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Cate School

School rating 4 / 5 by

1960 Cate Mesa Road Carpinteria CA 93013 United States
9th to 12th
9th to 12th


Cate School review by .

Cate has an extremely low student-to-teacher ratio, and the level of interaction between students and faculty that it facilitates is perhaps the school's greatest asset. All classes are discussion-based. For better or worse, students get to know their teachers very well on a personal level, as many members of the faculty live in the dorms and all of them are required to take on responsibilities outside of the classroom - some coach sports, others advise student extracurriculars, and still others take on administrative duties. The teaching quality is near-uniform in its excellence; while I sometimes did not like my teachers on a personal level, I couldn't denigrate their intellectual merits. Many teachers have been at the school for decades, and it's no mystery why. Freshman and sophomore courses mostly emphasize the fundamentals -"humanities," for example is required for all freshmen and serves as a broad survey of Western history and thought, while also focusing on the basics of writing and critical thinking. Junior and senior years offer a greater variety of options, and certainly more specificity in course material. While many AP classes are offered - everyone takes a couple, many take several, and some saturate their schedule with them (as I did) - Cate faculty all have a certain degree of scorn for the entire AP program. "AP" status generally implied a greater amount of coursework and a more sophisticated approach to the material, but only a few classes I took paid year-long attention to the exams. In many classes, the exams were but an afterthought. AP US History's capstone, for example, wasn't the exam itself. Instead, it was a major research paper. Work load varies wildly. My schedule was particularly intense junior year, and I would probably spend two to three hours working each night. Work tended to pile up just before breaks, and I certainly didn't always get a good night's rest. Most teachers, however, are generally sensitive to students' needs and realistic in their expectations, but everyone works hard and expects others to do the same - it's a fundamental element of the campus culture. Jokes wondering about what "normal" high school is like are commonplace, though most students are there by choice and wouldn't have life any other way. You can count me in that group.

College Counseling

Cate leaves you utterly prepared for college; in fact, I'd say college takes the intensity....

Sample insights on college counseling

  • They have contacts at most of the major universities and feel perfectly comfortable picking up the phone and advocating for a student to get accepted somewhere they feel is a good fit for that student. However, these counselors are certainly not magic bullets. They cannot guarantee that a student will get into an Ivy League university...
  • For those wishing to move on to Oxford or Cambridge, the provision is second-to-none. In the months running up to application and interview, every subject faculty offers classes (often run by former Oxbridge tutors) exploring further areas of their subject as well as offering advice on personal statements, interview technique and more...

Admissions - Getting Accepted

The Cate applications process seems like a lifetime ago, and I don't know if I....

Sample insights on admissions

  • For the interview, dress conservatively. Try to be very clean and put together. Also, I was a tour guide for two years and at the end of every tour, we were asked to evaluate the candidate so if you think the tour is not apart of the process, you are very wrong. Ask questions and be interested. Also, tip for the parents: the kids speak on the tour. Do not ask their questions for them...
  • Most younger siblings have an easy time in the admissions process. I can only think of one case of a younger sibling not being admitted. About half of the students who entered with me had come from public schools. The remainder came from private K-6 schools, or had transferred from other New York private schools The Elizabeth Morrow School and St. Bernard were two of the larger feeder schools...

School Life

Cate was originally conceived as a school to which prominent western families could send their sons to be "toughened up." That's no longer the case, though there is a certain simplicity to the older facilities that betrays that original goal. The campus itself is gorgeous (it's on a mesa [in fact, it's called the Mesa] with views of the Pacific to one side, which is a ten-minute car ride away, and to the other, the Carp foothills) and the facilities are well-maintained though not remotely extravagant. Half of each freshman class has singles (either all the boys....

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