Please help! I’m having a hard understanding the culture of BS schools and best fit, remotely

I’m trying to help my son find boarding schools to apply to and it is very hard without visiting. There is a lot of discussion of fit and being open to new, perhaps unfamiliar schools. Every other post seems to be chance for Exeter/Andover and admonishment against wanting “top schools” because of low admittance rates.

So, can you please help?

Many of the schools seem so similar online and it is difficult to disambiguate

Rigorous academics; Latin; Also interested in classics
Robust arts, would like a filmmaking class, enjoys drawing, writing, comic books, theatre, and performing
He is a pretty dreamy kid, pursues his own interests, pleasant and easy going for 13
He is a strong math and science student but not his primary interest
No particular preferences for size, except that he wants to find his tribe and my assumption is he will best be able to do that a bigger school
He has taken many years of ballet, could pursue In high school He enjoys but it isn’t a passion and he is not an artiste
He has never been particularly sports-oriented but is interested in both crew and wrestling, physically he will be about 6’2” - 6’4” with a lanky, long armed body; lots of wrestlers in our family, father rowed, cousin rowed at Cal
Was supposed to go to Exeter and do a summer program with crew and classics this summer, canceled
He is a hard worker, self motivated, but not competitive, has taken many classes at CTY
We don’t particularly care if the school has abandoned AP
Doesn’t play an instrument, Not particularly musical, has sung in a few musicals but mostly liked the performance aspect
No SSAT scores yet but he had very high Middle Level ISEE and can regularly score 1450 on timed SAT, before 13; willing to study for a test

Coming from public school,Title 1
Very hard to predict the future, he still sleeps in a bed littered with Lego Batman (model blah blah blah); not inherently sporty, not a gamer, not outdoorsy
Father and Uncle both attended Phillips Exeter
Full pay or close to it
Can you please help? Thank you.


Not being able to visit is really hard. Try to follow the schools’ social media accounts and read weekly newsletters if possible. If the Head of School posts remarks or updates you can access, those may be a good resource for learning about the school’s leadership and priorities. I expect schools will offer zoom panels for prospective students and parents. Last Spring, most schools did virtual revisits and many of them were surprisingly good! I expect that the schools will do a good job of getting creative to showcase what makes their school special. And I would suggest casting a very wide net with applications and, hopefully, visiting will be a possibility in the Spring.

Thank you. I hadn’t thought of most of those things.

He sounds like a lot of kids at St. Paul’s School (NH). They have latin/classics, a great ballet program, lots of arts and sciences as well as good crew and wrestling. Pretty selective but your son seems to fit their criteria. Take a look…

@SweetBoy1 Welcome to the board! So much wisdom and experience is here so you are in the right place!

My suggestion would be to settle in with a cup of coffee and do some searches (use the search bar; make sure you are in the prep school forum so you don’t get college results), and then search for a bunch of key phrases that apply to your situation – like “finding fit” “virtual visits” “choosing a school” “non-athlete” or whatever you feel describes your situation. There are some great conversations and ideas here and you will easily find yourself going down a rabbit hole (in a good way) and learning a ton. Then also search on specific school names to go down a whole other rabbit hole of comments, experiences and insights. Several folks have commented in posts various lists of questions to ask yourself when considering a school. Poke around enough and you will find them.

Also, you probably know this, but you can search on boardingschoolreview (dot com) filtering schools by a ton of factors, including sport (like wrestling). I’m thinking you could also search by Classics/Latin offerings.

As I was reading your post, the school that came to mind was Exeter, and then of course I saw that he is a legacy there. I also thought of SPS, mentioned above, because of the ballet program. However, it sounds like he may not want to continue ballet? Ballet at SPS is pretty intense and time-consuming if you are part of the company. (not sure what casual ballet dancers do schedulewise). But Kate Lydon (used to run the studio program at ABT) is the head of dance there, so it is definitely top-notch training for a (prep) boarding school. When I think of classics/Latin, I think of Groton right away, but it is a smaller school. (We loved it when we visited, and was the one truly small school that my extroverted daughter kept on her list last year.)

One other note: many schools are going test optional for next year, so just to put that on your radar.

I say all that not to overwhelm you, but to give you options and a place to start!

I suspect a bunch of schools will fit your criteria; I am most familiar with Hotchkiss, so can speak to their offerings though to be clear I believe many schools have excellent offerings.

Hotchkiss has a classics program with latin and greek, and there’s a special classics diploma for those who want to pursue classics in some depth.

They just started a crew program last year, and have considerable resources behind them. The coach is very well regarded, and I know that even in their first year they had kids being recruited to D1 colleges. Can’t speak to the quality of the wrestling program.

Theater - one of my sons chose theater as his art for the Humanities program that all 9th and 10th graders follow and had an absolutely phenomenal experience. He’s also been in plays in subsequent years, and was in a film a buddy made. Hotchkiss also has a student film festival; I do not know if there’s filmmaking course. I also have no knowledge of dance/ballet at Hotchkiss.

Hotchkiss students are not competitive with each other, they are very supportive. However, of course these kids are goal oriented and probably competitive to some degree with themselves. I’ve said many times that the one skill that correlates with success at Hotchkiss is good time management skills.

I am also familiar with Millbrook, if that school ends up being on your long list I’d be happy to speak about them.

These are all very helpful comments. My husband’s contribution was to say “just enroll him at Exeter” AS IF, sing a rude song from 35 years ago about another school, and complain, again, about how kids don’t have to wear jackets to class anymore.

Off to create a spreadsheet.

@SweetBoy1 A lot of schools don’t have Latin, Crew or ballet so you could narrow that way. I think Exeter is obvious. So are some of the larger schools that might be able to accomodate all those interests. Groton might also spring to mind. I’d check the ballet/dance. SPS is another one which seems logical. So

You didn’t mention what type of kids he’d like best. Sounds like he is talented and academically able. Some schools bend a little bit more athletic, some are well rounded and some are very artsy/other.

Honestly, with the exception of ballet, I’d bet most solid schools fit your criteria. Crew might be a bit hard but there are also programs during the Summer for crew or local area programs if that’s what he wants to pursue. The same schools often get mentioned here but there are literally so many schools that are a great fit. Overlook the bias in some reactions. There is no “best” only best/great fit for him.

I would literally start with regions he’d be willing to live near, then go alphabetically thru the list. You don’t want to miss one that might be a good choice. You can then come to CC and check out/ask questions.

Groton, Exeter, SPS are the three that come to mind for me. Groton is maybe the most appropriate for a dreamy, self motivated kid. Purely off of the vibe I get at all of those campuses.

@one1ofeach agree. Those were the exact three I thought of too.