Lawrenceville Schoolreview by Harvard University student. Lawrenceville School has some of the best academics at the high school level in the country, primarily due to the quality of the faculty and class size. The school operates on the Harkness table system, in which all students sit in round tables for almost all classes (with exceptions in science and math, which are traditional seating). The result of the Harkness system is an intense focus on classroom discussion, which really leads to strong experiences in the humanities. This process also prepares you well for college seminars, and teaches you to learn how to discuss subjects intelligently, even when you may not have done all the assigned reading. The teachers at Lawrenceville are particularly strong, with many having degrees from the best colleges in the country. Because you live with your teachers, also have them as athletics coaches, etc--you really grow close to certain teachers. Most of my friends have at least one teacher they can point to from Lawrenceville who they can point to as a mentor who had a major impact on their life. The work load varies; there's definitely tracking, with AP-level classes being extremely rigorous, and certain other classes being more lax. For particularly gifted students, there's a lot of support--chances are there are teachers on your level. If you're a math genius, there's a teacher who turned down a tenure-track faculty position at an Ivy league university to teach math at Lawrenceville; there are also numerous science and math PhDs from the top schools in the nation. If you're more creatively minded, there are teachers with PhDs in the humanities as well, and some published authors, performing artists, and so on. You'll also be surrounded by other very bright students, although by and large the average Lawrentian is of the caliber of student at any other wealthy private school. There will be kids who are smarter than you ever thought possible, as well as some kids who may have never opened a book in their lives. Lawrenceville provides excellent training in writing and speaking, and in those respects has great preparation for college level work, especially in the humanities.
Housing is focused around the house system, which is essentially like the Hogwarts system in the Harry Potter books. The house system has a lot of pluses--it leads to an instant community, and is the focal point of social life. The downside is that it's essentially like living in a frat/sorority in high school (the houses are single-sex), and for some students this can lead to feeling excluded and left out. The cafeteria is organized by houses as well, although lots of students eat with friends from all the houses. The houses lead to lots of house traditions, and in general the school has a very tradition-bound feel. The housemasters are like your parents at the school, and really act that way. There are also religious services if you're so inclined, but this is not a big part of school life. The labs, libraries, tech resources are all great. There are also some cool things like a digital movie lab with TV quality cameras, an art gallery (with pieces by artists like Picasso), photo rooms, and an amazing music building. In the past 10 years, Lawrenceville renovated their entire campus, including housing--as a result, everything is up to date, modern, and gorgeous. The students and faculty are mostly upper class (with a good number of really wealthy students), with some upper-middle class students, and a few lower class students (mostly diversity candidates) as well. The faculty is mostly upper-middle class, and extremely well-educated, and somewhat diverse. The school is located very near the town of Princeton, and is in its own town of Lawrenceville, which has a small-townish feel and is extremely safe. The school's approach to discipline is very rigid unless you're extremely wealthy, in which case exceptions can be made. The general rule is that 2 major school rule violations (drinking, cheating, drugs, etc) lead to expulsion, no questions asked. I don't think the school needs to coerce students into doing more work--in order to excel at the school, you have to do really a lot of work, and in order to pass through with a B average, you still need to work pretty hard.
The school does a fairly good job balancing extracurriculars, academics, and social life. When I was at the school, athletics were required every trimester, although apparently participation in extracurricular arts programs can now be used to substitute for athletics at least one trimester. Community service is definitely a part of campus life, but not necessarily a focus. The school has a dedicated community service office, and a 40 hour graduation requirement. The office is staffed full-time by two coordinators responsible for finding opportunities for students to fulfill their requirements and opportunities for students to be involved more generally. The school's extracurricular drama program (Periwig Club) is particularly strong, as is its newspaper. Other clubs vary depending on the year, the advisor, and student interest. The music program is not particularly strong for instrumental music, but is very strong for vocal music. But in general, athletics are the main core of extracurricular life. The school specializes in producing well-rounded students, and I think does a far better job of this than most other schools. The academics are very strong, and the athletics/arts/community service requirements result in students who are very well-rounded, at least a lot more so than when they first arrived.