Horace Mann Schoolreview by University of Pennsylvania student. Horace Mann School is consistently ranked among the best private schools using various measures, including college acceptances and SAT scores. Alumni obtain great success in a great range of fields. The academics of this school, among others, is a reason why its students do so well. The classes on average are relatively small (average class size is ~18), although certain specialized classes were much smaller (i.e., ~5). Because Horace Mann is relatively small, I had several teachers multiple times. I became very close to these teachers. They served as mentors, friends and later, recommendation writers. The teachers are the most valuable assets a school has, and the relationships I formed with some of them were the most valuable things I obtained in high school. Horace Mann has a reputation for being a pressure cooker. I found the work load quite stressful, but I learned valuable skills: how to manage my time, how to study, and how to prioritize. At Horace Mann, I learned how to learn, and not how to memorize or how to take an exam. I value Horace Mann's philosophy of fostering creativity and independent thought.
As long as I was at Horace Mann, there was constantly construction. The classrooms are very modern with conversation-promoting seating arrangements, several smart-boards, projectors, computers and sound systems. There was a lot of freedom. In high school, we had an open campus. So during free periods, we were allowed to leave campus. This time could be used for less academic activities, such as playing pool "down the hill," smoking/drugs, eating off-campus, going home, etc. There are also legitimate reasons why the open campus was useful: students use the time to do extracurriculars during the day (e.g. athletic training, science research at nearby universities, dance classes). In general, I appreciated the philosophy of trusting the students. Although the neighborhood outside the gated community in Riverdale is considered sketchy, there weren't many crimes. The Horace Mann campus police were very good (and friendly). The student body is predominantly white (possibly even predominantly Jewish) and affluent. However, the student body is very socially aware, liberal and tolerant. There are students on financial aid and some students are accepted through programs that aim to place inner-city minorities in schools like Horace Mann.
The list of extracurricular activities is staggering. There are many sports, clubs, publications, community service groups, etc. And if you could think of something that was missing, you could start something new (which I actually did with a friend). There were many incredible groups that did great things (e.g. some teams are very well ranked, and publications that won awards), but there were also groups that did nothing but hold a line on a few students' college application forms. It was well understood that many students joined/started groups for this reason.