Dalton School review by Yale University student. Dalton's academic plan is composed of three parts: lab, house, and assignment, as developed by Helen Parkhurst. Houses are groups of your peers (in your grade in middle/lower school, mixed in high school); you meet akin to homeroom, and the house advisor serves as an intermediary between the faculty and the parents. Assignment dictates that each class has a detailed syllabus containing class expectations, daily work, longterm assignments, and a rubric. Lastly, lab is the one-on-one time free in both teachers and students' schedules. This time is designed to allow teachers to meet individually with students. It is designed to be used to augment the classroom learning experience. The classes are small, ranging from 5-15 kids. The humanities strike me as being stronger (the history and English departments are stellar), but in the past years Dalton has made a considerable effort to strengthen STEM, specifically computer science and mathematics. There are great language offerings and many opportunities to learn individually--specifically, the senior project during the last quarter of senior year, where seniors take on their own learning experiences. The student body never seemed particularly competitive, excepting college admission times, when most people were quite stressed about the whole deal. The student body is overwhelmingly privileged and it shows, but almost everyone is liberal and open-minded. It gets much more diverse in the high school, when lots of new students are admitted. Most of my peers communicated seriousness about academics, even if they always weren't inclined that way. Without a doubt, my Dalton education prepared me for a rigorous and intense course of study at an Ivy League institution. I see how my education placed me at an advantage compared to my peers who went to public schools or smaller private schools. Houses are analogous to residential colleges at Yale. Labs allowed me to build strong rapports with teachers, which gave me the confidence at Yale to view professors as academic peers (as well as authority figures to admire). Because I was used to interacting individually with professors, office hours do not cause me the same anxiety I see them cause some of my peers. I would say that Dalton was academically challenging but never mind-crushingly difficult. The workload was slightly higher than average. I saw many peers studying for hours and hours and barely sleeping, but I never stayed up late doing homework or struggling to write an essay or finish math homework. Students who struggle can easily schedule labs with teachers to catch up and review difficult concepts. House advisors can advocate for struggling students as well and help them get help from the administration.
College counseling at Dalton was good, although I did not pay too much mind to what my counselor (who has since departed) said, as she felt that I wasn't as competitive an applicant as I truly was. The counselors have many connections with admissions officers, provided stipends for SATs for students on financial aid, assisted with editing essays and statements, and helped craft college lists. I first made a list with the college counselor in the spring of my junior year. We sat down and circled about 30-40 schools from a comprehensive list, at all levels (i.e., reach, safety, etc). We met with some frequency--about once a month during my senior year. I had an outside college counselor assist me with my applications because I felt that the Dalton counselor and I did not get along personally, leading us to disagree on fundamental components of my applications. She ultimately did not influence my decisions because of this and feigned happiness when she heard that I'd gotten into Yale early. As such, it's clear that she was not particularly interested, but she also never actively hindered my chances. She reached out to her connects at Yale and wrote a letter for me.
I feel that student life is great at Dalton. Dalton has a strong focus on the arts, which creates a creative environment that tempers the academic rigor in a good way. There are always music concerts, dance classes, plays, and art exhibits. It balances the academic intensity. Dalton students are generally quite liberal, as well as teachers and faculty. Dalton also requires community service hours to graduate, which encourages an effusive environment. In addition to that, there is a day of service every year, and all students are required to attend. The student body is growing increasingly more diverse in all senses of the word: socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, etc. While the neighborhood is affluent and white, the student body more accurately reflects the make up of New York City. The faculty is not on par with the student body, but there are administrators and faculty of underrepresented backgrounds.