them if they regretted going, they say without hesitation that is was the best decision they ever made. Good luck and congratulations.