Lawrenceville Schoolreview by California Institute of Technology student. The caliber of academics is very high, but competition amongst students is minimal. For example, everyone takes English together for three years, so there's no 'honors English' in which students are catty. Advanced math and science classes are very collaborative and engaging, as opposed to cutthroat. There's a fair amount of work, but the new block scheduling means that you have a maximum of four assignments a night due the next day. Classes follow the Harkness method, which involves discussion around a large oval-shaped table at which the entire class (and the teacher!) is seated. For sure entering freshman are awful at Harkness discussions, but pretty soon everyone gets the hang of participating without overwhelming others, etc. Great literature never was (and never will be!) as exciting until I was almost out of my seat arguing that Ophelia was more an independent woman than you think. Teachers are always available outside of class, whether for extra help or just a casual conversation on the material covered. Major assignments are evenly spaced, and finals are preceded by a free day to catch up and get a head start on studying. The breath of humanities classes is astounding. There are so many interesting electives and full-year courses in English, History, Interdisciplinary, the Arts, even the Sciences (especially in biology, anthropology, etc). Math courses, by their very nature, are limited to your standard full year courses, but there are two years of post-BC math available for those who qualify (very unusual for a high school), and there are enough students every year to fill out 2-3 sections of about 8 students. Teachers range from competent to words-can't-describe-outstanding. It's definitely worth it to take courses with certain teachers.
I loved the House system! All students are put into a house their sophomore year, and your affiliation runs really, really deep. On the whole, students love their house, their housemates, and their prefects, and everyone gets really into house spirit. It breeds friendly competition (with inter-house sports and year-end prizes) and provides a school-within-a-school. It makes a dorm so much more than a dorm; it's a real, legitimate home-away-from home with lots of siblings. Curfew also became more stringent for freshman throughout my four years there, but upperclassmen have reasonable check-in and curfews, with extended-lights available for students who need it. It really depends on who the duty master is that night. Room selection is drama-filled but in the end most everyone is happy. Houses have a combination of singles and doubles, with a rare triple if a house is overfull, but this is only really a problem in the girls' houses, which don't quite have enough room. Once Carter House is built, the problem should be alleviated. All freshman are put in singles. Students are, on the whole, from upper middle to upper class Caucasian families. There is a growing Asian/South Asian population, both from the surrounding area and from overseas (Hong Kong and South Korea especially). That being said, there is minimal pressure to fit in vis-a-vis labels, vacations, etc. There is a definite 'Lawrenceville bubble' that is simultaneously safe and smothering. Crime is virtually nonexistent, but social life tends to center on the campus, through house dances, social mixers, sporting events, etc. Funnily enough, the library tends to be a great social hot spot--centrally located with very long hours, it's buzzing with activity from dinner until lights out (and probably not the best place to get some quiet studying done!). Dining gets progressively better as you get older--Freshman eat in Lower, Sophomore and Juniors eat in Irwin, and Seniors eat in Abbott, which is pretty good. I'd say the food quality is above average, if slightly repetitive as the year goes on. There's a good selection, with daily hot bar (waffles/pancakes, omelets, wok joy, fried rice, grilled cheese, etc), salad bar, deli bar, yoghurt bar, fruit, bagels/bread, hot entrees, etc. The new schedule cuts into lunch, which has become rather short, but dinner is available from 5:30 - 7:30 somewhere. It's somewhat hard to get food late at night. Discipline is a somewhat convoluted system, but only if you get caught doing something (i.e. you don't accidentally break odd rules). Infractions are punished according to severity--did you break a minor rule, like a curfew or sign-in? Or was it a Major, like possession of drugs? All students are given an opportunity to present their case to the discipline committee, which is composed of both your peers and faculty members. On the whole the school follows a 'two strike policy.' In an attempt to clarify byzantine and arbitrary seeming decisions, the school has begun to discuss some of the more pertinent rulings, especially those that involve expulsions.
Athletics were never my strong suit, but now that I'm at college I miss have mandatory athletics. I participated in all interscholastic teams my freshman year, but as the years went on I dropped down to either intramural/interhouse sports or general fitness classes. It was nice to have a reason to go exercise; it helps to take your mind off of work (sports period is from after class to before dinner). There's great passion in the arts, as well as a huge surge in interest, so it's an amazing time to get involved. In my four years, I saw the Dance program go from a quirky side activity to a large program with a concert in the spring, guest artists, and a popular three-term sports-credit class. The Orchestra went from one group to three--a Pit Orchestra, to play with the fall musical; Collegium Lawrenceville, an smaller elite group; and The Lawrenceville Orchestra, a community group for people of all levels. The same is true of the Theatre program--all productions are now entirely almost entirely student driven, including designing/making/running costumes and tech. Groups also go on tour regularly. I also liked that there were active FUN clubs, as opposed to college-filler ones. Of course, there was Model UN, Science Olympiad, Mock Trial, etc, but students also organized Poker Club, Meat Club, and others whose primary focus was fun. There are also a lot of volunteer-based clubs (Save Darfur, Social Ventures, Lawrence Nature Center) for those interested. All students have a 40-hour service requirement, but a large percentage of students leave as Oval Society members (100+ hours) or even McClellan members (200+). It's easy to get involved in community service, whether at a large event as a guide for a elementary school child or through a weekly or monthly project (like helping at a soup kitchen, teaching English to Haitian immigrants, or organizing a new school library). On the whole, activities take about 5 hr/wk at the minimum and then increase from there based on your interest.