Prep School List Suggestions? Atlantic Coast Child Target School List


I was seeking group input on other boarding schools that we should consider.

My DD would be applying for the 2022-2023 9th grade admissions to boarding schools. Because we live in an area with strong day schools, she had good local options. However, she has begged for years to go to boarding school. She is very extroverted and I believe would do better in a large social environment such as a boarding school. The rest of our family and her brothers are much quieter and less outgoing.

-Standardized tests I think she will be in the 80% on the SSAT. That is where she has been in prior testing.
-Academically she is doing well, mainly As but some Bs at a good day school. She is not a competitive person or wanting loads of academics. Her favorite subject is math.
-Intellectual interest is low for her. She reads, but less classics and great works and more how-to or YA fiction. She spends a lot of time making things at home–cooking, construction, etc. She has little interest in current events.
-Recommendations will be very strong. She is a leader at the school in many ways–planning events for other kids, organizing and producing quizlets and games for her teachers.
-A hands-on project learner. She does well in these areas.
-Extracurriculars are dance, theater and singing. She’s worked hard in these areas but sees them more as a fun activity than a career. She’s been in many local productions and has been training in these fields.
-She likes to move around and try games but not an athlete. She’s done cross country and ultimate frisbee at her school. Next year she’s hoping to join volleyball and swimming.
-She’s curious about overseas travel and culture.
-She would prefer a school that is more cooperative than competitive. She gets along with all types.
-She is good with uniform schools or with a detailed schedule of study and play. Somewhat prefers co-ed but she’s ok with an all girls school.

I have made the following list. few schools that might be obvious candidates fell by the wayside due to weak dance programs. Because of good day school options in our area, we can manage all WL or rejects if that’s the unfortunate result.

Emma Willard School
Northfield Mount Hermon
Cushing Academy
Loomis Chaffee
Taft School
Mercersburg Academy (She loved this summer program and dorm.)
St. Andrews School
Cranbrook School

Does anyone have other schools we should consider? In the reach-target-safety analysis method I’m really looking for target schools. Thank you for any advice.

You have a good start to the list.

We love Emma Willard! You may want to check with them to determine if they will be hosting an admissions weekend this Fall (as they did prior to COVID). From your description, it sounds like this would be a good fit.

We know a Junior and Senior at Cushing (both girls) and they are very happy. Ditto with Mercersburg -& St Andrews (Delaware) great schools and there are some helpful parents on here who can tell you more.

I would research Cranbrook in more detail - if you are looking for East Coast schools, because that is outside of Detroit.

Honestly, there are some schools on your list that are “competitive” in other ways than academics. You need to explore the social vibe and culture of the schools you are considering.

You may want to also consider:

  • Berkshire
  • Millbrook (they have a zoo and lots of hands on learning activities)
  • Westover (girls)
  • Kent (great theatre program with some famous alums)
  • Pomfret
  • St Marks
  • Middlesex
  • Concord Academy

I like your list and how well you know your D!

Mercersburg and SAS are both overlaps with George which is very strong in theater although dance program is more limited. Definitely cooperative, global, etc. A place that does a great job of honoring kids for who they are.

Happy to provide info as parent of an alum.

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All are great suggestions! One outlier here seems to be Cranbrook. It’s in a very different location than the rest and probably will have a different vibe. It’s also mostly day students. Are there any programs there that stood out to DD there? What made you consider it? It’s a great school for the right kid and maybe your D is the right kid, but it just seems like an outlier in the schools you have chosen.

I disagree that Cranbrook is vastly different than the other schools on your list, and I don’t think it requires a specific kind of student anymore than the other schools you listed. I know a few people who have had great experiences there.

I also don’t see an issue in the location difference between East Coast and Midwest, unless your D wants to stay close-ish to home, which was not a criteria you mentioned. The difference in flight time from Delaware to New Hampshire is roughly similar to Delaware to Detroit.

Cranbrook does have a lower boarding percentage (35%) than others on your list, which may be something to consider more closely. However, in terms of academics, school culture, and ECs, Cranbrook is by no means an outlier.

Um, boarding school for a young person with low intellectual interest and not wanting “loads of academics”? My understanding is that kids who do best at boarding school are self-motivated academically; if a parent has to push a child at home to focus on their studies, how’s it going to work out when a parent isn’t around? Maybe, before deciding to which boarding schools to apply, think more about whether or not boarding school at all is the right choice for this particular child.


Thanks for all above responses. Cranbrook made it to the list because of a couple of reasons:

  1. Since DD is seeking a fairly solid boarding experience, we tried to find schools with a fairly large number of kids boarding. Cranbrook is very large, so that even at 35% of total enrollment, the boarding population is large enough that we hope it would be a solid community.
  2. Detroit area is a place I’ve lived in for several years, and I liked the Midwest environment. DD says she would prefer a colder climate. Michigan is pretty cold…
  3. Michigan is a good midway point for our family members. So it’s convenient for vacations in many respects. Canada would be much less convenient.

Notwithstanding what I recently posted in this thread, you guys might want to consider Western Reserve Academy, in Hudson, OH, a lovely suburb in the Akron/Cleveland area.

To the OP, just adding to my list……You might want to add the following schools to your list because they offer good programs in the Arts and have received :heart_eyes: from former posts on CC…plus they are away from you, but not too far.

Gov’s- Governor’s Academy
Lawrence Academy


If you want to consider the Midwest, then Culver Academies might be of interest.

P.S. Apparently students can train for a Private Pilot’s License at Culver Academies.


I want to reassure you (if you need it) that BS is a great option for a lot of different kinds of students. Who doesn’t benefit from smaller classes? Or teachers who know you as a person outside of class adults who are committedto mentoringyou as a person? Or having access to all your ECs without depending on your parents for rides? Or having their time structured so it includes time for study? Your D, with her social skills and wide range of issues, sounds like a great BS candidate.

At the most competitive BS, a kid without the academic drive to succeed and the self-discipline to study might flail a bit. And at every BS, a kid with those traits will thrive. But many BS are happy to step in and work with kids to provide those skills and that scaffolding.

BS is such a great on ramp to independence. There’s lots of supervision and increasing responsibility and freedom. For many students, this is received better than when delivered by their parents.


I agree with @gardenstategal (as usual) and want to expand with on the points she posted, with some suggestions to consider….

  • No matter what the school or list of schools, please be honest with your expectations for your kiddo and your expectations about boarding school.

  • Encourage your kiddo(s) to share their expectations about boarding school and their expectations of themselves. For example, our student had expectations about having close relationships with fellow students and making friendships with kids from around the world. Another expectation of BS was that teachers would be more interested (compared to the local high school) in their students’ intellectual growth, care about them, and/or be encouraging of developing talent/interests. :face_with_monocle: Still waiting for that…

You can get specific or not, but it’s important to clarify expectations for MANY reasons. First, it might help you whittle down your list to schools that potentially will be the right fit. Second, this discussion will help identify any significant discrepancies in expectations between yourself and your kiddo.

  • Sometimes your expectations don’t really mesh with how life behaves (you can’t control it). Sometimes, the parents have very different expectations about boarding school compared to what the student’s are. Sometimes your expectations don’t mesh with the school culture. It’s helpful to explore what the expectations are based on or from where they are generated. The more opportunities you have to communicate with current students and current parents, the easier it will be to craft a list of schools for your student. :pray:
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Thank you for list. I’ve added Kent to our list.

A question for the CC board–I use the average SAT score to get an estimate of academic rigor of a school. Is this a good way to judge whether or not a school may be rigorous in academics?

I have an older child at a competitive day high school with the SATs are in the 1400s. Kid’s doing quite well, but DD is a little wary about studying 3-4 hours a day. So I’m focused more on schools below this SAT level. Also, I notice many of the Connecticut and Massachusetts schools have higher SAT levels. Is it also more academic work? Thank you for any suggestions.

Personally, I never even checked SAT scores when looking at schools. We had different priorities in deciding which schools would be a good fit.

Here are some guidelines to go along with the expectations discussion (see above post):

  • How large is the student body
  • Class size to teacher ratio
  • Head of School - philosophy, background, history at the school
  • School profile - find this via the school’s website. Sometimes it’s in the webpage about college planning or college counseling. You can type it into the website browser. This will give you valuable information about a variety of school facts, including grade distributions and test scores.
  • Percentage of boarding students - some schools that have 35% boarders may actually have fewer students on campus during the weekends. So, don’t just rely on that statistic - dig deeper.
  • Geographic distribution of students
  • What kind of EC’s are offered?
  • What kind of Community Service opportunities are there? Some schools have this in their weekly schedule.
  • What are options for travel and/or service learning post-COVID?
  • Number of faculty who live on campus and if they live in the dorms
  • Does the school have non-faculty staff as dorm parents?
  • What weekend activities (besides sports) are offered at school?
    *. Does the school have set study hours and where? In the room? In a school room for underclassmen? How many hours per night?
  • Does the school have a lights out policy?
  • What are the performing and visual arts courses offered - and when are you eligible to take them? For example, some schools only offer certain courses (eg glass blowing, weaving, architecture) to Uppers.
  • If your kiddo is into the Arts - Does the art faculty get involved early in helping aspiring collegiate art students with their portfolio?
  • Do NOT trust the view books like they were Gospel - be a discerning consumer.
  • How are students “tracked” academically or placed into certain tracks? Are their accelerated courses? Do they have lower level courses for students less prepared in math or science?
  • Does the school have peer tutoring? Offer tutoring? Restrict tutoring?
  • What kind of academic & mental health support is offered to students on campus?
  • What is the Health center like?
  • If your kid is an athlete, how does school work with students involved in travel or club teams?
  • What kind of college counseling does the school have and how many counselors?
  • Is this a school that values personal growth more than conformity? :roll_eyes:

And most importantly, here is our mantra (via the Hotchkiss HOS in 2018):

“You are not sending your child to school - You are sending your child to people” :pray:

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Overall, probably not! There are schools where the culture is to be really invested in test prep and others that are more than happy to direct the kids to TO colleges if they aren’t excited about using their time this way. But the rigor may be similar. Or even the inverse of what you would expect.

I can think of a day school near us where many of the kids prep with expensive tutors beginning the summer after freshman year. Their scores are high. The quality/rigor of academics is not particularly outstanding. A top student can find ways to excel but a far more middling student probably isn’t doing any more than most high school students anywhere else.

I think it can help to look at schools that welcome a variety of learners. Kent, btw, will fit that bill.

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I would also check out Suffield Academy :hugs:

I would not use SAT and ACT scores to judge school difficulty. We only looked at them out of curiosity and because she was submitting them in her application (she will be a repeat Jr.)
Her scores were higher in both than the school averages and she has been at a decent public school and did zero test prep. Scores don’t reflect schools IMHO.


Interesting way to approach the rigor question. I can see SAT score being a loose proxy for how devoted to test prep a school culture is, and therefore study time overall. So if by rigor you mean how much time do students do homework, then there might be a relationship?

You would also want to compare it to how students did on the SSAT, but you are always going to have problems parsing out how much of the scores are from naturally good test takers and those who study a lot for the tests. Overall, higher test scores say something about one school over another, but I am not sure if it is student aptitude or work ethic or priorities. I think of “rigor” as different from any of those - a combination of advanced course material and how much the school pushes students to progress academically.

I think I would look at the depth of STEM offerings to help figure out rigor. If the course catalog has a lot of advanced courses - like 2+ years beyond calculus- that will tell you that there are a significant number of students who are advanced when they come in, and that the school can handle it. Same goes with arts and humanities courses, but I think that is harder to gauge.

At the end of the day, the rigor question is whether they have suitably challenging courses for your kid (who cares what math classes they offer beyond calculus if your kid will never take them?) and how good of a time manager your kid is. There are other threads on this, but 3-4 hours of studying is a lot, especially in the first couple of years (junior year can be brutal anywhere). There are a handful of schools that demand that time investment, but if your kid doesn’t want that, there are plenty of schools that are plenty rigorous without that study culture.


Thank you, this is very helpful. My family members have not been big on studying for a standardized test, so it’s eye-opening to hear of schools that are so very focused on preparation.

Also another question,

I’m trying to build a list of schools to tour in person. Because it’s a 7 hour drive away to the most distant schools, I was trying to visit campuses during the summer. Unfortunately it seems like many tours are full or the schools are unavailable. How important was an on-campus tour for you?