St. Paul's Schoolreview by Yale University student. The academics here are nothing short of outstanding. The course catalog contains many challenging and stimulating courses, in all fields, ranging from "Novels of Faulkner" to "Ethics and Literature" to "Post-Modern West". Many brilliant minds have lived and taught hundreds of SPS students throughout their lives. Classes are very small--usually less than a dozen or so--allowing for intimate conversations. The key differential between St. Paul's and any other school is its all-boarding nature. All the teachers live on-campus and are therefore both actively-involved in school life and easily-approachable when one has problems. Beyond that, the education is wonderful and the resources available to students are phenomenal too (e.g. the astronomy center holds, I believe, the largest high school-based telescope in the world). Another highlight of the SPS education is the Humanities program. Basically, instead of having English, Social Studies, History, Literature (etc.) as separate classes, all students take an integrated course called "Humanities" for their first three years. As an example, one might read and discuss the grammar in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, consider the historical backdrop of the poem, and finally write an analytical paper. I found that this provided better connections between all the different subject areas. Students here are genuinely interested in learning. There are no GPA, no class rank, and no AP courses (although there are a few courses that have AP-based curriculum). Exams are merely seen as formalities and never count for much. However, the homework load is quite strenuous and stressful, especially when one must balance a million other commitments (required and optional). Nonetheless, almost all students learn to manage their time efficiently. In the end, St. Paul's offers the best academic environment one could hope for.
The quality of life at St. Paul's is pretty phenomenal. In a sense, one is being "spoiled" by attending the school, because once you go to college, no matter where, your living situation is going to be a step down. The endowment is extremely high at almost half a billion dollars--that's nearly $1 million per enrolled student(!). The school possesses 2,000 acres of land, which contain a beautiful central campus along with nature trails and forests surrounding it. The most important part of life--and one that I miss most as a college student--was definitely chapel service, which occurred Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and offered a hymn, a speech or musical performance, announcements from organizations, and prayers. Although many students dislike the early 8am start, it bonded the community and allowed one to start the academic day in a "fresh" way. The dorm living situation is pretty outstanding too. Everyone gets good rooms. The school is divided into a number of houses, and each has its own personality. Because a number of faculty members live in housing connected to the dorms, faculty advisers are always accessible. I have countless memories of late-night pranks and mischief that my friends and I would cause. Each house has a wonderful common room where students can congregate and socialize. Although I did appreciate the broad range of social and other events that were held at SPS, I do think that sometimes the big planned social events would get "stale". As I progressed through the years, I think more and more I enjoyed just hanging out with a core group of friends, rather than going to the Saturday night dance party. The facilities are pretty ridiculous. The library is out of this world; the new gym is spotless, with a great weight room; the astronomy center is world-class; and the academic buildings are generally up-to-date (I think the math building is pretty outdated, but it is apparently slated for renovation sometime soon). All in all, the best parts of one's time at St. Paul's comes from the interactions that occur between students in the dorms, late at night, when advisers are fast asleep, and the urge to complete your homework assignment is kept at bay, and, in its place, a desire to have fun. St. Paul's should be given an A+ for quality of life.
I participated in a wide range of extracurricular activities while at St. Paul's, and I would say that, in a sense, they defined my experience there. In other words, I highly value the extracurriculars that I participated in. Above all, the sports teams that I was on did the most for me in terms of "developing my character". St. Paul's pretty much requires that you play a sport every term except for 2 or 3 terms in your junior or senior years. This may sound daunting to the un-athletic, but it really wasn't that difficult. I tried sports that I never would have imagined I would try (cross country running, wrestling, crew) and it was these exact sports that I loved most about St. Paul's. In particular, I probably gained the most from my experience as a wrestler, as I learned to push my body to its extreme limits. On the other hand, my experience with crew was probably the most unique--the program at St. Paul's is world-class, and a trip to Henley Royal Regatta over one summer was definitely up there as one of the most memorable high school moments. I highly-respect all the coaches that I've had, and, from time to time, still try to keep in touch. Outside of sports, there is just so much to do. There are all sorts of cultural organizations, and organizations centered on pastimes or hobbies. One interesting club is the Fine Tea and Chocolate Society, which basically receives money to import really fancy teas and chocolates from all over the world for its members to taste on Sunday evenings. Another example would be the John G. Winant Political Society, which had weekly lunch-time discussions on current political issues. All of these clubs involve a significant amount of student input, so one has plenty of opportunities to gain leadership experience and to understand how to manage groups.