Mercersburg - The School, the Inn, Neither to be Overlooked, Not to be Missed

Ok, it’s been a while since I’ve been through this pocket of CC, but we recently found ourselves in Mercersburg for a couple days and I remember, a few years back, how eager Mercersburg Academy was to get quality, top-tier students into the school.

About 10 years ago, as most of you know, Mercersburg received a $100 million booster shot from the Simon family and it seemed like the school really zoomed into this mode of (for lack of a better term) “competing” with the NJ boarding schools and even the legendary New England schools. Mercersburg really let us know how much they wanted our kid to attend – academics, athletics, the whole nine - and the attention felt quite genuine. All those sentiments came back to us when we returned to town.

I’m saying this for a couple reasons. One, we had a spectacular weekend at The Mercersburg Inn – incredible fireside dinner (“nameplates!”), live music every other Friday, leisurely complimentary breakfast, bedside cookies, all for a reasonable price. *

*Maybe because it’s February and the nearby ski resorts are hardly active with record-high winter temperatures, but we were happy with the price.

In any case, the second thing is that the Mercersburg Academy campus is simply stunning. We’ve toured all the top-ranked schools in New England (Deerfield, St. Paul’s, Andover, Exeter, Ct-based Choate & Taft, etc.) Much like a college such as Williams in Western Mass, even though it takes a hike to get there, Mercersburg’s campus is as beautiful as the best in NJ or New England.

My overall point is that for parents of 7th graders just beginning their boarding school search, Mercersburg needs to be in the mix. Trust me when I say that the school is very, very willing to compete with the better-known boarding schools for a kid that they want to be part of their academic family. And make sure you swing by the Mercersburg Inn, if only to have a tasty, elegant dinner.


Mercersburg also offers week-long summer programs to introduce middle school students to its campus.

I liked Mercersburg greatly.


@Calliemomofgirls would probably second (or third) your recommendation. :wink:

I applied there for my junior year! They seem like a very tight-knit and nice community. It’s my top choice right now.


Many BS applicants want to stay 2-3 hours from home, and most will find great options that allow that. And many applying to BS live in areas where that isn’t an unheard of or unusual thing to do.

Mercersburg 's location is probably one of the main reasons it’s considered to be a "hidden " gem. It’s a less likely choice for kids from New England because of its location. For families in the Mid-Atlantic region, it’s not hidden at all! And it’s very much on the radar of the school consultants in NYC.

Beautiful school, kind culture. If it’s not local and you’re open to going further, you should definitely check this one out.


Ohhh let me jump on the bandwagon here! My 11th grader was adamant about ONLY looking at boarding schools in CT/MA. She was convinced to give Mburg a look (virtually as we were stuck overseas during the entire application process) - had a great interview and choose Mburg above 3 other schools all located in her CT/MA sweet spot. She felt there was genuine interest in her, her future etc and they were wonderful in answering all her questions, placing her in correct classes etc.

I regret not forcing my current freshman (at another school) to apply to Mburg too and regret not listening to my 11th grader earlier about sending her off to boarding school.

Fast forward to now and Mburg has lived up to her/our expectations and even more - DD is excelling in classes, has wonderful relationships with peers, teachers and interesting leadership opportunities. The campus is gorgeous and the facilities amazing, the community is engaged and inclusive and diverse. I believe 1/3 of the class of 2024 is international which means it is hitting the radars of international parents in Asia and Europe.


The campus is great, but besides the rigorous academics, the best is how kind the students, staff and teachers are. The adults there all watch over the kids. When mine was a freshman (so they were getting to know him), his advisor called me and asked if he needed a coat. Apparently he had been going around with shorts and short sleeves in snowy weather (normal for him). I assured her that he did have a coat and I called him and told him to wear something long sleeved outdoors because he was worrying the adults around him. Also, I’ve found that the staff person in charge of transportation is amazing. They have a charter bus scheduled for kids who need to go to the airports and kids who take the train and parents can easily reserve a spot with her online, if your student leaves that up to you. It’s totally clear which train to take to make the bus, etc. There is a fee, but it is a hike to the Harrisburg station and the airports.


My son had a great 4 years at Mercersburg and just graduated this past May! I already miss the car trips to visit and do drop offs and pick ups. The campus is stunning and it’s hard to realize that I no longer have a reason to go visit.

It’s a great community and my son made friends for life. He proudly displays his Mercersburg banner in his college dorm, and has kept in touch with many friends. Mercersburg prepared him well for his STEM major and for college life in general. I know he’s enjoying the freedom of college life, but he’s commented that he does not get the same community feel that he had at M’berg. I know I miss my group of Mercersburg moms, some of which I met through this site!


I always considered Hill to be the best boarding school in PA…but. maybe its Mercersburg. The school’s almost $400 million endowment is impressive and ranks it among the top schools in the country.


No doubt. The Simon donation plus some key administrative hires have raised the school a few notches in recent years.

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Mercersburg is an amazing school and wonderful community, which doesn’t happen at every school. I myself am an alum and have a daughter at Mercersburg who loves it. I had two other children go to another well known school that has amazing academics, but lacks the family atmosphere and community found at Mercersburg. Mercersburg is the whole package. I hope my youngest child will be joining her there next year, just a few more days until we know!


I have never visited the school but am very impressed with all the rave reviews. Congratulations to all the families that got in or graduated!

Quick question: Where do kids go for general shopping and dining, and perhaps a move theater? What is the closest city? Thank you.

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Very happy mom of 3 kids at Mercersburg, who all joined one year after the next because they saw how much their siblings loved it there.
To answer your question @CarnegieDad – Mercersburg is definitely a small, quaint town with frankly not much there. A few restaurants, a grocery store, a dollar general, a great bakery/cafe, a McD. Kids can walk to all those. For Target trips, movie theaters, mall, etc, there are plentiful weekend bus trips organized to Hagerstown (about 20-25 minutes away). (Somehow, though, my kids are usually “too busy” to go to Target on the weekends so I end up buying things online and shipping.).

Weekends also have lots of other activities like bus trip to Georgetown, or to paint ball place, or to NYC, etc. Winter has ski club so my daughter went snowboarding last year almost daily (she also did snowboarding for her winter sport). The biggest plus from where I sit, as a mom of kids who are nearly 3k miles away – campus does not empty out on weekends at all. It’s mostly boarders at MB, and the day students are VERY campus-focussed too. There are always tons of activities happening on the weekends. In fact, every time I’ve gone to visit them, no one has wanted to come stay with me at a hotel and spend a weekend in nearby DC, etc. They always are like “oh we have XYZ happening Saturday night – could you just come stay at a hotel near campus?” Nothing makes me happier than seeing my kids not want to leave campus. (But I’ll also say: they beg me to bring them Starbucks. So that’s kind of our thing: I show up with Starbucks for them and their friends every morning I visit them.)

Newly admitted families: feel free to ask or DM me with questions!!!


I hate to be the Debbie Downer, but not everyone fits at Mercersburg. Make sure you ask the hard questions…the attrition rates. Why students have left the school. Why they need such a robust counseling department. I know there are very many people happy with this school for many reasons - academics, facilities, etc- but definitely look for all of the skeletons in the closet and dig them out. If you are still sure that MB is right for your family (especially your kid), then kudos! You have found your place knowing the good, bad and ugly. If you have reservations…think hard before committing. This goes for any school out there…


The attrition rate can be somewhat deceptive as people leave bc they dont fit academically, athletically, socially etc - or even financially - depending on the school. Will any school be honest about attrition due to expulsions or emotional crisis bc student was homesick / not ready for boarding school? There are currently 3 students at MB from our old school in Asia - we never knew the other 2 kids and all are so different yet all happy there)

i would be more interested in attrition figures of students who left after 2 yrs at any school -as far as skeletons - every school has them and some of them are doozies are we all have learned (SPS, HM) - the questions should be how recent are those skeletons?> Do people ask the hard questions of PEA? PA? D? Doubt it!

As a new student at MB (and as a jr) - my d24 has felt it attracts a wide variety of kids/interests - there is no standard framework or kind of kid you need to be there to be liked and do well which we felt was not the case in other schools (where you needed to be tall, blonde, rich, preppy etc to be socially acceptable)

My MB daughter says there are 3? counselors at Mburg which to me doesnt seem like big office to cover 450ish kids? But then again she doesnt have visibility into that office or counselors really so could be bigger?

As much as I love Mercersburg, I’m glad @buuzn03 brings up a good point: NO school is right for everyone, and NO school is perfect. (I actually think this was probably my family’s “mistake” when my daughter went to her first boarding school before she transferred: we didn’t fully see the downsides, and assumed that if she had an offer, it meant she was a “good fit.” Like why would they let her in if she weren’t? It was kind of naive to blindly trust the admissions sorting hat.)

But back to Mercersburg – While I can’t speak to discovering anything big enough to call a skeleton, there are definitely some things that I don’t love. For example, it’s stricter than I am. (I also get that managing 400 teenagers requires a different set of rules than parenting 4 kids in a household.) I do think that the parents organization is VERY involved and as such, I feel like I have agency to be part of change when/if I choose to be. Also, I feel like the tradeoffs are worth it for the deeply connected community we’ve joined. For example – One of my kids got in “trouble” for having a messy room at room check multiple times in a row. Well, personally, I don’t really care about that because in general, my kids are overall reasonably tidy, and, life is hectic. BUT. If we join a community, then we are agreeing to the community’s rules and consequences. So, I told my kid that while I would personally not be bothered by an occasional messy room situation, we have joined a community that has shared agreements. So, she had to check into her dorm on a friday night at 7 pm as a consequence. That’s the kind of thing that kind that feels unnecessarily strict to me. Side note, while on the topic of strictness, MB is a one strike school, which is a big change from my daughter’s first boarding school where according to my daughter, alcohol and drug use were surprisingly common. (I’m sure there are many kids there who were NOT using drugs and alcohol of course.) But something to consider.

Regarding the counselors – I personally love that they have three counselors at MB! I love that students can take a mental health day if they need it, with zero repercussions. I’ve only been a parent at two boarding schools, so I have only a small sample for comparison, but I’ve been very happy with how MB has supported my kids, one of whom had major surgery and some trauma/stress related to that coming into boarding school. Admittedly, I was raised by a psychiatrist, so I love all things therapy related. I realize that not everyone shares that point of view though.

Anyway, the point is a good one: if you think a school is “perfect” then you probably haven’t dug deep enough. No school is perfect. And even the world’s “best” school will not be perfect for every kid. Our experience though is that we have 3 kids who are VERY different from one another, and all three are seen for who they are, and supported incredibly by Mercersburg faculty and its community. This of course does NOT mean everyone will find their place at MB, but I do feel very confident in saying that many different profiles CAN find their unique place there. (BTW – I’m sure this is true of many schools not just Mercersburg.). :).


I can’t say enough about the robust wellness department at MB. They recently offered a webinar on eating disorders/disordered eating, which I attended and learned a lot from. And my kid has graduated already!

I don’t know the stats, but I suspect that MB isn’t the only school that has this issue amongst the students, they are just willing to talk about it. I have a kid at another BS who’s wellness program isn’t as robust and it’s actually not that the kids are mentally healthier, it’s just that they have to navigate with less support.

Of course MB isn’t for everyone, but please don’t stigmatize mental wellness. No one would ever say “why do they need such a big health center for physical ailments?” (along with the insinuation that comes with that).


As a physician, yes, I would question why the health center was out of proportion to the student body. And my statement does not stigmatize mental illness - yet raises a question regarding the atmosphere and/or pressures the students may be facing to require such a robust department.

My post was not accusatory. It was meant to bring reality back to those who are looking at schools. Your child has to live there 24/7. Make sure it is the perfect place for you. And while others’ opinions are helpful, they are just that. Opinions. What they experience(d) may be completely different than what you experience. What is important to them is likely different than what is important to you. Their children are likely vastly different than your own. I implore the accepted families to dig deep and ask hard questions. All that glitters may not be gold. Every school has blemishes. No school is a utopia.
I tried to keep it impersonal and objective despite my deeply personal experience. I would appreciate the same courtesies.


I think it is safe to safe in todays high pressure world - no one thinks their high pressured HS has enough / too many counselors!
At our old school - you were lucky if you could see the counselor for 15 min appt once in a lie moon which satisfies nobody as their time was literally monopolized by a small group of crisis cases

And sending kids to BS at 14-18 is tricky as they navigate puberty and everything else in top of it! Not sure how much of this develops once at school or have been developing for a while but parents have ignored or punted to BS to deal with

And at the college level? Parents simultaneously complain about admin bloat and associated cost :heavy_dollar_sign: and yet vocally trash the counseling department as understaffed and unavailable when most needed for those kids

For me, I was diagnosed with cancer while my child was MB, and the wellness centre was there for me and my child 100%, it’s very hard to know how to let your child who is away for the first time that you’re dealing with cancer. They met with her several times after the initial conversation so my child had someone to talk to as I live too far away to drive to school. My feeling is that if a school has an atmosphere that applies undue or unhealthy pressure, it’s probably not going to have great counselling, if any. Most institutions in my experience aren’t that self-aware. And my guess is that the health centre serves the entire school community especially during Covid. And it was during covid, that they called me back within 30 minutes to discuss. Just saying that the wellness centre is there for many reasons.

That said, I agree no school is right for all students and to ask the hard questions up front or any and all schools. it’s an emotional and financial investment.