St. Paul's Schoolreview by Georgetown University student. The academics at St. Paul's School are outstanding. I particularly enjoyed the Humanities program, which prepared me well for college writing and comprehension. Success is contingent upon effort; I worked hard at St. Paul's, but didn't stay locked in my room every weekend; ended up with about a solid B or B+ average in my courses. Spent many evenings in a faculty member's house or apartment on campus eating dinner or just chatting with other faculty and classmates, an experience unique to boarding school that really expanded my total academic experience. Classes were small, around 10-15 students, and I found faculty extremely accessible; it's great to get to know teachers inside the classroom, on the sports fields, and in their homes as well. Academics were demanding, but not impossible; by the time I arrived at college I was in a much better position than even my classmates who had attended other private schools. I loved the study abroad options at St. Paul's. While I was there, I participated in an exchange program in Paris during Spring break and traveled to Ghana to study abroad during the summer; my roommate spent a semester in Chile and one of my close friends spent a semester in Paris. These were unforgettable experiences, and my time in Ghana really shaped the direction of my future studies (I'm now a biotechnology & global health major with a minor in African studies, and I've worked with the World Bank and various nonprofits both abroad and in Washington, DC).
SPS is a very safe campus-- we used to affectionately refer to it as "the bubble" while we were there. The most unique thing about St. Paul's is that it is one of the few remaining academically strong all-boarding schools in the country; this made for an unbelievable four year experience that taught me strength, independence, and the importance of friendship and mentorship. I became a "Prefect" my senior year, a position similar to a college RA that allowed me and a few of my fellow seniors to mentor the younger girls in our house. There are about 20 to 30 girls or guys in each house and normally three or four live-in faculty members, which creates a very familial atmosphere. We always could earn some extra money babysitting for faculty members with young kids, and enjoyed bonding on house trips (think apple-picking or make-your-own-pottery). The student body was generally upper class, like most boarding schools, but I found it to be much more socio-economically and culturally diverse than my small New England public school. Surrounding neighborhood is pretty bleak; after four years of SPS, I turned down admission at a rural Ivy League school because I couldn't stand the woods anymore. Like I said earlier though, there are off-campus opportunities to work or volunteer if you really find yourself struggling. The upside of a rural school, though, is that it is exceedingly safe. My quality of life was great at St. Paul's because they provided us with much more freedom than any other boarding school. There are advisors and faculty available if you need them, but SPS emphasizes independent living and individual responsibility. This is tough for some kids who find themselves in trouble with recreational drugs or plagiarism, but most are able to learn to live up to the high standards. After SPS, the social challenges of college life are easy to navigate.
I am not a very athletic person, but I loved playing sports at SPS. While I was there, students were required to participate in some sort of athletic commitment every semester until senior year. I had played soccer, softball, and basketball in middle school, and I ended up playing JV soccer, JV basketball, varsity softball, and I was even on the downhill ski team for one winter. Some of my fondest SPS memories are of being on the team bus at 10 pm on our way back from a sports game in Massachusetts, singing aloud to the spice girls and waiting eagerly for the first Wendy's to appear down the highway so we could pile out for dinner. In general at SPS, athletics are very competitive. Big sports are soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, tennis, ice hockey, squash, and crew. There are a ton of clubs and other activities offered. I was at SPS during the 2004 presidential election cycle, so I took one semester off from sports to volunteer for John Kerry's campaign (Kerry is an SPS alum) during the New Hampshire primary with some other SPS students. This translated to a summer internship with the campaign in Florida, again with two other SPS students. This allowed me to get an internship in Kerry's DC Senate office right after I graduated, and eventually helped me get my current job as one of the youngest members of Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign staff. While at St. Paul's, I also spent weekends working backstage at the Verizon Center in Manchester, NH (for pay) with some other SPS theater students. Bottom line? The rural setting of St. Paul's might seem constricting at first, but there are definitely ways to explore the area and find interesting off-campus opportunities. Lots of extracurricular opportunities are available on-campus as well.